We have done so well in Kigali. Our streets are clean, the flowers are tended, we have succeeded in putting away the dreaded polythene and we can even walk around freely on our clean paved road sides.
Constantly we hear the comment, ‘I hear Kigali is very clean’ and this makes us ‘Proudly Rwandan’ as we affirm the fact. However, in regard to cleanliness and hygiene, one evil remains and if you walk around Kigali, walk circumspectly.
Watch out that you may not be the victim of the gross habit that our people still hold on to – spit spattering!
It’s a common sight when people casually swerve their necks to the right and ‘aatuuuu’, they spit and walk on unconcerned.
With no doubt, many people have had to jump over that spittle that is generously sprayed all over the walkways and roads.
Spitting is simply gross. It is way out there with the other habits like chewing gum and throwing it on the floor or sticking it on furniture, picking your nose or teeth then carrying the toothpick round in your mouth, blowing your nose with your hands, littering the city, urinating by the roadside… Basically, these are habits you should never be caught doing, least of all in public.
Spitting is worse than the above mentioned habits and I dare to classify it with public smoking because it affects the health of those around us.
True, tobacco chewing and smoking is linked to this gross habit. Continuously chewing tobacco causes the salivary ducts to produce more saliva which builds up in the mouth and since this cannot be swallowed, it ends up on our clean roads.
Rwandan culture has played a major role when it comes to spit-spattering. Many consider spitting a Pastoralists’ habit; resulting again from the tobacco they puff all day long while herding.
Culture or no culture, there is no reason to carry on the habit to the city.
Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon Dr. Otiti of King Faisal Hospital affirms that spitting is indeed dangerous to our health.
He explains that all sorts of bacteria, fungi and viruses can be spread through spittle.
Micro-organisms have a way of surviving when faced with harsh conditions outside the body like dust or heat. This they do when they form spores in which they can exist indefinitely until they find more favourable conditions to live in,” Otiti said.
According to Dr. Otiti, the health risk associated with spitting is heightened by the fact that people with chest infections are more likely to feel the urge to spit.
Since, mucus is produced by the lining of the respiratory tract, under normal circumstances everybody produces small amounts to trap dust from entering their respiratory system.
“When people spit indiscriminately, the saliva carrying this infection is mixed with the dust and blown into the air we breathe. The bacteria, viruses or whatever else they were carrying, finds a favourable place to live – our bodies,” the doctor further explained.
Since Tuberculosis and flu are airborne, Rwandans need to avoid spitting. Whenever the urge to spit surfaces, it is advised that one takes a drink of water and let the body take care of the rest.
There are also myths linked to spitting. In Rwanda, some people believe that it is harmful to swallow saliva. The truth however, is the exact opposite.
The digestive tract has plenty of enzymes and acids that breakdown any harmful substances in the body before they are disposed off.
Therefore, swallowing saliva will not hurt anybody but if spit- spattered around, it could hurt someone else.