By Standard Reporter

Kenya; Top health officials will today take the international ‘Small Bite Big Threat’ campaign to Marigat in Baringo County, where the female sand fly has become a major health problem especially for children under five years.

Accompanied by experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), the Health Cabinet Secretary Mr James Machari will be presiding over the national World Health Day celebrations at Marigat Secondary School.

Baringo is among 22 arid counties in Kenya where the female sand fly infects about 4,000 people annually with the disease called kala-azar that can kill if not treated.

 “We are worried that with the changing climate, the fly could either move or expand its range of habitation,” says Kemri Director Prof Solomon Mpoke.

Affected counties

For a long time, the Ministry of Health says, the disease has mainly hit Baringo, Pokot, Turkana,Wajir, Isiolo, Samburu, and Marakwet counties. But this may change to areas previously not known to harbor the fly as a result of climate change and population movements.  There have been several outbreaks in Kenya with the most recent confirmed in Isiolo and Wajir districts.

 This year, WHO wants the Governments to put more focus on new previously neglected diseases and new transmission agents that are being driven by a warming climate.

The theme for the World Health Day this year is to protect citizens against insects that can cause serious illnesses.

WHO Director-general Dr Margaret, in a statement says during the past 20 years, kala-azar has spread considerably due to migration and environmental changes.

Research on kala-azar or leishmaniasis, which has similar symptoms to malaria, has largely been neglected in the past mainly because this is a poor man’s disease, according to Prof Mpoke.