REPUBLIC OF KENYA

Govt. rolls out elephantiasis treatment exercise at the coastal region

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MOMBASA, Kenya, Nov 18 – The government has rolled out a massive door to door elephantiasis treatment exercise at the coastal region targeting residents of Kilifi, Mombasa, Lamu, Tana River and Taita Taveta Counties.

The exercise, which will be jointly carried out by the Ministry of Health, respective County governments and donor partners, will run for three days targeting those above the age of two as well as individuals who are neither expectant nor critically ill.

Speaking during the launch on Friday, Head of the Neglected Tropical Diseases Unit Dr. Sultani Matendechero explained that 8.4 million tablets of Diethylcarbamazine Citrate (DEC) would be distributed to residents in addition to 3.5 million Albendazole tablets for general deworming. Free surgical opportunities will also be provided where possible.

He announced that the drugs, which were donated by Eisai Pharmaceutical Company and Glaxo Smith Kline, were worth KSh1.1 billion and that the government planned to run similar drives over the next three years in order to break the transmission of elephantiasis and eliminate the disease by 2020. The End Fund has at the same time committed to give the country KSh80 million every year to carry out the treatment.

“This is the first time that we are doing this in Mombasa County. We are committed to eliminating this disease in line with our global 2020 target. I also want to assure you that the drugs are safe although they can have side effects if the worm manifestation is very high” he said.

County Pharmacist Dr. Mohamed Hanif lauded the government for the move saying it would go a long way in alleviating the disease complications among residents. Elephantiasis causes localized retention of fluid in the legs (lymphedema) and retention of fluid in the testicular area (hydrocele) in some cases. An estimated 80,000 men suffer from hydrocele while an estimated 55,000 people suffer from lymphedema.

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. Hanif, who spoke on behalf of the Mombasa County government, further urged residents to seek treatment and to sleep under an insecticide treated mosquito net in order to prevent transmission. Elephantiasis is spread through an infected mosquito and often leads to stigma.

“This disease is not caused by witchcraft, riding bicycles or because of drinking coconut water; it is caused by an infected mosquito. We thank the Ministry of Health for taking this bold step and we are grateful that they have remembered us,” he said.

The government plans to run similar campaigns over the next three years after which it shall conduct a Transmission Assessment Survey that will determine whether or not Kenya is certified as Elephantiasis free.