KENYA — The Ministry of Health in Kenya has announced the commencement of the National Long-Lasting Insecticidal Treated Nets (LLINs) Distribution Campaign, starting on November 15, 2023 to address the persistent threat of malaria in the country.
The official launch event occurred in Homa Bay County, Ndiru Stadium, on the same day, bringing together notable guests, including representatives from the Ministry of Health, led by Cabinet Secretary for Health Nakhumicha S. Wafula, and Homa Bay Governor H.E Gladys Wanga, as well as international health organizations and community leaders.
Encouraging active participation, the campaign is calling on individuals, communities, and organizations to support advocacy, community mobilization, and education initiatives.
The slogan “ZERO MALARIA STARTS WITH YOU” and hashtag #UsikubaliMalaria are central to the campaign’s messaging.
In Kenya, there are approximately 3.5 million new clinical cases and 10,700 deaths each year, with those in western Kenya facing a particularly high risk.
The World Health Organization notes that almost every minute a child dies from malaria in Africa, and about 70% of Kenya’s population is at risk for malaria.
Malaria’s financial burden is estimated to push over 100 million people globally below the poverty line each year due to out-of-pocket health expenditures.
Beyond mere distribution, this campaign represents a continued commitment to combat malaria, making a substantial impact on Kenya’s ongoing battle against the disease.
Kenya is one of three pioneer countries (along with Ghana and Malawi) where the first malaria vaccine is being tested.
The vaccination campaign, which is being conducted on the shores of Lake Victoria, has resulted in a 30% reduction in severe cases.
Those encouraging results prompted the WHO and the government to extend the vaccination campaign to 25 townships in early March. Other African countries could benefit from the same program next year.
Despite the introduction of the malaria vaccine in 2019 contributing to a reduction in malaria parasite prevalence from 8% in 2015 to 5.6% in 2020, the declining rate has slowed down since 2017.
This emphasizes the need for sustainable preventive measures, prompting the LLINs Distribution Campaign.
The campaign aims to cover 22 high malaria-burden counties, distributing 15.3 million Long-Lasting Insecticidal Treated Nets (ITNs) to approximately 23 million people. These counties, located in lake and coastal regions, are at the forefront of the efforts to combat malaria.
The initiative is crucial in the context of the emergence of a new mosquito species, Anopheles stephensi, in Kenya, showing resistance to local insecticides and the potential to transmit malaria throughout the year.
The mosquito, previously known to spread malaria in South Asia, arrived in Africa in 2012 and has been observed in Kenya since December 2022.
But the counterattack promises to be all the more difficult as the mosquito’s behavior is still under study, noted the WHO in a September 2022 document outlining the malaria control strategy.
Not only does the Anopheles stephensi carry the two most deadly strains of the plasmodium parasites (falciparum and vivax) that cause malaria, but it has also proven resistant to conventional chemicals. So far, larvicides and indoor spraying have been largely ineffective.
The primary goal of the campaign is to provide essential protection to vulnerable populations, ensuring every household in high-risk malaria regions has access to LLINs.
Through community engagement, the campaign aims to empower individuals to take control of their health and foster collective responsibility in the fight against malaria.
The success of this nationwide endeavor relies on collaborative efforts from the Ministry of Health, the National Malaria Program, and various health partners, demonstrating a shared determination to make a lasting impact on Kenya’s public health landscape.