Kenya is expecting the first batch of Cuban doctors in July to help tackle the malaria pandemic, the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday, brushing aside rising opposition from local medics.
Waqo Ejersa, the Head National Malaria Control Programme at the Ministry of Health (MoH), said the country is expecting 10 vector control experts and an additional 100 doctors from the communist state, following agreements signed during President Uhuru Kenyatta's recent visit to the island nation.
Dr Ejersa said the Cuban experts will oversee the spraying of stagnant water bodies in eight counties around Lake Victoria where malaria prevalence is high.
The preventive method, scientifically known as larviciding, involves killing of mosquito larvae.
"The spraying to be carried out by the special team from Cuba will involve application of bio larvicides to the breeding sites. The biological products used will interfere with growth of mosquitoes from the larvae stage. The first phase of the programme will last two years and we have reserved Ksh500 million (about $5 million) for the project," said Dr Ejersa during a malaria briefing in Nairobi.
Waste of public resources
Local medics have opposed the planned importation of Cuban doctors citing remuneration bias and 'lack of work ethic' by some foreign doctors.
Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPPDU) demanded the Ministry of Health employ the more than 1,200 local doctors before flying in medics from Cuba.
KMPPDU secretary-general Ouma Oluga termed the ministry's move a waste of public resources.
"The Cubans are not coming to do anything we cannot do. They are bringing nothing special to the table," said Dr Oluga.
This latest initiative comes in the wake of the planned roll-out of a WHO-backed infant anti-malaria vaccine in October.
The vaccine dubbed the RTS,S targets children between the ages of six months and two and is expected to help lower malaria prevalence in endemic regions (Coast and Lake Victoria) to below 20 per cent.
About 15 million mosquito nets were distributed in 23 malaria-prone counties last year while 1.8 million people in Migori and Homa-Bay counties were reached during the indoor spraying exercise.
The Lake Victoria region has a malaria prevalence rate of about 50 per cent while prevalence stands at about 20 per cent in parts of the coastal region.
Latest statistics indicate that malaria accounted for over 18 per cent of outpatient attendances, down from 30 per cent five years ago, owing to various interventions.
"We believe that combined interventions and strategies will provide additional protection to communities and bring down the overall disease burden and assist the country in achieving the global target of reducing and eliminating malaria," said Head of Intergovernmental Relations Department Patrick Amoth.