KENYA – The 2024 Economic Survey released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) has revealed that respiratory infections are the most common health issue affecting Kenyans.

According to the survey, respiratory illnesses accounted for 33.8% of all reported cases of illness, surpassing other types of infections in frequency.

The report details a significant rise in respiratory cases, attributing this increase to various factors, including pollution, lifestyle changes, and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The data shows that these infections have become a major public health concern, impacting urban and rural populations.

Specifically, respiratory infections led to over 12 million hospital visits in 2023, a notable increase from the previous year.

The survey also reveals that gastrointestinal diseases and malaria rank as the second and third most common infections, accounting for 25.6% and 17.9% of reported cases, respectively.

This marked improvement from the 2018 Economic Survey, where malaria was the leading disease, affecting 37 out of every 100 patients.

Malaria risk in Kenya is heterogeneous and influenced by factors such as altitude, rainfall patterns, and temperature, resulting in considerable seasonal and geographic variability in its prevalence.

Regions in the western and coastal areas, including Kisumu, Homa Bay, Kakamega, Bungoma, Kilifi, Kwale, and Lamu, experience higher transmission rates due to favorable climatic conditions for the breeding and survival of malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

Environmental factors, such as stagnant water, further contribute to these high transmission rates.

Malaria control efforts in these areas include widespread use of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs), indoor residual spraying (IRS), prompt diagnosis and treatment, and public health education campaigns to reduce the risk of infection.

The Kenya Malaria Strategy 2019–2023 recommends that all suspected malaria cases be tested and those confirmed to have the disease receive the recommended antimalarial treatment.

According to the National Malaria Treatment Guidelines, caregivers of children under age 5 with fever should seek advice or treatment within 24 hours.

On the other hand, respiratory system diseases, which affect the air passages, including the nasal cavity, bronchi, and lungs, are on the rise.

These include acute and chronic respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer.

TB remains a major health concern in Kenya, with approximately 130,000 people contracting it annually, 50,000 of whom are HIV-positive.

This highly contagious disease accounts for about 4 percent of all deaths in the country.

Pneumonia is also a significant health issue, claiming between 8,000 to 10,000 young lives annually, representing approximately one in five child deaths.

This burden is attributed to inadequate access to healthcare and poor health-seeking behavior.

According to 2022 Ministry of Health data, Narok, Samburu, West Pokot, Marsabit, and Mandera, recorded high cases of pneumonia, while Kisumu, Kericho, Laikipia, Samburu, Kitui, Nyeri, Uasin Gishu, and Nairobi reported the highest neonatal deaths.

Most Kenyans receive healthcare services from the public sector, which offers preventive, promotive, curative, and rehabilitative care.

However, the recent prolonged doctors’ strike that disrupted healthcare in public facilities may affect the survey results regarding medical provision next year.

Preventive services include routine childhood immunization and environmental activities to control mosquito breeding, thereby reducing malaria transmission.

Despite the government’s admission of facing funding challenges that have led to a shortage of vaccines, the reduced budgetary allocations this year could further impact immunization efforts.

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