Animal health specialists have raised the red flag over manufacturers, importers and distributors who are taking advantage of wrangles at the Veterinary Medicine Directorate Board to flood the country with fake and poor quality drugs.
Animal Health Technicians and Technologists Association of Kenya (AHTTAK) said the situation was threatening Kenyans’ health as foods of animal origin especially meat, milk eggs and honey were now registering harmful levels of drug residues especially antibiotics.
AHTTAK legal affairs Committee Chairman Oreste Karanja who spoke during a press conference in Nakuru today said due to absence of a regulator, veterinary drugs were now being sold and dispensed in open air markets, kiosks, groceries and hardware stores exposing Kenyans to health risks and economic losses.
On April 24 Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya gazetted Josiah Machiki Mandieka, John Wilberforce Muchibi, James Muchini Mbaria and Douglas Gitonga as members of the Veterinary Medicine Directorate (VMD) but their appointment was challenged in court by Kenya Veterinary Board on grounds that it was made contrary to the law and recommendations of the Board.
The Directorate was inaugurated in December 2017. Previously the role of regulating veterinary medicine was under the ambit of the Ministry of Health’s Pharmacy and Poisons Board which also regulates human medicine.
Karanja raised concern that most farmers were complaining of reoccurrence of diseases in their animals while others had lost thousands of shillings following failure by their livestock to conceive after being artificially inseminated.
In temporarily stopping the VMD nominees from assuming office, High Court Judge Justice Pauline Nyamweya in May certified the case as urgent and ruled that the applicants Dr Elizabeth Ouko, Dr Benson Mutisya and two others had a case to argue.
“I am satisfied that the applicants have met the threshold of an arguable case, and are therefore entitled to the leave sought to commence judicial review proceedings against the respondents,” the judge said.
AHTTAK called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene adding that the process of nominating members of VMD board was clearly outlined in the Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Professionals Act (2011).
Coordinator to AHTTAK Lydia Apiri said the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary can only appoint nominees to VMD from a list vetted and forwarded to him by the Kenya Veterinary Board. She said as currently constituted the Board was an illegality as the Minister had picked individuals not vetted by KVB.
“We are warning Kenyan farmers not to buy veterinary medicine from unauthorized outlets. In the current situation without a functional Veterinary Medicine Directorate quacks are having a field day while anyone can prepare a concoction and pass it off as a drug” she stated
She further said veterinary medicines being imported into the country were not being subjected to inspection at entry points to ascertain their safety and effectiveness as that was the preserve of the VMD.
Coordinator Calvin Ninga said recent studies have established that between 6 to 7 percent of milk samples collected on the markets around Nairobi had high levels of antibiotic residues.
Ninga said the situation was contributing to a growing antimicrobial resistance which he said was a creeping global public health catastrophe that needed urgent action.
“Kenya Bureau of Standards (KBS) regulations provide that the levels of antibiotic residues in milk should be strictly zero. We were alarmed that some of the samples had antibiotic residues of above 100µg/L. When such milk is consumed, the antibiotic residues make gut microbes resistant to treatment with antibiotics,” explained Ninga.
The situation, he said had been further complicated by findings indicating that most farmers do not know that some veterinary drugs in circulation were fake and dangerous.
By Anne Mwale /Dennis Rasto