Editor's Comment

Flush out vendors using clinic toilets

REPORTS of deteriorating hygiene levels in public conveniences in some health centres in Zambia are worrying, especially that Zambia is striving to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Toilets in some government health centres have become an eyesore due to a swarm of street vendors who use the facilities meant for patients.
The case in point is that of Mtendere Clinic in Lusaka where street vendors trading around the main market have resorted to using the toilet at the health centre.
The situation has raised concerns from patients who feel they are now at high risk of contracting coronavirus as their immune systems are already compromised.
A check by the Sunday Mail at the out-patient department revealed that the toilet for male patients is extremely dirty.
Some patients said it is difficult for them to use the toilet at the clinic because of poor sanitary conditions.
“The toilets here are usually dirty because of the huge traffic of vendors from Mtendere market who flock here,” one of the outpatients said.
What is more concerning are reports that some street vendors have become too familiar with some security guards to the point that they walk in and out to use the facility at will.
Although toilets in health centres are considered to be public conveniences, they are meant for people who go to seek medical attention and not street vendors, who in the first place should be sanctioned for operating in places where there are no toilets.
Street vendors are not supposed to trade near health centres because of the unorderly nature of how they conduct their businesses.
Health centres are expected to ensure strict observance of hygiene, and any compromise will end up worsening the condition of patients.
This situation is not unique to Mtendere Clinic. Many other health centres in townships situated near markets are grappling with throngs of street vendors who have resorted to using toilets in clinics because of dysfunctional facilities in most marketplaces.
This has put pressure on authorities in these clinics to clean up the toilets because of the increasing traffic of street vendors, who leave them in a mess at the end of the day.
By their nature, many street vendors have no sense of ownership of these conveniences and think that they are not under any obligation to be part of the solution to the cleanliness of the public facilities.
Ward councillors must ensure that people trading around health centres come up with their own solution to the problem of sanitation, even if it means securing their own portable toilets.
Market officials should provide sanitary facilities for traders to prevent hordes of them resorting to using toilets in health centres.
The suggestion by Mtendere ward five councillor Watson Mtonga that the vendors should be paying whenever they want to use the toilet at the clinic is welcome.
But this is not a solution to the problem of sanitary facilities the vendors who trade around clinics face.
If anything, no-one should trade within the precinct of health centres, especially now that there is need to heighten health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Poor sanitation helps the spread of diseases, and market leaders should ensure that traders have access to clean toilets.
However, it is encouraging that the ward councillor in Mtendere has acknowledged that there is need to stop vendors from taking advantage of clinics close to them.
We urge the Lusaka district health medical director, Consity Mwale, to walk the talk on the promise to investigate the matter. More importantly, there must be a solution which must be woven around ensuring that the toilets are clean.

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