KENYA—The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization have developed the Kenya Masterplan for the Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) 2023–3027.
This ambitious initiative marks a significant shift in the nation’s health landscape as it focuses on combating six debilitating NTDs, ensuring a healthier future for residents.
Facing the impact of six out of the 20 NTDs affecting the world, Kenya is taking bold steps to eradicate schistosomiasis, intestinal worms, lymphatic filariasis, river blindness, visceral leishmaniasis, and trachoma.
The country aims to make history by becoming the first in the world to eliminate four NTDs by 2030, showcasing the government’s persistent dedication to public health and well-being.
During a recent briefing meeting with representatives from the WHO Country Office and The End Fund, Mary Muthoni, the Principal Secretary of the State Department for Public Health and Professional Standards, gained valuable insights into the planning and collaborations driving the impending launch of this transformative master plan.
Kenya emerges as a beacon of success and a pathfinder in the global fight against neglected tropical diseases, setting an inspiring example for governments worldwide.
According to the World Health Organization, NTDs prevail in tropical areas, affecting over one billion people in impoverished communities globally.
These diseases are caused by various pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and toxins, resulting in devastating health, social, and economic consequences.
The term ‘neglected’ is aptly applied to NTDs because they are nearly absent from the global and national health agenda, receiving limited resources and minimal attention from global funding agencies.
Neglected populations, primarily in rural areas, conflict zones, and hard-to-reach regions, experience a cycle of poor educational outcomes and limited professional opportunities, often associated with stigma and social exclusion.
Moreover, NTDs tend to impact regions lacking quality healthcare, leaving vulnerable populations susceptible to these debilitating diseases and emerging threats.
Kenya has identified four NTD endemic zones – western, coastal, north rift, and eastern regions – where these challenges persist.
Despite the high burden of NTDs, Kenya has made strides in eliminating some, with WHO certifying the country as Guinea worm disease-free in February 2018.
The last reported case of Guinea worm disease in Kenya was in 1995 in Turkana County. Kenya now aims to eliminate lymphatic filariasis and trachoma by 2025.
Effectively addressing NTDs necessitates cross-sectoral approaches, encompassing the delivery of medicines, relief of associated mental health burdens, and tackling fundamental human rights issues.
The key complements to interventions targeting humans include vector control, veterinary public health, and the provision of safe water, sanitation, and hygiene.
A fundamental shift in approach from vertical disease programs to cross-cutting strategies based on patient and community needs is imperative.
Furthermore, community participation is critical to the success of any public health program aiming to reduce exposure to, control, or eliminate diseases.
Employing social behaviour change communication and advocacy campaigns through innovative channels is essential for educating, creating awareness, and demystifying NTDs.
Aligning with the Breaking Transmission Strategy 2018 – 2023, Kenya is committed to achieving global and national goals in controlling and eradicating four endemic Preventive Chemotherapy NTDs in the country: soil-transmitted helminthiasis, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, and trachoma.