Mass drug administration drives geared toward eliminating Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) have started.
Some 5.6 million residents in five counties will benefit from free 2.3 million tablets.
Community Health Promoters (CHPs) are visiting primary schools and other learning institutions to administer the drugs in Machakos, Kitui, Makueni, Meru and Tharaka Nithi.
The exercise, launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Health ministry, is aimed at administering drugs against Bilharzia and soil-transmitted worms.
WHO country representative in Kenya Abdourahmane Diallo said the global health agency has committed to funding donations for drugs for NTDs at the cost of Sh200 million.
In a speech read on his behalf by Mona Almudhwahi during the launch of the project in Machakos, Diallo said about 40 per cent of the global burden of NTDs occurs in Africa.
Diallo said Africa is the most affected by schistosomiasis (bilharzia), accounting for 91.4 per cent of the total number of people requiring treatment globally.
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Health Director General, Patrick Amoth, said bilharzia and worms pose a significant health concern globally and in most parts of the country more so the Eastern region.
“To ensure control of and elimination of bilharzia and intestinal worms, the government has laid out a comprehensive strategic approach to combating Neglected Tropical Diseases in the country,” he said in a speech read on his behalf by Dr Daniel Langat.
Langat said part of the strategy is to upscale preventive chemotherapy treatment in areas where bilharzia and intestinal worms are of public health importance.
He said community mass drug administration had been proven to be the fastest means of lowering the burden of bilharzia and intestinal worms in areas where transmission of the infections has been established.
The Health ministry, he said, has so far provided free treatment to about 10 million people in Western, Coastal and Lake Regions where the diseases have been detected.
“Our target is to reach about six million people; about five million and one million for intestinal worms and bilharzia respectively.”
The treatment will be administered by 12,000 community health volunteers.
Machakos deputy governor, Francis Mwangangi, said the county government is keen on partnering with the national government and development partners in eradicating NTDs.
“We have complied with President William Ruto’s directive to take care of 50 per cent of the stipends for our Community Health Promoters while the national government commits to foot the other 50 per cent,” Mwangangi said.
In Kitui, Chief Officer for Public Health and Sanitation Lynn Kitwan said drugs against common worms will be administered in all 40 wards across the county within the next four days.
According to the chief officer, Kitui County has already received drugs valued at Sh1.3 million from WHO.
Kitwan said 2,470 community health promoters had been trained and dispersed across the county to make the exercise a success.
“We have equipped them with knowledge and skills on the right dosage and what to do in case of drug reaction,” Kitwan said.