Cookies on oxfam

We use cookies to ensure that you have the best experience on our website. If you continue browsing, we’ll assume that you are happy to receive all our cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more Accept

Gastroenteritis and me #perouskenya

Posted by Amy Christian Iraq Media and Communications Advisor

19th Aug 2013

This is my last post from Kenya. Four days ago I was diagnosed with a severe case of Gastroenteritis. I spent that morning being examined by doctors and having every blood test under the sun to determine what I had. I then spent the next four days in a medicine induced sleepy haze. As I laid in my bed with its clean sheets, a stack of medicines and fresh mineral water by my side - and most importantly a clean bathroom to use - I couldn't help but let my mind wander back again and again to the people we've met in Mukuru.

Up until I became sick I had spent two weeks working in Mukuru slum in Nairobi. Our team visited some of Oxfam's projects including three bio-centres that provide clean water and clean loos to around 500 households each. It's hard to appreciate the scale of the impact these bio centres have had on the communities using them until you really see just how bad the sanitation problem is for the average person living in Mukuru. Flying toilets are a common solution to a lack of toilet. People are faced with little alternative than to poo in a bag and throw it out into the street. Everywhere you walk in parts of Mukuru - except the areas near bio-centres - you see hundreds of old fraying plastic bags rotting into the ground.

Every day that we worked in Mukuru I wondered how people weren't sick. I couldn't understand how their immune systems could be strong enough to withstand living surrounded by other people's waste and not contract some awful illness. The truth is though that people are really sick. One lady I interviewed, Janet, told me that her husband had died from a disease caused by drinking dirty water. She went on to tell me that until the bio-centre was constructed she lived in fear of her children or herself meeting the same fate. Many other people told me they'd had typhoid or cholera, and seen friends and relatives die of these.

I can't imagine feeling this ill and not having a dry, clean place to sleep, not being able to access medicines or even drink clean water or use a clean bathroom. It's incredible to think that people in Mukuru die from things that can be cured in two weeks with the right antibiotics.

In the last few days I have gained a very new appreciation of just how important those Oxfam bio-centres are. They're not just providing people with clean places to go to the toilet, preventing the use of flying toilets and giving communities access to clean water. They are literally saving lives. Five hundred lives a piece. 

More from Kenya

Amy was in Kenya with fashion photographer, Perou, as well as Fred and Ellie from Oxfam's Stories, Film and Photography Team.  Their live blog ran from 7 Aug to 13 Aug

Amy blogged every day while she was in Kenya. Here's a list of all of Amy's blog posts

Blog post written by Amy Christian

Iraq Media and Communications Advisor

More by Amy Christian