Kenya dedicates Sh2 billion for war on Kala-azar disease

Kenya has launched a strategic plan for the control of Kala-azar, a form of leishmaniasis, a vector-borne disease endemic to the arid regions of the country.

The Health ministry is set to pump in Kes 2 billion to help eradicate the disease that is spreading in 11 arid and semi-arid counties within the next five years by at least 50 per cent.

In 2018, Kenya recorded 907 Kalaazar infections, increasing to 1,463 in 2019 and a drop in infections to 1,200 a year later.

The launch is in line with the World Health Organisation target to end Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) by 2030.

Dr Rashid Aman, the Chief Administrative Secretary Ministry of Health said the fight against the vector-borne disease requires significant financial commitments.

“The current resource gap for the implementation of the leishmaniasis national strategy stands at Kes 1.6 billion,” Dr Aman said. “We do hope that partners, county and national governments will mitigate this gap to facilitate the realization of the goals outlined in the strategy.”

He added that the largest item will be commodities attracting about Kes 600 million, followed by monitoring and evaluation at Kes 518 million, and training at Kes 250 million.

Read also: Kenya sets June 2022 target to vaccinate entire adult population

Leishmaniasis like other NTDs affects the poorest, vulnerable and most marginalized populations living mostly in developing countries. It is transmitted by a parasite from an infected female sand fly.

The disease has four forms namely visceral leishmaniasis (VL/ kala-azar), cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL), mucocutaneous leishmaniasis (MCL) and post kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis (PKDL).

Of the four, Kenya is endemic to three. These are visceral leishmaniasis, cutaneous leishmaniasis, and post kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis.

According to Dr Sultani Matendechero, Head, Division of Vector Borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases, Kenya’s Ministry of Health, the steady increase in the number of reported leishmaniasis cases and the associated loss of lives in the country is what inspired the development of the strategy dubbed Kenya Strategic Plan for Control of Leishmaniasis 2021-2025.

“Whereas six counties were listed as being home to leishmaniasis in 2011, we now know that at least 11 counties are experiencing ongoing transmission of this deadly disease,” said Dr Matendechero.

The affected counties include Nyandarua, Nakuru, Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo, Isiolo, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Mandera and Kitui. Sporadic cases have also been reported in Tharaka Nithi and Kajiado.

Dr Matendechero further called upon the affected counties to prioritise allocation of funds towards the strategy.

“I also urge partners to continue supporting the government in the implementation phase of the strategy and individual philanthropic gestures,” said Dr Matendechero.

The implementation of the strategy will focus on the rapid scale-up of access to interventions, enhanced planning for results, resource mobilization, and financial sustainability.

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