Govt. plans a massive Elephantiasis treatment exercise at the coastal region

NAIROBI, Kenya, 11 November 2016

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– The government will launch a KSh1 billion treatment exercise on November 19, in  Mombasa, Kilifi, Lamu, Tana River and Taita Taveta Counties, to eliminate Elephantiasis by 2020.

The three days campaign  is in line with the global targets for the elimination and control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. The exercise  targets to reach all the Sub Counties of Mombasa, Kilifi, Lamu, Tana River Counties and in particular  Taveta Sub County in Taita Taveta which is affected by the disease.

On Friday the Head of the Neglected Tropical Diseases Unit, Dr. Sultani Matendechero revealed  that the government plans to reach at least 65 percent of the at-risk population in this year’s round of treatment. He added that the government and respective County governments in partnership with donors have conducted similar campaign last year.

“We started last year and will be expanding the exercise to Mombasa County for the first time. We plan to run these campaigns over the next four years including this one and then we shall do a Transmission Assessment Survey that will determine whether or not we are certified as Elephantiasis free,” he said.

The exercise will involve mass administration of drugs and provision of surgical opportunities for those suffering from complications of the disease.

It is estimated that 80,000 men suffer from genital disease complications that are associated with Elephantiasis (Hydrocele) while an estimated 55,000 people suffer from Lymphedema. More women than men bear the brunt of Lymphedema while men exclusively suffer from Hydrocele. Lymphedema is the localized retention of fluid in the legs while Hydrocele is the retention of fluid in the testicular area.

Although Hydrocele can be corrected via surgery, Lymphedema can only be managed by providing a minimum package of care. This means that one has to keep the infected area clean at all times; adopt activities that will help fluid to circulate; clean wounds and generally provide an environment that will enable the patient to live with their condition comfortably.

Dr. Matendechero explained that the exercise is expected to bring the prevalence rate to less than one percent thereby breaking the disease transmission. “This is a strategy that has been found to work by the World Health Organization in terms of controlling Elephantiasis. If we can consistently give this treatment to communities where this disease is prevalent every year for five years without skipping any year, then we can lower the prevalence rate.”

The treatment exercise will include the identification of people who already have complications of elephantiasis; provision of free surgery where possible; awareness, advocacy and sensitization campaigns; mass deworming and drug administration exercises; training of community health assistants and teams that will roll out the treatment.

Dr. Matendechero further noted that the government has secured donor support in form of drugs, financing, hospital supplies and training from partners such as The End Fund, Glaxo Smith Kline and Eisai. The End Fund has committed to giving the country KSh80 million every year to carry out the treatment while Eisai has committed to donate 8.4 million tablets of Diethylcarbamazine Citrate (DEC).

The annual donation of DEC tablets are valued at about KSh400 million and will be used for treating elephantiasis. The country is also getting 3.5 million Albendazole tablets which will be used for general deworming at a valued of KSh700 million.

“When worms get into your body they don’t show signs until it’s too late. So we are trying to catch them early so as to break the transmission. This means we will be able to treat people before they get complications and to protect others from getting them,” he added.

The exercise will be spearheaded by the Ministry of Health in terms of op managing and distributing the drugs. In addition the government has trained health workers and community health assistants.