Nairobi — Deaths due to Malaria have dropped by almost half in Kenya, a new report says.
The report by the Ministry of Health shows the annual death toll of 34,000 children has been reduced by 44 per cent to about 16,000.
In addition, the number of hospital admissions due to malaria has reduced by 50 per cent.
This decline has been attributed to massive scaling up in the distribution of Insecticide Treated Nets.
Research findings by the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that for every 1,000 treated nets used, seven children's deaths are averted.
Health minister, Mrs Charity Ngilu, on Thursday said malaria treatment and prevention remained one of the biggest challenges facing the country and at least 25 million Kenyans are at risk.
"I went to Malava District Hospital in Kakamega and found empty beds except for one child admitted with pneumonia and not malaria," Ngilu said. She added, "We now have evidence that recent massive scaling up of malaria control interventions, such as ITNs, had dramatically reduced deaths due to malaria," Ngilu said.
Speaking during the launch of the report at Pan Afric Hotel in Nairobi, Ngilu said the Health ministry was planning to distribute two million nets annually to sustain the positive change.
Last year the ministry distributed 3.4 million nets in the malaria prone areas in a campaign dubbed "komesha malaria, okoa maisha" (stop malaria, save life). Ngilu said her ministry requires at least 4,000 health workers to boost service delivery.
According to the report, the proportion of children sleeping under treated nets has increased across the country from five per cent in 2003 to 52 per cent last year.
The report shows a decline in the number of malaria cases seen at the outpatients department by at least 13 per cent. There was a reported fall of annual malaria admissions by an average of 57 per cent compared to 1999.
The study shows that malaria has expanded to 46 areas in the country thus prompting round-the-clock surveillance.
Malaria represents a significant economic burden with an estimated 170,000 million working days a year lost due to malaria illness.
On average, each family spends about Sh1,400 annually to treat malaria.
The Director of Medical services, Dr James Nyikal, however, said Kenya would not resort to the use of DDT to conduct indoor residual spraying to eliminate the vector. Nyikal said they were reviewing the studies Uganda had conducted on the impact of using DDT on the environment. He said Uganda and Malawi would soon start using DDT in vector control.
"We are not using DDT and we have not used it for the previous spraying exercises we have conducted," Nyikal said. He said the Health ministry had procured 12 million doses of the new first line treatment, artemether-lumefantrine.
This year, he said, there are plans to spray up to 860,000 households to control the malaria population.
He said Kenya was in the process of meeting the Millennium Development Goals, which call for the tackling of malaria, HIV/Aids and TB.
Nyikal said 1,000 diagnostic kits had been procured to facilitate malaria detection.