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Kenya, Uganda join hands to end trachoma

RIFT VALLEY
By Irissheel Shanzu | October 26th 2021

Governor John Lonyangapuo when he administered trachoma treatment to a two-year-old child at Kacheliba, West Pokot County. [Irissheel Shanzu, Standard]

Health officials in West Pokot and Turkana counties have joined hands with their counterparts in Uganda to fight trachoma.

For many years, lack of trachoma drugs in Kenya has seen many residents of West Pokot rely on hospitals in Uganda.

Trachoma is listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the 20 Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), and is the leading infectious cause of blindness globally.

Residents of North Pokot, where 90 per cent of the population practise livestock keeping, have been listed as the most affected in West Pokot.

Health ministries in Kenya and Uganda launched cross-border drug administration to boost the fight against trachoma.

The initiative, which was launched at Alakas Primary School in Amudat district, Uganda, seeks to harmonise drug administration among residents of West Pokot and Turkana counties with neighbouring Uganda.

Speaking during the launch, Ugandan State Minister for Karamoja Affairs Maria Goretti, welcomed the initiative, saying it will ensure that communities living along the Kenya-Uganda border receive the much-needed treatment.

Mass drug administration

“Previous efforts where respective governments conducted mass drug administration at different times saw a section of the local community miss out as they are largely pastoralists who move across the border in search of pasture,” said Dr Goretti.

Wycliffe Omondi, head of vector-borne and neglected tropical diseases at the Ministry of Health, said there was need to employ a multi-faceted approach if the war on the disease is to be won. “Mass drug administration on its own is not the silver bullet. We must put in place collaborative mechanisms,” he observed.

He noted that sanitation and hygiene should be enhanced while advocating for behaviour change to reduce the spread of the disease.

He added that the county should not rely on donors, but should set aside funds for combating trachoma.

According to Dr Teshome Kanno, International Trachoma Initiative regional director for Africa, regional governments must give the disease the required attention through a collaborative approach devoid of political boundaries.

Christine Apokoreng, West Pokot County’s chief officer in charge of health and sanitation, said such synchronised efforts will guarantee maximum results.

This year the National Trachoma elimination programme targets to treat 2.8 million people in Baringo, Isiolo, Kajiado, Narok, Samburu, Turkana and West Pokot. 

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