Kenya and Rwanda are East Africa’s best managers of hospital waste. The two countries are ensuring that hazardous waste is disposed in accordance to international pollution control standards.
Rwanda has large incinerators that can handle up to 800kg of waste per hour. In Kenya, the largest incinerator handles 150kg of waste per hour.
The waste from hospitals includes gloves, used cotton wool, amputated body parts and specimen from laboratories.
Incineration offers the best medium as it reduces the waste by 95 per cent leaving a residue of 5 per cent ash and at the same time kills pathogens. Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi are upgrading their incinerators to recommended standards.
World Health Organisation data shows that hospitals in high-income countries generate on average up to 0.5kg of hazardous waste per bed per day, while low-income countries generate on average 0.2 kg.
Trashing this waste has been a problem for developing countries with most of them throwing it in dumpsites or in a pit.
Kenya’s National Environmental Management Authority said in a report that some pits are easily accessible by scavenging birds and rodents and are also reservoirs for disease transmission.
“In addition, these pits are not properly lined and there is a real risk of contaminating underground water sources,” the report notes.
Moses Kamau, CEO of Plenser Ltd, a waste management technologies firm said hospitals find the cost of standard incinerators prohibitive. The cheapest which burns 30kg of waste per hour costs Ksh7.5 million ($75,000), while one that burns 150kgs per hour costs Ksh29 million ($290,000)
“Hospitals can control their waste by making sure they use only what they need, if it is gloves, use them to a minimum and labelling the waste disposal points to reduce segregation time,” said Mr Kamau.