, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 26- Public Health Minister Beth Mugo has directed the prisons authorities to upgrade basic sanitation services within three months, following a cholera outbreak that has claimed nine lives at Kamiti Maximum Prison.
Speaking after a tour of the facility, Mrs Mugo said the prison was in a sorry state as sewerage and drainage facilities were poorly constructed and instructed its refurbishment by February next year.
“The toilets are not properly constructed to keep the waste away from the prisoners and we are not happy with the condition of the kitchen. Renovations must begin immediately and they must do the drainage system and get good tops for food preparation to ensure proper hygiene,” she said.
Mrs Mugo also cautioned the prison’s management against ignoring the directive saying that it might lead to future cholera outbreaks.
“We have a report of 2008 and a more recent one of September this year with our recommendations. If they had followed the proposals contained in the report this situation could have been avoided. This is something we have been saying and I will also take it up with the minister in charge,” she noted.
She also pointed out that she had the mandate to shut down the facility if they failed to take up the sanitary recommendations that would prevent other health implications.
“So why don’t we all play our roles to avoid unnecessary wrangles.”
Mrs Mugo also absolved her ministry from blame for the outbreak and instead accused the ministry of water for sleeping on its job.
“This is not a health problem; it is a water problem and until we sort out our source of water we cannot address the problem. My ministry only comes in to treat when the problem has already happened,” she stated.
She also downplayed Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka’s recent remarks that the outbreak should be declared a national disaster.
“As the ministry of public health we are concerned but we do not think it is a national disaster yet and if it was we would definitely have told Kenyans. The fact that we are able to deliver medical support to the sick indicates that we are still in control of the situation,” she said.
Mrs Mugo further called for a joint effort between the ministries of environment, water, public health and local government to help avert future cholera outbreaks.
She also pointed out the fact that the inmates were being underfed and blamed it on a lack of adequate funds from the government.
“These inmates are being underfed and it is partly because of the budget constraints. They only get five grams of vitamins and I understand that it is a parliamentary issue so I will take it up with parliament. We need to allocate more funds to this facility,” she stated.
Meanwhile Director of Public Health Shanaaz Sharif said that the prison had a contingent of seven doctors, nine nurses and four clinical officers but also revealed that the exact root of the infection was yet to be established.
A cholera outbreak has been confirmed in Ruiru, Mathare and other areas in Nairobi.