Friday, October 05, 2007


Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "We had anticipated some tough and worrisome findings, but the actual results are even more shocking than we had imagined at the outset".

Steiner is referring to a huge toxic waste dump in Kenya that is killing children by the score.

In a press release from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Steiner says,"It is clear that urgent action is needed to reduce the health and environmental hazards so that children and adults can go about their daily lives without fear of being poisoned and without damage to nearby river systems," he said.

The Dandora dumping site (pictured here) receives 2,000 tons of rubbish daily. The Dandora dumpsite is located 7.5 kilometres from Nairobi Central Business District, in an area surrounded by low income residential estates. In particular, the dumpsite is adjacent to Korogocho, Dandora and Kariobangi estates, which together form a network of residential housing units for over 750 000 people. The increased demand for low income housing in Nairobi over the last three decades has meant that the dumpsite is now almost at the heart of these estates.

Apart from waste discarded by Kenyans, the country also received hundreds of container loads of e-waste each month from developing countries disguised as ‘donations’.

The absence of a comprehensive legal framework for solid waste management in Kenya, coupled with wanton apathy on the part of authorities, has over the last three decades facilitated uncontrolled and indiscriminate dumping, leading to creation of one of the largest sources of human rights violations in Kenya today.

Every day, scores of people, including children, from the nearby slums and low-income residential areas use the dump to find food, recyclables and other valuables they can sell as a source of income, at the same time inhaling the noxious fumes from routine waste burning and methane fires. Waste often finds its way into the Nairobi River that runs just meters away from the dumpsite, polluting water used by local residents and farmers downstream.

Plans have been drawn up by the City of Nairobi to move the dump out of Dandora. However the chosen site for a new dump in close to the Kenyatta International Airport. This has not gone unnoticed by the various airlines that serve Kenya and they oppose any such move.

The St. John's Catholic Church and Informal School is located in close proximity to the dump. Between 2003 and 2006, the Church dispensary has treated 9,121 people per year on average for respiratory problems.

"We have been witnessing an alarming situation regarding Dandora children's health: asthma, anaemia and skin infections are by now endemic. These abnormalities are linked to the environment around the dumping site, and are exacerbated by poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition. Since waste dumping is unrestricted and unmanaged, people are also at risk from contracting blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS," said Njoroge Kimani, principal investigator and author of the report.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), a quarter of all diseases affecting the humankind are attributable to environmental risks with children more vulnerable than adults. Among children under five, environmentally-related illnesses are responsible for more than 4.7 million deaths annually. Twenty-five percent of deaths in developing countries are related to environmental factors, compared with 17 percent of deaths in the developed world.

"The children of Dandora, Kenya, Africa and the world deserve better than this. We can no longer afford rubbish solutions to the waste management crisis faced in far too many cities, especially in the developing world," Mr Steiner added in the release.

The following is from AFP.

Toxic waste dump killing children in Kenya: UN report

One of Africa's largest dumping sites is threatening the lives of thousands of children in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, a new United Nations report warned Friday.

The 30-acre (12 hectares) Dandora Municipal Dumping Site, located at the centre of three slum settlements home to about a million people, receives around 2,000 tonnes of waste generated by the capital's 4.5 million people everyday.

Hundreds of impoverished slum dwellers and homeless families searching for recyclables work daily amidst the heaps of rubbish, also populated by vultures and other scavengers.

The report, commissioned by the Nairobi-based UN Environment Programme (UNEP), found that half of 328 children examined had concentrations of lead in their blood exceeding internationally accepted levels.

Some 42 percent of soil samples recorded lead levels almost 10 times higher than what is considered unpolluted soil, with 400 parts per million (ppm) compared to the 50 ppm threshold, it added.

"Children have been exposed to pollutants such as heavy metals and toxic substances through soil, water and air with implications for respiratory, gastrointestinal and dermatological or skin diseases," said a UNEP statement.

"Almost half of the children tested were suffering from respiratory diseases, including chronic bronchitis and asthma," it added.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said the findings were worrying and pledged to assist authorities in developing an improved waste management system.

"The site here is killing children and people.... it is a human tragedy and an ecological disaster. Dumping sites are poisonous if they are not handled properly," Steiner said.

"The Dandora site may pose some special challenges for the city of Nairobi and Kenya as a nation. But it is also a mirror to the condition of rubbish sites across many parts of Africa and other urban centres of the developing world," he added.

The Nairobi City Council, ranked by many watchdogs as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country, has already been singled out for its failure to manage waste in East Africa's largest city.

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