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Trachoma treatment to target areas at Kenya, Tanzania border

Wycliffe Omondi administers antibiotics to treat trachoma in Olpusimoru, Narok County.

Kenya and Tanzania have begun a mass administration of antibiotics to treat trachoma disease affecting communities living along the border in Olpusimoru, Narok County.

The exercise that will run for the next five days will target residents of Narok, Kajiado on the Kenyan side and Longido and Ngorongoro on the Tanzania side.

The campaign is aimed at reducing cases of blindness among the pastoralist communities living along the busy border.

Speaking during the launch of the initiative at Olpusimoru area of Narok West, Alice Mwangi, the Country Director of Operation Eyesight said that without the partnership between the two countries it would be impossible to eradicate trachoma in the county by the year 2025.

Ms Mwangi said it was important for the two nations to come together for the same exercise, as it would be easier to manage the pandemic among the pastoralists who cross borders daily, making it difficult for medical officers to help between the two nations.

She said they had been having a number of meetings with the Tanzanian health officials to help eradicate the disease that has rendered thousands blind in the region.

Becoming blind

“We are carrying out this exercise to save our people from becoming blind. It is an initiative that has cost donors. Narok County has more than 576,000 people set to benefit from the same, while Kajiado has 358,000 beneficiaries,” said Ms Mwangi, adding that about 1,324,392 persons were targeted in the four counties in Kenya and Tanzania.

Wycliffe Omondi, head of Vector-Borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases at the Ministry of Health, said drug administration remained the most effective way to deal with trachoma.

“Giving medication is not the only solution. The fastest way to reduce the prevalence is through taking this medication, and that is why the government is going out of its way to provide this preventive medication to the community members.

“There are other ways of lowering the prevalence of trachoma like provision of water, hygiene and environmental cleanliness,” said Omondi.

He called upon the community to participate in the exercise and take the medication given to them as the government is thriving to reach them, moving from door to door.

George Kambona, the Tanzania Neglected Tropical Diseases Programme manager, said the coordinated efforts between the two governments would ensure a greater reach to the pastoral Maa community as compared to the previous efforts by the two countries to deal with the problem independently.

He said besides working together with Kenya, in Tanzania, they would be administering the drugs at least twice a year.

“Before we were administering the medication once a year, but as from now, the administering will be twice, starting now, and in the month of December we shall meet and administer the medications again,” said Kambona.

Residents, led by Bernard Keshine, thanked the two governments for the initiative, noting that it would play a major role in helping to save their eyesight.

“We have hundreds of people in our villages who are blind, and we thank the Ministry of Health for their support and sensitisation on issues to do with trachoma because most of us, pastoralists, never knew the cause and ways on how to prevent the disease,” said Benard.

 Trachoma is listed by the World Health Organization as one of the 20 neglected tropical diseases and is the leading infectious cause of blindness around the globe.

About 3,600,000 people are in need of antibiotic treatment in Kenya and  Tanzania as the prevalence is at six percent in the two nations according to the World Health Organization report.

In Kenya trachoma is endemic in five regions of Narok, West Pokot, Turkana, Baringo and Kajiado counties.