Drought places strain on health needs in Kenya

August 3, 2011 9:29 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 3 -The World Health Organisation (WHO) requires about Sh917 million to address health emergencies in Kenya resulting from the current drought crisis that has affected an estimated 3.5 million Kenyans.

Team Leader of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation at WHO Kenya, Dr Mohamed Duale said on Tuesday that they needed to support services like provision of water to health facilities, address shortage of human resource in health facilities in affected areas and preposition supplies for emergency response.

Currently, the organisation has less than two percent of the required funds for emergency health response in Kenya.

“We need to support services that will actually address issues of vaccination campaigns in those areas,” Dr Duale said in an interview with Capital News.

He said although they had already done vaccination campaign in North Eastern, they still needed to do the same and provide vitamin A supplements in other affected parts of the country like upper Eastern, upper Rift and parts of Coast.

“We also need to support the government in management of lesmaniasis, a condition which affects many people in Coast and also management of anaemia in pregnant and lactating mothers,” he added.

Dr Duale noted that the major health emergency in the drought affected areas currently was acute malnutrition particularly affecting children, pregnant women, lactating mothers and other vulnerable groups like the elderly and sick people.

He added that the rate of acute malnutrition in these areas ranged between 15 and 40 percent.

“Because of this situation we are sure that child mortality rates have gone up,” he said.

About two weeks ago, WHO in its website had raised concern that its emergency health response was unable to meet the current demand of the drought crisis in the horn of Africa due to severe under funding.

WHO which is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system had said that it had only received less than two percent of the funds needed for Kenya, five percent for Djibouti and 22 percent for Somalia.

The current drought crisis has affected an estimated 11 million people in the Horn of Africa and the WHO is seeking more funds to avoid excess mortality and morbidity from malnutrition and communicable diseases.

At the same time, the global health body has advised the Kenyan government to ensure all new refugees arriving in the country were screened and those below 15 years immunised against all vaccine preventable diseases.

This is to prevent outbreaks of diseases like polio and measles.

“I want to assure the public that vaccines are very safe and even if a child is severely malnourished or hungry, the vaccine will not have any adverse effect on the health of that child,” Dr Duale assured.

He described an emergency vaccination campaign conducted last week in seven districts and three refugee camps affected by drought as successful having reached 95 percent of the target children.

The week long vaccination campaign aimed to reach 215,000 children and was done at a cost of Sh30.3 million.

“We advised the Ministry to do this campaign. The reason is because other than the ongoing drought situation, there has also been a huge influx of refugees from Somalia who are intended to reach the camps and most of these are not protected against vaccine preventable diseases,” Dr Duale said.


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