Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has challenged scientists in the country and Africa to develop solutions to address the challenge of tsetse flies and Trypanosomiasis commonly known as sleeping sickness.
While officially opening the ongoing global conference on tsetse flies in Mombasa, Gachagua said if the disease is fully eradicated in animals, farmers will save more than Sh21 billion every year.
Gachagua said a time has come for scientists to lay strategies of sweeping the continent clean of the disease.
“While I note that Kenya has managed to control the spread in humans, a replication in animals will not only save our farmers over USD 143 million (Sh21 billion) annually, but also put the sector on track in building our economy,” he said.
The 36th General Conference of the International Scientific Council for Trypanosomiasis Research and Control has been held in collaboration with the African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources and the Kenyan Government.
Gachagua pointed out that livestock contributes between 30 per cent and 80 per cent to the GDP of Sub-Saharan Africa.
While the contribution is impressive, he said it was under threat from Animal African Trypanosomiasis, which has been linked to economic losses of up to USD4.5 billion annually.
He raised alarm that there has been resistance to multiple drugs in 21 countries, Kenya included, posing a major threat to controlling the disease.
“With advancement in technology, this meeting brings different experts to the table. It is through blended ideas that we can innovate to banish the disease,” said the DP.
His sentiments were echoed by CS Mithika Linturi who said said control of tsetse and Trypanosomiasis will help Kenya achieve food security, manufacturing and agro-processing among other key drivers of the economy.
In a speech read by Livestock PS Jonathan Mueke, Linturi said tsetse is a trans-boundary problem affecting agriculture, tourism and public health sectors.
“Given the scale of tsetse fly problem in Africa and considering its trans boundary nature, complex and dynamic medical, veterinary, agricultural and rural development dimensions, there is need to establish focus and direction in the fight against tsetse and Trypanosomiasis at the regional and continental level,” he said.
African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources Director Dr Huyam Salih in her remarks said there was a chance to eliminate tsetse and the disease in the continent, by working together.
She said about 50 million cattle are at risk of the disease in Africa. Every year, the disease kills 3 million cattle in the continent.
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“Trypanosomiasis remains a formidable obstacle to sustainable agriculture, rural development and public health in numerous countries in Africa,” she said.
The Bureau Director reiterated that 38 out of 55 countries are affected by tsetse and trypanosomiasis.
"The human population exposed to this risk was estimated to be 55 million people between 2016 and 2020. Human African Trypanosomiasis cases in 2022 was reported to be under 1000 annually," she said.
The fight against Trypanosomiasis has been ongoing for 72 years.
" It's time to renew our commitment and accelerate progress. The Abuja declaration paved the way for tsetse and trypanosomiasis eradication," Dr Salih said.
"We've witnessed remarkable progress in reducing Human African Trypanosomiasis cases. From 9875 in 2009 to fewer than 1000 in 2022. Let's commit similar efforts to African Animal Trypanosomiasis and unlock rural Africa's potential."
ISCTRC was established in 1949 to facilitate the coordination and alignment of efforts related to tsetse and trypanosomiasis in Africa.
“This initiative was driven by the recognition of the cross-border impact of tsetse flies and trypanosomiasis,” she said.