Sanitation of Mombasa
Accompanied by Dr Small, the Medical Officer of Health, we made a sanitary inspection of the town of Mombasa.
The following points would appear to merit attention:
1. Markets. The MacKinnon Market, whence the European portion of the community draw their supplies, is centrally situated and consists of two parts, old and new. In the older portion meat is sold together with fruit and vegetables. The floor is uneven and in bad repair. Most of the cement tables, especially those where meat is sold, are in a very bad condition, there being cracks or hollows in the cement which have become fouled with blood etc and are attractive to flies. The latter were numerous and were crawling all over the meat and other parts of the carcasses exposed for sale. There were no receptacles for garbage but sweepers were in attendance.
There is good head cover but the market is not drained and the ground in its immediate vicinity gets fouled. Efforts have been made to get a soak pit put in, but so far in vain.
The new part is smaller but here the floors and tables are in good repair. Only fruit and vegetables were exposed for sale. It was suggested that it would be a good thing to move the butchers to this part of the market and it was pointed out that the wooden tables covered with zinc would be better for the butchers’ stalls than the cement tables; also that proper chopping blocks should be provided.
The latrine accommodation for the natives frequenting this market was represented by a two seat cess-pit structure some 200 yards distant. Its sides were of corrugated iron [App 5 2] its floor of cemented concrete, but it has no roof. At the time of our visit the floor was shockingly dirty, being covered with recent and old faecal deposits on which flies were battening. Dr Small informed us that it should have been cleaned that morning. Evidently this was not the case and it appears that the sweeper has other duties so that at certain times the place is wholly neglected.
The Piggott Market is situated in the native part of the town and is very crowded and insanitary. No meat is sold here and it is chiefly devoted to the sale of fruit and vegetables. There is no proper floor but cement benches are provided for the vendors.
Portions of the roof are in bad repair.
There is no public latrine anywhere in the vicinity of this market. The nearest is at the Customs about 600 yards away.
The Fish Market is situated on the cliff overlooking the dhow anchorage. It is well constructed, clean, and in good repair. A recent effort made to improve the approaches to it has failed.
A fish-drying shed not far away is a very primitive building with stacks of evil smelling sharks and king fishes lying on the ground which forms its floor.
2. Slaughter House. The public slaughter house is also perched on the cliff. It is small and the cement floor is rough and chipped. A good breeze blows through it as it is merely a partly open shed with a low wall round it. A large cement drain runs from it and discharges on the beach above tide level.
Hard by is a private slaughter house owned by an Indian [App 5 3] Mohammedan sect – the Bahora – whose custom it is to slaughter on the ground. Hence part of their slaughter shed had not been cemented and they had promised to supply fresh sand daily. This had evidently not been done for the earthen part was soaked and coated with decomposing blood which emitted a disgusting smell. The place had evidently not been properly inspected for days although there are two European Sanitary Inspectors in Mombasa. The drain from this filthy place joins up with the public slaughter house drain.
3. Disposal of Excreta. In the European part of the town a single bucket system is in vogue, the pail contents being emptied into carts and conveyed to the edge of a deep gully on the sea front close to the golf links. The cart discharges into a large cement trough which projects over the cliff edge. The excreta are washed down with a disinfectant solution and fall into the sea if the tide happens to be in, or on to the beach when the tide is out. The cliff face is said not to be fouled but complaints of bad smells are frequent.
The dry refuse from European houses is also discharged here and the sea has washed up a large collection of rusty tins to the head of the gully. Papers etc get blown out of the carts and trough and distributed in the vicinity. It was suggested that a screen of rabbit wire netting would do away with this nuisance.
In the native quarters cess-pits are the rule and provided they are used only for urine and excreta they function well as they are cut out of the porous coral rock. An attempt is being made to place them in the verandahs of native houses to prevent their ventilating into rooms.
[App 5 4]
On the cliff edge we noticed the latrine of an Indian lodging house projecting into space and discharging direct on the dry beach many feet below where hides were stretched out to dry. Refuse from the native quarters as a rule goes to a destructor but it is out of order just at present. The rubbish carts are not covered and the town is badly scavenged, the Indian quarter especially being dirty and untidy.
4. Flies are stated not to be numerous except in certain localities. Nothing is done to prevent their breeding out.
5. Mosquitoes are common. Water is stored in barrels and these are not properly covered as a rule. IT is evident that the mosquito question is largely neglected. A suggestion was made that covers of sacking weighted by sand or fastened with tape be introduced for the barrels and similar water receptacles.
6. Disinfection. There is a small portable Clayton apparatus used occasionally for disinfecting houses and for dealing with clothing etc at the Railway Station. A railway disinfecting van should be employed for the latter purpose; two of these are available at Nairobi. There is no means of disinfecting ships. They have to go to Zanzibar. A hydrocyanic acid gas generator or large Clayton machine is certainly required.
7. Laboratory. Mombasa possesses no bacteriological laboratory. There can be no doubt that one is urgently required, for the town is apt to be visited by plague and at any time ships may enter the harbour with cases of cholera, enteric, or other communicable disease on board.
8. General. Conditions are obviously very unsatisfactory. [App 5 5] The Conservancy arrangements should be under the Health Department and the Medical Officer of Health and his assistants should be given means of getting about, which they do not possess. It is hopeless to expect efficient inspection unless such facilities are provided.