21 December 2012

Kenya: Kacheliba Tackles Kala-Azar

More than 60 per cent of residents of the semi-arid areas of the North Rift region are at a high risk of contracting kala-azar, a deadly disease, the Kacheliba District Hospital medical officer of health has said.

Dr Mark Riongoita said between 30 and 70 kala-azar patients are treated at the hospital every month. The disease caused by a sting or bite of the sandfly is rampant in West Pokot, Turkana and Baringo counties of Kenya and Pokot county of neighboring Uganda. Riongoita said the "neglected" disease can be fatal if not detected and treated early.

Speaking during the hand-over ceremony of the kala-azar clinic from Médecins Sans Frontières to the hospital yesterday, Riongoita said before MSF established the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) treatment unit in the area, many people had died of the disease because they were treated for malaria, which has similar symptoms.

The Kacheliba clinic was established in 2006 after MSF, which had a treatment unit in Amudat, Uganda realised more than 70 per cent of the patients were coming from Kenya.

North Rift director of medical services Dr James Osore said the government was working with private institutions facilitate prevention and treatment of kala-azar in the region.

Kenya Medical Research Institute clinical trial manager Dr Robert Kimutai said Kemri's DNDi is working hard to research preventive measures for the disease and come up with faster-acting, more effective treatment drugs.

Kimutai said currently the drug treatment period is 17 days. "There is no vaccine available for kala-azar at the moment." Treatment costs between Sh30,000 and Sh200,000.

The hand-over involved the signing of an agreement between the MSF head of mission Kristi Payten, the Health ministry's Dr Osore and Kemri DNDi's Dr Kimutai.

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