The fight against bilharzia and intestinal worms in the country has received a major boost after the World Health Organisation (WHO) donated drugs worth Sh.5 billion to combat the neglected tropical diseases.
Ministry of Health Division of Vector Borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases Head, Dr Sultani Matendechero, said the Department has rolled out a new strategy through which the donation shall be channeled to eradicate the diseases.
The Breaking Transmission Strategy (BTS), which is being rolled out in Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Kakamega and Vihiga counties, he said, targets to treat six million people in the four counties over the next five years.
Through partnership with AMREF and The End Fund, the approach, he said targets to treat school children and members of the community to break transmissions and completely eradicate the diseases.
“We have realized that when we treat school children, the incidence drops, but when you go back after three months and test, you find that the numbers have gone up again,” he noted.
Once completed successfully, the program which runs for five years, he said shall be scaled up to cover the Lake Region, Rift Valley and the Coast.
“We picked on these four counties because the transmissions stem from small ponds unlike the Lake Region and the Coast which have massive water bodies and it is quite involving to control the diseases,” he said.
Speaking in Kisumu during a sensitization meeting for County First Ladies, Dr. Matendechero said Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD’s) continue to affect attendance and performance of school going children, adding that the program is expected to reverse the tide.
The burden of managing NTD’s, he added was a strain on public resources disclosing that over Sh. 200 billion is spent annually to control the diseases.
AMREF Health Africa Country Director, Dr. Meshack Ndirangu, said 13 per cent of Kenyans are infested by worms with 70 per cent being children aged 5-14 years.
Nine million Kenyans, he added are at risk of contracting bilharzia every year, adding that through the BTS program a lot of gains shall be made towards total eradication of the diseases.
“We want to map out and identify where these cases are and apply the principle of Precision Public Health to manage them,” he said.
The program, he added targets to increase treatment coverage, health behavior change and use of innovative approaches to contain the diseases.
The End Fund Vice President, Dr Carol Karutu, called for advocacy and resources mobilization to give impetus to the fight against the diseases.
Through the Deworming Innovation Fund, which is run by her organization, she said, the four counties shall receive support to eradicate the diseases.
Dorothy Nyong’o, wife of the Kisumu Governor and her counterparts, Priscilla Oparanya (Kakamega) and Caroline Wangamati (Bungoma) pledged to create awareness on the NTD’s.
Through the County First Ladies Association, they pledged to rally governors to allocate funds towards the treatment and eradication of NTD’s in the Country.
By Chris Mahandara