State sets aside Sh18 billion to eradicate neglected tropical diseases

It will cost the Ministry of Health Sh18 billion to eradicate Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) within the next five years.

Speaking during the launch of the Kenya Master Plan for the Elimination of Tropical Diseases: 2023-2027 at Tononoka Grounds, Mombasa, Deputy Director General for Health Sutani Matendechere, said this is a bold commitment to combating the diseases.

“The comprehensive plan outlines strategic measures to combat the most prevalent six debilitating NTDs among them schistosomiasis, Intestinal worms, lymphatic filariasis, River Blindness, Visceral Leishmaniosis, and Trachoma, promising a healthier life and better future for all,” said Dr Matendechero. 

The Deputy Director General for Health said the master plan has put Kenya on the global map, positioning it as one of the first worldwide to work towards eliminating the four NTDs by 2030, and is a testament to the government’s unwavering dedication to public health and well-being.

Dr Joyce Onsongo from World Health Organization (WHO), noted that Kenya shoulders the burden of six out of the more than 20 NTDs afflicting the world.

“However, with this visionary initiative, Kenya has positioned itself as a beacon of progress and a trailblazer in the global fight against neglected tropical diseases,” she said.

Earlier, the officials and partners visited Port Reitz hospital to console two beneficiaries – 30-year-old Bakari Yongo, a father of two, and a widower, Mazera Mambo, 50, who were scheduled to undergo a Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) Hydrocele Surgical Procedure.

“I am grateful to the team that has supported me to make this hard decision of undergoing surgery, despite the myths that have shrouded my condition and those of others, some of who are in dire need of the surgery,” Yongo told the visiting officials and partners who had made his surgery possible.

The beneficiary is among seven others who were scheduled for surgery as part of the activities to mark the World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day.

The officials promised to make him an ambassador for tens of others who are living in pain, but fear to undergo surgical procedures due to myths surrounding their conditions.

The officials later visited Spaki Primary School, where they were taken through an LF Impact assessment procedure by county Department of Health Services staff.

“We conduct these assessment procedures in order to nip these NTDs at an early stage, so that we can monitor their progress before they escalate into full-blown illness,” explained Kezia Kitonga, a laboratory technologist at Jomvu Sub-county hospital 

Amidst cultural performances, the message was clear – NTDs which are associated with cultural beliefs and linked to poverty, have a cure and are preventable.

The highlight of the event, was a skit whose dramatic performance captured how traumatizing, shameful, and stigmatising NTDs are, and sometimes linked to the disintegration of families and unions.

The colourful launch was officiated by Dr Isaac Malonza of the NTD Expert Committee.

Other key speakers were representatives from the national and county governments, NTD Expert Committee members, WHO, Amref, END Fund and Wycliffe Omondi who represented partners. The WHO was a key partner in the development of the master plan.

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