Sarah Omache, the Kisii County Executive Committee Member for Health says improved support as a result of various initiatives implemented at the county has enabled the control of malaria, a situation that has seen it rated as one of the malaria pre-elimination counties in Kenya.
BY ELIZABETH ANGIRA
Before the advent of devolution in Kenya, images of malaria patients sharing beds, others sleeping on the floor along corridors and pavements of the then Kisii General Hospital were a common feature. Grim figures of deaths from malaria especially among children under five years and pregnant women splashed front-page news in the country’s dailies as the disease ravaged residents of Kisii District during the outbreaks.
“It is a great relieve we have moved from those pain days,” Sarah Omache, the Kisii County Executive Committee Member for Health, told the Management Magazine during an interview at her office.
As one of the countries in the tropics, Kenya suffers greatly from the effects of malaria on its population, which sometimes leads to deaths. The disease burden on the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is huge.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 70 per cent of Kenyans are at risk, with the Lake Victoria region where Kisii and Nyamira counties falls, and the Coastal areas near the Indian Ocean being high-burden spots. Malaria prevalence is approximately 27 per cent in Lake Victoria region and 8 per cent at the Coastal areas.
Omache says improved support as a result of various initiatives implemented at the county has led to the control of malaria, a situation that has seen it rated as one of the malaria pre-elimination counties in Kenya.
“It is very encouraging that since the advent of devolution in 2013, we have not recorded any malaria-linked death, “she explained.
She attributes this to various control initiatives such as increased surveillance, which has enabled its healthcare staff to identify more malaria cases early and correctly diagnose, treat and manage right from the community level.
“True the number of malaria cases is still high,” she says. Omache, however, is quick to note that one cannot see many malaria patients at the Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital as witnessed in previous years.
“Under the revolutionary system known as the Initiation and Implementation of Community Health Strategy, uncomplicated cases of malaria are managed by the trained Community Health Volunteers at the house hold level,” she says.
Additionally, treated mosquito nets are distributed to the wider population, especially households with children under five years and pregnant women. This is an initiative under the national and county government’s universal health coverage programme.
Backed by the National Malaria Strategy 2009-2017’s Epidermis Preparedness and Response (EPR), malaria trends are monitored weekly using set malaria guidelines from sentinel health facilities. The County also carries out proper and prompt malaria case management entailing early and correct diagnosis and treatment of cases according to the WHO-sanctioned national malaria-control policy guidelines.
Other novel initiatives include community case management of malaria incidences by use of community health volunteers, and active communication and social mobilization for behaviour change.
“Every sub-county has a total of five sentinel health facilities where malaria data is collected from on a weekly basis and monitored on a set threshold,” she said.
The continuous initiation and implementation of Malaria Metric Surveys at the county-level informs decisions made at the county on managing the disease.
Dr Geoffrey Otomu, the Chief Executive Officer of the Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital, says Kenya faces many challenges despite the great strides it has made towards combating malaria.
“The ever-declining resources allocated to the health sector both at the county and national government level are the biggest challenge. We must come up with other innovative ways of addressing the malaria burden urgently,” he says.
Dr Douglas Mariita, a doctor at Oasis Hospital in Kisii Town says there has been a significant decline in child mortality from malaria in the last few years, a fact he attributes to increased awareness and improved malaria case management at community level.
“We must make deliberate efforts towards increasing the sharing of healthcare promotion messages through various platforms, including the traditional and social media so that our people can learn how to limit their exposure and, if they fall sick, recognize malaria symptoms and go to hospital to receive proper timely treatment,” he said.
Elizabeth Angira is a freelance writer based in Kisii.