A joint team of health workers from Turkana and Karamoja-Uganda, have treated 5,000 pastoralists for Trachoma eye disease, during a Mass Drug Administration (MDA) in Napak and Moroto districts, where a majority of Turkana pastoralists are settled now for pasture.
Speaking in Moroto at the conclusion of the 10-day exercise, carried out by Turkana and Uganda health officials, Turkana County Eye Coordinator, Samson Lokele, said that despite the many challenges, a dedicated staff from both Uganda and Kenya, were able to administer Trachoma drugs, to a good number of Turkana pastoralists.
He said elimination of the disease in Uganda and Kenya, need a concerted effort by stakeholders, adding that the current Turkana Governor, Jeremiah Lomorukai, is keen to see a healthy and developed Ateker nation.
Trachoma National Programme Manager, Medical Officer of Health (MoH), Uganda, Dr Opon Rapheal, commended the joint team for the successful exercise, which he said was initially impossible with Ugandan officials alone, as the presence of Kenyan colleagues helped build trust and confidence among the Turkana pastoralists
Dr Opon pledged for a continued collaboration with Turkana Health Ministry counterparts, toward elimination of Trachoma.
“I invite you to join us in the upcoming three MDA activities scheduled for June, July and at the end of the year, for greater collaboration and networked efforts, to eliminate the disease,” he said.
Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International, Senior Programme Officer, Stephen Begumisa, said that his organization is committed to support both governments, in elimination of Trachoma in the region through funding and provision of necessary tools.
Begumisa said that Turkana officials’ involvement in the exercise is commendable, adding that more officers will be looped-in, in the future as human resource, to help reach to a larger portion of Trachoma patients, who might have been left out of the exercise, due to various challenges, including the bushy area.
Speaking during a Mass Drug Administration in Lokisilie Turkana Kraal in Losilan-Sub-county of Moroto District, yesterday, MoH, Turkana West, Joel Lochor, said that there is an urgent need to pitch an eye surgical camp, as well as another Mass Drug Administration around the Turkana Kraals, to prevent blindness among the population.
Lochor further said that almost all the people treated in the MDA exercise from Turkana West and Loima had trachoma, and some of them had Trachoma Trichiasis that needed surgery.
Turkana County Coordinator for Neglected Tropical Diseases(NTDs), Jimmy Lore, said that a part from Trachoma, there is presence of other Neglected Tropical Diseases among pastoralists that need to be assessed and mapped, adding that immunization program should also be carried out to all the pastoralists’ children who have not been immunized before, to save them from diseases.
While Moroto District Health Officer, Dr. Lemukol James, appealed for more support from partners, so that joint health technical teams can pitch a camp in Karamoja, especially in areas where Turkana have settled, to treat all other diseases other than Trachoma, to prevent transmission of diseases across borders.
The 10-day exercise is being supported by Uganda Government partners including USAID, RTI International and Act to End NTDS EAST.
The teams visited areas where the Turkana community had settled such as Kobebe, Losogol, Lopei, Naput, Chokchok, Nakabaat, Losilan, Nadunget, Nanyidik, Lokisilie among others.
Trachoma is a highly contagious disease that can be prevented through personal and environmental hygiene and it is also treatable through medication and surgery.
The joint team included Loima Sub-county MoH, Abdirahaman Musa, Eye Coordinator Turkana West, Sixtus Emoni, Eye Coordinator, Loima, Richard Lowoto, Loima Sub-county Pharmacist, Newton Chebon, Turkana West Sub-county Pharmacist, Kenneth Keter, Rupa Sub-county Health Preventive and Promotive Officer, Charles Onyang, RTI Senior MERLA Specialist, Joyce Achan, among others.
By Peter Gitonga