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Kemri approves herbal deworming porridge

Health & Science
 Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Acting Director Prof Maritim Songok hands Ujiplus product used for deworming to Mrs Mary Mengech, the Board chair of Kapsengere primary school in Nandi County on Monday 24, 2023. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) has approved a herbal porridge product that it says is effective for deworming.

Following successful trials, the product, a brainchild of Terik community, received the nod following piloting in Nandi, Kirinyaga and Homa Bay.

Kemri says Ujiplus is safe for children below six years, who could not use available dewormers because of toxicity.

Prof Maritim Songok, the acting Kemri director, said the product will be ideal for the national school feeding programme, especially in arid and semi arid areas.

The idea was initiated by elders from Terik community in a feeding programme for Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) before the advent of devolution.

Through Terik Essential Programme Agency for Development, professionals got the backing of Japanese institutions of higher learning, who supported feeding in seven primary schools. They later sought support from Kemri.

"This community innovation is a unique type of porridge, which has deworming capabilities, and can clear ringworms and skin infections among children. Adults, including the old, can also use Ujiplus," said Prof Songok.

He said research also indicated that Ujiplus is an appetiser, builds hemoglobin hence reducing anaemia and is highly nutritious.

"We took up the gesture and with partners from Japan, Canada and Africa Academy of Science, worked on it and found it to be a very great innovation that could help address some of the gaps in health systems," he said.

"Schools from where the Terik elders initiated the innovation agreed to be used as first in the trials before extension to Kirinyaga and Homa Bay. We found Ujiplus to be good, safe and with efficacy of 60 to 70 per cent."

He spoke at the weekend at Kapsengere Primary School in Nandi when he handed back the innovation to elders and professionals who started the initiative.

"Kemri supports communities whenever they have innovations. We develop them scientifically and hand them back to the innovators for ownership. We encourage partnerships in scientific innovations in similar spirit where we work with pharmaceutical companies from developed nations and after concluding tests, we hand back innovations to the originators," said Prof Songok.

Ujiplus is now registered, branded, licensed by Kenya pharmacy and poisons board, patented and well protected.

A start-up company for reproduction of Ujiplus. Terik Foods and Nutraceuticals Ltd is selling the product at Sh150 per kilogram.

"This will be an economic boon, and we encourage the community to produce the product in mass. Counties and Education ministry can consider buying the product for ECDE feeding programmes to enhance the health and retention of pupils," said Prof Songok.

Mary Mengech, the chairperson of the board of Kapsengere Primary School, laude the project, noting that the vision that the community handed Kemri has finally yielded good results.

"The community is ready to pick the innovation and run a start-up factory whose infrastructure has been completed. We are waiting for machinery to run effectively by the end of the year," said Mengich.

She added that the factory will create employment for locals, advantage local farmers who will produce raw materials and boost school enrolment.

John Bor, the Terik Council of Elders chairman, thanked Kemri for recognising the community's innovation.

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