NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 4 – As world health experts grapple with the challenge of malaria eradication, Kenya has said it requires about Sh7.5 billion annually to eliminate the killer disease in the next seven years.
Head of Disease Prevention and Control at the Ministry of Public Health Dr Willis Akhwale however said that even if resources were made available, there would be need to change the strategies used.
“We are at a place where we are controlling the disease and we now want to move to the next phase,” Dr Akhwale said confidently.
“Now we know the tools that work (but) the access to these tools have remained limited,” he said. “For example with bed nets we have just been targeting children and pregnant women. In the next phase we want to have universal coverage; we want every household to have at least two nets,” he added.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing Pan-African Malaria Conference at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, Dr Akhwale said they were in the process of reviewing a policy where the Artemisinin based combination treatment (ACT) which is currently only available on prescription can now be accessed at community level.
He said the Ministry would then target the locations with limited transmission but with large geographical areas.
“For example in the semi-arid north we will start thinking of where transmission is highly seasonal and we may think of mass drug administration as one particular strategy that we may employ,” Dr Akhwale said.
“But in Coastal and Western parts of this country where the prevalence is still very high, we believe that by 2017 we will have moved to the pre-elimination phase,” he said.
Professor Pedro Luis Alonso, Chairman, Board of Governors of Manhica Health Research Center in Mozambique said although Africa was geared towards malaria eradication, the present strategies like use of treated bed nets and ACT drugs may not be adequate because of the cases of resistance.
“When we say eradication, I am not sure we have been able to get across the concept and the history. There is just one disease in the history of mankind that has been eradicated and this was small (which) is a reasonably easy disease, and we had a phenomenon tool which was a vaccine,” Professor Alonso said.
“Malaria is much more difficult and complex than any of these other diseases so the bar we have set ourselves when we talk about eradication of malaria is a very high one and to be able to reach that goal, the tools that we have now will help us get very close to it but will not help us go over it,” he added.
Professor Alonso said there was a general agreement that with first line treatment based on ACTs, adequate vector control, relying on long lasting insecticide treated nets and in some cases Inside Residual Spraying (IRS), rapid diagnostic tests, there will be elimination of malaria in the continent and an ultimate eradication in the world.
“This is a very difficult race which we will win, it may not be today or tomorrow but if we want to win it, we have to start developing those tools today,” he said.
World Health Organisation Director of Global Malaria Program Dr Robert Newman said endemic countries had to take ownership over malaria as a problem and commit to the development of the human resource capacity that would be necessary at the country level to succeed in the eradication of malaria.
“We need to know where malaria cases are if we are to eliminate malaria locally and ultimately eradicate it globally but we need to keep an eye on the things that might threaten our success,” Dr Newman said.