, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 15 – The Ministry of Health will from next week embark on a three-day treatment exercise as part of an ongoing campaign to eradicate elephantiasis by 2020, which is in line with the global targets for the elimination and control of Neglected Tropical Diseases.
The campaign which will run from November 19 will be targeting residents from Mombasa, Kilifi, Lamu, Tana River and Taita Taveta Counties.
- The exercise which will run from November 19 will be targeting residents from Mombasa, Kilifi, Lamu, Tana River and Taita Taveta Counties.
- It will involve mass administration of drugs followed by provision of surgical opportunities for those suffering from complications of the disease.
It will involve mass administration of drugs followed by provision of surgical opportunities for those suffering from complications of the disease.
“Although the exercise plans to reach all the sub-Counties of Mombasa, Kilifi, Lamu and Tana River, it will only target Taveta sub-County in Taita Taveta County. This is the only sub-County within Taita Taveta County that is affected by the disease,” stated the Head of Neglected Tropical Diseases Unit Dr Sultani Matendechero.
Lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis, is a neglected tropical disease. Infection occurs when filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitoes. Infection is usually acquired in childhood causing hidden damage to the lymphatic system.
More women than men bear the brunt of lymphedema whereas men exclusively suffer from hydrocele.
Lymphedema is the localized retention of fluid in the legs but hydrocele is the retention of fluid in the testicular area.
Although hydrocele can be corrected via surgery, lymphedema can only be managed by providing a minimum package of care.
This means that one has to keep the infected area clean at all times, adopt activities that will help fluid to circulate, clean wounds and generally provide an environment that will enable the patient to live with their condition comfortably.
“These patients are not only physically disabled, but suffer mental, social and financial losses contributing to stigma and poverty,” noted Dr Matendechero.
An estimated 80,000 men suffer from genital disease complications that are associated with elephantiasis (hydrocele) while an estimated 55,000 people suffer from lymphedema in Kenya.
The Sh1 billion exercise will be targeting to reach at least 65 percent of the at-risk population in this year’s round of treatment.
“We started last year and will be expanding the exercise to Mombasa County for the first time. We plan to run these campaigns over the next four years including this one and then we shall do a Transmission Assessment Survey that will determine whether or not we are certified as Elephantiasis free,” said Dr Matendechero.
The campaign will include the identification of people who already have complications of elephantiasis, provision of free surgery where possible, awareness, advocacy and sensitization campaigns, mass de-worming and drug administration exercises, training of community health assistants and teams that will roll out the treatment.
Dr Matendechero noted that the exercise is expected to bring down the prevalence rate to less than one percent, “This is a strategy that has been found to work by the World Health Organization in terms of controlling Elephantiasis. If we can consistently give this treatment to communities where this disease is prevalent every year for five years without skipping any year, then we can lower the prevalence rate.”
Dr Matendechero further said the government had secured donor support in form of drugs, financing, hospital supplies and training from partners such as The End Fund, GlaxoSmithKline and Eisai.
“The funding will enable us to treat people before they get complications and to protect others from the disease. The government has in addition trained health workers and community health assistants.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 947 million people in 54 countries are currently living in areas that require preventive chemotherapy to stop the spread of infection.