MOH up to date on climate change

April 7, 2008 12:00 am

NAIROBI, April 7 – The Ministry of Health has put in place measures to assist in mitigating the impact of climate change on public health.

The latest research by the ministry has revealed that climate change poses a threat to public health security, especially with respect to communicable diseases.

The Division of Disease Surveillance and Response is one the initiatives by the ministry and aims to monitor the trend of diseases emerging due to climate change.

Speaking during the ‘World Health Day’ Monday, Health Permanent Secretary (PS) Hezron Nyangito pointed out that the initiative would go a long way in effectively controlling disease outbreaks.

The objective of ‘World Health Day’ is to increase participation in the global campaign to protect health from the adverse effects of climate change.

Targeted programmes have also been set up to control the spread of communicable and vector born diseases.

For example, the use of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets and indoor residual spraying of houses just before the rains has been scaled up in an effort to reduce malaria.

At the same time, Director of Medical Services Dr James Nyikal said the spread of malaria is influenced by changes in weather patterns.

He explained that people living in highlands were more prone to malarial infections due to lack of immunity.

“In higher temperatures, mosquitoes breed faster. Below 18 degrees centigrade, the breeding of mosquitoes is hindered,” said Dr Nyikal.

A person gets malaria from the bite of an infected female mosquito. The mosquito bite injects young forms of the malarial parasite into the person’s blood.

The parasites travel through the person’s bloodstream to the liver, where they grow to their next stage of development. In 6 to 9 days, the parasites leave the liver and enter the bloodstream again.

They invade the red blood cells, finish growing, and begin to multiply quickly. The number of parasites increases until the red blood cells burst, releasing thousands of parasites into the person’s bloodstream.

The parasites attack other red blood cells, and the cycle of infection continues, causing the common signs and symptoms of malaria.

When a non-infected mosquito bites an infected person, the mosquito sucks up parasites from the person’s blood. The mosquito is then infected with the malarial parasites.

The parasites go through several stages of growth in the mosquito. When the mosquito bites someone else, that person will become infected with malarial parasites, and the cycle will begin again.

Nyikal meanwhile highlighted the role that excessive rains play in the spread of other communicable diseases.

“The best examples of waterborne diseases we know are Cholera and Rift Valley Fever and all these occur due to flooding,” he remarked.

Other intervention measures include the setting up of a, which ensures that diseases are controlled effectively.

Nyangito described intervention programmes such as the set up of a Division of Disaster Preparedness and Response, as catalysts in containing communicable diseases.

“This is one department which we are hoping to strengthen to assist us deal with these emergencies,” the PS stressed.

Nyangito also affirmed the ministry’s commitment to reduce the cases of communicable diseases due to climate change.

“The Ministry of Health has also developed policies that promote access to preventive measures and provided free mosquito nets and treatment.”








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