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State pledges to eradicate seven diseases in five years

George Kebaso @Morarak

Kenya is on course to eliminate some of the worst neglected tropical diseases in the next four to six years. Yesterday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued Kenya with a certificate of recognition for her successful efforts in eliminating the Guinea Worm Disease (GWD).

A range of seven of those diseases are lined up — with specific timeliness — for eradication by the government according to Health Cabinet secretary Sicily Kariuki.

“Beyond Guinea Worm, Kenya is on the path towards more successes on the disease eradication front,” the CS said. Most of the diseases are earmarked for elimination by the year 2022 when the country is set to achieve Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC).

This year in particular, the government prioritises maternal and neonatal tetanus for elimination, the CS said. A reduction of more than 90 per cent has been documented since the late 1980s when tetanus used to kill about seven  out of every 1,000 children born alive.

“But that is now down to less than one per every 1,000 children,” she added.  Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis by 2021 are also prioritised. “Indeed, early signs of this are already emerging with some health facilities reporting zero mother-to-child transmission of HIV over the past year,” she added.

Elephantiasis by the year 2020 and trachoma for elimination in 2019 is also key.  “As a country, we are also working towards the elimination of this parasitic infection transmitted through mosquitoes. The diseases are treatable and ought to be eliminated through mass treatment. Kenya is also keen on eliminating trachoma by 2019,” she added.

Pastoralist communities are the most affected. To achieve eradication by 2019, the government and partners will provide antibiotic treatment to approximately 2.8 million people and offer surgeries to about 41,500 affected citizens.

“Other diseases that Kenya should feasibly aim to eradicate are cervical cancer and Hepatitis C. With the new HPV vaccine in 2019, coupled with screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions, cervical cancer can be controlled within a decade,” she said.

She reappointed Dr Anne Wamae, Head, Quality Assurance and Standards at the Ministry of Health to lead a team that spearheaded the eradication of GWD.

Director of Medical Services Dr Jackson Kioko said the second Kenya National Strategic Plan for Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases (2016-2020), outlines the approaches with which control and elimination of all NTDs of public health importance will be pursued and achieved adding that  these diseases remain a major problem mostly due to poverty, lack of safe water, proper sanitation, hygiene education and housing.

He called for sustained surveillance and reporting of disease suspicions adding that Lymphatic Filariasis would be eliminated by the year 2020 in order o meet the global goal.

“More than 2.5 million people who are at risk of morbidity, disability and stigmatisation are receiving drugs every year within the Coast region where Lymphatic Filariasis is common,” he said.

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