The Shocking Un-toiletry Habits of Kenyans!
Each year, we are used to receiving annual reports on the state of toilet use countrywide whenever World Toilet Day looms. Surprisingly, a nation like Kenya, one amongst the developed in Sub-Sahara Africa, scores poorly when it comes to personal hygienic matters.
A 2009 census on toilets in Kenya revealed about five million Kenyans lacks these vital facilities and makes do with bushes for their long and short calls. Others uses the bucket type ones on shallow dug holes which rapidly fills up with the filled human sludge discharged in soil posing health hazard in the long run.
The toilet, whether inside or outside a building, is so vital no place can do without one. Almost, every commercial building spots a pay toilet making it a lucrative venture for building owners. Sadly, it is one of the badly neglected and misused facilities in many places.
Ugandan poet, Okot P’bitek, in the ‘Song of Lawino’, captured the misuse of these facilities in a verse where Lawino observes:
The entire floor
is covered with human dung
all tribes of human dung!
dry dungs and dysentery
old dungs and fresh dungs
young ones that are steaming
short thick dungs
sitting like hills
coiled up like pythons
little ones just squatting there
big ones lying on their sides
like tree trunks.
And it shocks at times to see how many rural folks construct these outside facilities. A toilet should offer the user as much privacy as possible. Sadly, like someone who had run out of building materials, some folks do not mind having strong polythene sheets or gunny sacks for walls with door anything than a hanging tarpaulin! When these ‘walls’ wears off under extreme weather, they’re replaced with equally other polythene sheets or sacks without a permanent solution to address the situation ever found.
Some of these toilets have wooden floorboards that creak making a user to delicately position their feet when answering long calls and geometrically figuring how to best aim for the hole. And in lack of tissue paper, newspaper cuttings, hard carbon papers or ‘green tissues’ plucked from hedges are placed inside for users.
“It baffles to see how even among the educated this facility is misused,” muses Michael Kimani, a driver who in his line of duty had to answer calls of nature in different kinds of toilets.
Nowadays, he prefers pay toilets or taking ‘leaks’ in bushes than contending with some facilities that reeks to high heavens making neglected morgues fare better.
He believes Kenyans have ‘un-toiletry’ manners going by an episode he witnessed not long ago. While ferrying passengers home from a long dowry payment trip one evening, the matatu got a puncture on a lonely stretch of countryside road. As all passengers alighted, some would not resist the urge of dashing into bushes and adjoining shambas for the long and short calls. “By the foul smell that followed those who took long answering their calls, it was easier to know what kind of nature they were answering,” he recalls.
Some of his passengers were drunk with muratina beer, which flows plentifully during such dowry occasions, and threw all the decorum to the wind when answering the calls. A few visibly intoxicated ladies simply hitched up their short skirts up, pulled down panties and let out jets of urine in semi-squat positions with everybody pretending not to notice. As their full bladders were relieved, some would let out an excited ‘aaah’ sound like climaxing in an orgasm.
“Luckily, there were few underage children, otherwise it would have been an embarrassment as some were married women,” he says.
Joseph Murira, who works in an office with a Nairobi company, cannot comprehend why some people fails to flush down after their acts. “Some ignores the urinals on the walls and instead chooses to aim their ‘sprinklers’ on toilet basins leaving behind greenish or yellowy stuff all over that you have to clean and pad the rims if you have a pressing long call,” he says.
He notes the situation when the loo doesn’t flush and everybody adds their share of dung to the overfilling bowls. “They will simply step on the rims imitating the long drop toilets and leave their heap of steaming share,” he says. He too doesn’t understand how some people can use coarse hard paper to wipe their bottoms with when it ends up blocking the drainage system contributing to rapid fill up.
Anastacia Kirimi recalls when she was in a party that visited a rural setting in western Kenya to attend a friend’s wedding. “The toilet at our host's place was so narrow with a door that couldn’t let a plus sized person enter through easily unless they squeezed themselves in,” she says.
Although it was smelly, her hosts had seen the wisdom of spraying high smelling fragrance perhaps to make it habitable. It had no ventilating pipe and situation was compounded with each use as every last user left a peculiar smell that lingered for minutes on end.
“You have to take a deep breath, step in, be done quickly and step out while breathing out deeply,” she says. You would have got the impression the user had just completed a marathon seeing them half-bent in catching their breath. Those who couldn’t hold their breath for a minute or more had to breath in the malodorous smell and spit all over the toilet's floor surface.
Shockingly, some men relive their boyhood habits when it comes to use of the facility. Amos Kairu recalls a time he and a company of friends went to take a leak during a goat eating chama (group) meeting break. They had taken copious amounts of free alcoholic and soft drinks on offer and their bladders had rapidly filled up. As the facility couldn’t let more than two of them use it at a go, they got inventive. Each zipped down their fly and pulled their tools of mass procreation. They stood at the door and got into childhood competition in seeing who would aim their urinal jets with precision to the toilet hole without wetting the floor!
“I’d say that was a bit decent than what some of my colleagues were doing ‘urigating’ on flowerbeds or leaning on walls dog style,” he says.
Alas! Some habits are simply disgusting including scrawling the phone number of a person on walls of toilets claiming they are ‘hot’!