The fight against bilharzia and intestinal worms in the country has received a major boost after the World Health Organisation (WHO) donated drugs worth Ksh.5 billion to combat the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
The Head of the Ministry of Health’s Division of Vector Borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases, Dr. Sultani Matendechero, said the Department has rolled out a new strategy through which the donation shall be channelled 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 strategy targets to treat school children and members of the community to break transmissions and completely eradicate the diseases.
Speaking in Kisumu, Dr. Matendechero said NTDs continue to affect attendance and performance of school going children.
“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,” Dr. Matendechero noted.
The program runs for five years and will 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.
According to Dr. Matendechero, the burden of managing NTDs has been a strain on public resources with Kenya spending over Ksh.200 billion spent annually to control the diseases.
“We want to map out and identify where these cases are and apply the principle of Precision Public Health to manage them,” added Dr. Matendechero.
Nine million Kenyans are at risk of contracting bilharzia every year.
AMREF Health Africa Country Director, Dr. Meshack Ndirangu said 13 percent of Kenyans are infested by worms with 70 percent being children aged 5-14 years.
Kisumu First Lady Dorothy Nyong’o, together with her counterparts Priscilla Oparanya (Kakamega) and Caroline Wangamati (Bungoma) have also pledged to create to rally governors to allocate funds towards the treatment and eradication of NTDs in the Country through the County First Ladies Association.