World Food Safety Day: Nguvu Change Leader Petitions Against Industrial Toxins in Lake Victoria


By Our Reporter

According to the World Health Organization, unsafe food contaminated with  bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances causes more than 200 diseases. WHO also shares a worrisome statistic that every year, nearly one in 10 people around the world fall ill after eating contaminated food, leading to over 420,000 deaths. In Kenya too, in the absence of stringent regulations, food safety issues like the use of chemical pesticides in food production and processes remain unaddressed.

On World Food Safety Day (June 7), Nguvu Change Leader Evans Oketch is speaking up against compromised food systems. His petition calls for urgent action against Lake Victoria’s severe pollution which is grievously impacting the health  fisher women.

Evans, a youth leader from Siaya county, says, “Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater lake in the world and was once a vital food source. This  is where I grew up swimming and fishing and now its condition fills me with dread. Industrial pollutants have poisoned its waters. They are also killing the fish and playing havoc with the health of my community, especially women who make up nearly 80% of the people whose livelihood is linked to fishing. “

His petition to the office of the Governor Kisumu County also addresses the fact that  when water quality declines, it impacts  the lives and livelihoods of women.

“In recent years, as the water quality drastically declined affecting marine life, it put pressure on the local community and women to find ways to make a living and feed their families. Fishermen start demanding sex in exchange for fish. And women who largely do not own boats and go fishing, have no choice but to agree. This practice of jobuya (sex-for-fish) became rampant, putting women at a greater risk of sexual exploitation and HIV,” says Evans.

His petition urges  the Kisumu County Government and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to immediately regulate and effect proper waste disposal by industries into Lake Victoria.

Evans hopes an action plan with clear timelines will help to save Lake Victoria and also protect the sexual and reproductive health of the women who depend on it for gainful work, personal agency and dignity.

As he says, “I hope Kenyan citizens in large numbers will support my petition because every single signature will help ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear by the authorities.”

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