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US pledges help in fighting terror attacks and diseases

Health & Science
 Nakuru businessman Bildad Munene catches up with the latest news on US President Barack Obama's visit to Kenya. He praised Obama for speaking boldly about corruption in Kenya and pledging assistance in the fight against terrorism. [PHOTO: KIPSANG JOSEPH/STANDARD]

The US will help Kenya deal with any threat of bio-terrorism as well as emerging diseases such as Ebola.

During a joint press conference on Saturday, US President Barack Obama said his country will work with Kenya to deal with diseases and other public health threats before they become epidemics.

This will involve strengthening laboratory capacities, training emergency response teams and creating rapid emergency response units.

The assistance will come through the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), an international initiative launched at the White House in September last year to prevent epidemics and rapidly responding to outbreaks such as Ebola and swine flu.

During the launch of the GHSA at the White House in Washington, Kenya was then represented by Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia.

Participants at the meeting agreed to fast-track operationalisation of the agenda, but Kenya is yet to fully roll it out due to due to lack of funding.

Countries participating in the initiative are also supposed to operationalise the International Health Regulations, which were developed in 2005 through the World Health Organisation.

In an annual IHR monitoring report last year, Director of Medical Services Nicholas Muraguri indicated the country was behind schedule in meeting the target agreed on.

Kenya has sought a two-year extension to meet the targets.

“One of the challenges of implementing the agenda has been lack of resources,” said Muraguri in a brief.

The partnership with the US in actualising the initiative will entail strengthening laboratory and health workers’ capacity to detect and respond rapidly to infectious disease threats. During the press conference President Obama indicated his government’s intention of continuing to fund HIV activities in Kenya. This year, US plans to spend about Sh34 billion in funding HIV programmes.

On Saturday, President Obama also announced that Kenya had been admitted to the latest US HIV initiative dubbed DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe).

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