The fight against blindness-causing trachoma received a boost on Thursday following the launch of a cross-border mass drug administration exercise by Kenya and Uganda.
The exercise, which was launched at Alakas Primary School in Amudat district of Uganda, seeks to synchronize drug administration among the residents of West Pokot and Turkana Counties with neighboring Uganda in an effort to fully eradicate the disease which is caused by bacteria that attack the inner surfaces of the eyelids.
Speaking during the launch of the exercise, Ugandan state minister for Karamoja affairs Dr Maria Goretti welcomed the latest initiative saying it will ensure that communities living along the common Kenya-Uganda border receive the much-needed treatment. Goretti said previous efforts where respective governments conducted mass drug administration at different times saw a section of the local community miss out as they are largely pastoralists who move across the two nations in search of pasture.
Speaking at the same event, Head Division of vector borne and neglected tropical diseases at the ministry of health Wycliffe Omondi said there was need to employ a multi-faceted approach in the fight against the disease if the region is to comprehensively deal with the trachoma challenge.
“Mass drug administration on its own is not the silver bullet. We must put in place collaborative mechanisms to ensure that prevalence remains where treatment has taken it to.” He observed.
According to Dr. Teshome Gebre Kanno, International Trachoma initiative regional director for Africa, regional governments must give the disease the required attention through collaborative approach devoid of political boundaries. Sentiments echoed by West Pokot County chief executive officer in charge of health and sanitation Christine Apokoreng who said such synchronized and coordinated efforts will guarantee maximum results.
This year (2021) the National Trachoma elimination program targets to treat 2,826,638 persons across seven counties of Baringo, Isiolo, Kajiado, Narok, Samburu, Turkana and West Pokot.
Trachoma is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the 20 Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and is the leading infectious cause of blindness globally.
In Kenya, Trachoma is endemic in 12 counties with a combined population of approximately eleven million people. More than 53,200 Kenyans have already been blinded by Trachoma but due to consistent implementation of Mass Drug Administration (MDA) in the country, the situation has recorded tremendous gains.
Since 2007, Kenya has received at least 15 million donations of Zithromax antibiotic from the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) for use in MDA campaigns with a market value of 30 billion shillings.