13 September 2000

Kenya: Malaria Deaths On the Increase

Nairobi — Malaria remains the leading cause of child mortality in Kenya, killing an average of 72 children daily, participants at an on-going health workshop heard Tuesday.

According to the inter-country workshop on community-based malaria interventions, the tropical disease claims the lives of 26,000 Kenyan children every year. The disease accounts for between 30-50 percent of the overall infant mortality in the country.

James Sekento of the malaria control programme in the Kenyan health ministry said pregnant women were at risk of suffering high anaemia and giving birth to low weight babies because of the disease.

"It is estimated that over 6,000 pregnant women develop severe malaria-induced anaemia each year in Kenya," he revealed.

Sekento said an estimated 8.5 million Kenyans are at risk of contacting malaria, and called for greater investment in research aimed at curbing the disease.

He lamented that the disease had impacted negatively on the country's economy, saying 3 percent of national gross domestic product is lost through decreased output and management costs.

"Malaria has continued to cripple economic productivity through deaths, absenteeism from work and inability to raise output at work," he pointed out.

The ministry's permanent secretary, Julius Meme, said increased resistance of the malaria parasite to commonly affordable drugs has worsened the situation.

He advised on the wider use of insecticide-treated bed nets, prompt recognition, and effective treatment of the disease, proper environmental management and personal protection from mosquito bites.

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