, NAIROBI, Kenya, July 2 – Statistics indicate that over 60 percent of Kenyans do not have access to electricity from the national grid, and majority of homes rely on fuel based lighting that has been proven to be hazardous.
Speaking at a sensitising campaign dubbed ‘Brighten up a Life’, Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia noted that prolonged use of kerosene as a primary source of lighting has serious health implications.
“Indoor air pollution is a serious challenge facing not only Kenya but in most other low and middle income countries. In Kenya, more than half the population is off electricity grid in both urban and rural settings due to varied reasons. These sources in the long run cause high levels of household air pollution that have many health damaging pollutants like soot particles that penetrate deep into the lungs,” he said.
“The state of the economy has left many Kenyans using kerosene and other fuel based sources as their primary sources of lighting and cooking, exposing them to numerous health hazards. We must adopt this forward looking approach where we think about the less economically positioned members of the country.”
Doctor Jeremiah Chakaya, a chest specialist and Head of Kenya Association for Prevention of TB and Lung Disease says the continuous use of kerosene as a primary source of lighting causes ailments like lower respiratory tract illnesses.
“The usage of kerosene for lighting and cooking equates to smoking two packs of cigarettes per day, this is how serious the problem is. Six percent of lung cancer deaths are a due to household air pollution. Other alternatives should be given to people in rural areas and actually solar energy has been proven to be cheaper than everyday use of kerosene,” he said.
“At the end of the day the home environment is equally important and the government should create awareness so that people can switch to less populated devices for lighting and cooking.”
The three-month campaign aims to target at least 50,000 Kenyans in eight counties that have the highest use of kerosene for lighting who will receive solar lanterns as alternative lighting sources.
The target counties for the campaign will be Kwale, Nandi, Homa Bay, Garissa, Nairobi, Busia, Tharaka Nithi and Murang’a.
These counties were identified based on the official government population census report of 2009 that outlines the counties with the highest usage of kerosene and other fuel-based sources of lighting.