By Fadhila Muhammad
In 2022, I witnessed firsthand the indiscriminate dumping of refuse in one of Kano’s markets. The refuse filled the road to such an extent that it allowed only a small space for cars to pass by, and even the street kids and a mentally impaired person were forced to feed from it. The situation caused flooding in the area and emitted an unbearable stench. It was distressing to see how some kids were making money from the scraps they collected from the refuse, despite the health hazards associated with such an activity.
Unfortunately, this scenario is not uncommon in Kano. Many residents litter the streets and drainages without any sense of civic responsibility. It is commonplace to see people on bikes or in private cars throwing dirt on the streets, including nylon and sugar cane bagasse, which could be used as biofuel to generate energy or even building materials in responsible countries.
As a result of this unethical behavior, public places such as hospitals, markets, and streets have become dumping grounds, giving the city an unsightly and dirty appearance. For instance, in Sabon Gari, people dump trash on the streets, causing flooding and other environmental challenges.
I had the opportunity to speak with a few adolescents who revealed that they feed, clothe, and support their families with the scraps they collect from the trash. Their boss, who used to be in their position, also shared his experience with me.
However, I had to switch from being a journalist to a health educator when one of them began to feed on a spoiled mango to demonstrate how they feed on the refuse. It was a disgusting sight, and I explained to them the potential health risks associated with such activities.
Some of these boys attend schools, while others do not. I also observed a mentally disabled man feeding from the refuse, which was a heartbreaking sight.
I also spoke with a cleaner on France Road who told me that he had not been paid for nine months. Shop owners around the area complained about the refuse dumped in front of their shops, which emitted an unpleasant smell. They claimed to have made early payments to the company in charge, but it often took weeks before the refuse was cleared.
The situation keeps getting worse because of our lack of discipline and orientation. We must adopt good hygiene practices wherever we go, from our homes to public places. If not, flooding and other environmental challenges will persist, and the environment will continue to look unkempt and unwelcoming. The street kids will also be exposed to unhygienic conditions that could threaten their lives.
We must take action to address this problem, from educating people on proper waste management to holding those responsible accountable for their actions. With collective effort, we can restore Kano’s environment and make it more habitable for all.