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Govt steps up disease alerts

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 23 – Kenyans will now be alerted on health emergencies in real time following the opening of a multi-million shilling centre that will control information flow for disease outbreaks at the Ministry of Public Health.

The Head of Disease Prevention and Control Dr Willis Akhwale said on Tuesday that the centre would improve and coordinate health related communication better across the country especially during emergencies.

"It is going to be our nerve centre in terms of communication… it is the centre where we are going to receive real time information, whether it is confirmed or unconfirmed cases of diseases that have potential for epidemic that could lead to emergency situations," Dr Akhwale stated.

The centre will operate toll-free telephone lines for all citizens across the country.

He said information flow between the districts and national level during epidemics had previously been slow because of a poor information system.

"Immediately we get this information we are then going to coordinate with the relevant arms within the health sector so that they can respond appropriately," he said.

Dr Akhwale indicated that the centre would also be used to sensitise communities to avoid misinformation in case of an outbreak.

It will operate 12 hours a day but the information relayed at night will be recorded and acted on the following morning.

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"For example, if somebody says they are in a town where people are coming down with diarrhoea, immediately this information reaches us, we are going to call District Surveillance Officers and respond appropriately," Dr Akhwale explained.

"If people have seen unexpected deaths or disease conditions, we expect them to also take advantage of this centre by passing that information to us as quickly as possible so that we can respond."

But separately, Kenyan women are still not reporting cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV) despite the frequent calls to do so.

The National Commission on Gender and Development Chairperson Regina Mwatha said it was mainly because of fear, cover-ups where family members were involved, traditional belief systems and sometimes women blaming themselves for it.

Speaking ahead of the 16 Days of Activism on GBV to begin on Thursday, Dr Mwatha said that they were working on a National Action Plan to deal with Gender Based Violence so that the government can provide resources to deal with it.

"We have established a system where we track through hospitals all the cases reported and with this we are able to establish the victim, perpetrator and their ages and where the offence took place," she said.

She added that they were in discussion with the police on a possible restructuring of police gender desks formed to deal with cases of Gender Based Violence.

"I don\’t want to go into details but it is something we have discussed with the police service and we have come to a conclusion that the problem is the way it is structured – calling it a desk," Dr Mwatha said.

"We are thinking of establishing something close to a crime unit or flying squad so that it is a well known unit."

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