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Gov’t keen to eradicate malaria by 2030

The government has started laying down strategies aimed at ensuring that the country is malaria free by the year 2030, head of the National Malaria Programme at the Ministry of Health Dr. George Githuka has said.

Dr. Githuka said that they have decided to start eliminating malaria in the four counties which have the lowest malaria prevalence that is Laikipia, Nyandarua, Kirinyaga and Nyeri since it is easier to eliminate where the cases are low by ensuring that there are no cases appearing there.

Speaking at a Nairobi hotel during a media sensitization forum, Dr. Githuka explained that majority of the malaria cases in these counties are imported by people who have travelled to high transmission areas that is areas like the lake endemic region which comprises of counties surrounding the lake and the coast endemic region that is the counties along the ocean.

“When the people travel and come back infested with malaria, then the mosquitoes transmit the malaria because the disease spreads when a mosquito bites a person with malaria and carries the parasites and infects another person,” said Dr. Githuka.

He explained that health is a devolved function and the success of this initiative is pegged on the collaboration between the national government which formulates policies and the counties implementing the policies.

Dr. Githuka said that for the government to succeed in eliminating malaria they have invested heavily in surveillance and contact tracing where if one presents themselves at a health facility with signs and symptoms of malaria, they are tested and if positive they are immediately put on medication then they look at the close contacts of the person who are tested and treated if found positive.

“We are treating these people early enough before their bodies become a reservoir for the mosquito to get the parasites and transmit them to someone else,” said Dr. Githuka.

He explained that they will gradually increase the counties targeted for elimination of malaria with a target of eliminating the disease in the entire country by the year 2030.

“We have already started engaging with the counties and health care workers to see that they are able to implement these interventions. For now we want to ensure that the structures are well in place by 2023,” he said.

On the new malaria vaccine, Dr. Githuka explained that after recommendations by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the vaccine, in its pilot phase be given to children where the malaria burden is high that is the eight lake endemic counties, the Ministry of Health through the Kenya National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group (KENITAG) will advise the government on how to scale up the vaccine beyond where it was being piloted.

“While scaling up a vaccine, a lot of factors are usually considered which include looking at the areas most affected, number of vaccines that are required, capacity of the health care workers to ensure that they can administer the vaccine, community sensitization so that they can be able to take up the vaccine and much more,” he explained.

Dr. Githuka said that the government is looking at eventually giving the malaria vaccine to all children in the country.

By Joseph Ng’ang’a

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