Kenya and Tanzania launch mass distribution of anti-biotics targeting trachoma


Kenya and Tanzania have embarked on a joint cross-border mass drug administration exercise as efforts to fight blindness-causing trachoma intensifies.

The exercise, that was launched on Tuesday at Olposimoru centre in Narok west sub county, is a collaboration between the Kenyan and Tanzanian ministries of health and targets cross border pastoral Maa community living across the two East African neighbours.

Speaking during the launch, Head, Division of vector borne and neglected tropical diseases at the ministry of health Wycliffe Omondi said synchronizing drug administration across the two countries remains the most effective way to decisively deal with trachoma.

“Giving medication is not the only solution. Integrating other measures like hygiene and environmental cleanliness will go a long way in dealing with the problem. The government is going out of its way to provide medication to community members and I urge them to take the medication.” Said Omondi.

According to George Kambona, the Tanzania’s NTD programme manager, previous efforts by the two countries to deal with the problem independently had not been as effective. He said the current coordinated efforts between the two governments will ensure that the vast majority of the pastoral community are reached.

Peter Otinda from Sight savers, one of the partners supporting the initiative, says members of the Maa community move along the common border in search of pasture for their livestock making the synchronised cross border exercise the most effective in reaching targeted groups.

The mass drug administration will be conducted for five days targeting an estimated 1,324,392 beneficiaries across four counties of Narok and Kajiado in Kenya and Longido and Ngorongoro in Tanzania. 228,360 people are expected to be treated in Ngorongoro with 161,367 others targeted in Longido. In Kenya, 934,665 persons are set to benefit with 576,091 people drawn from Narok and a further 358,574 others from Kajiado County.

Nearly 3,600,000 people are in need of antibiotic treatment in Kenya and Tanzania if the transmission of bacteria that causes trachoma is to be halted. The exercise is expected to help in the projected total trachoma elimination efforts with prevalence still at 6% according to the latest WHO report.

In Kenya, Trachoma is endemic in five regions of West Pokot, Turkana, Baringo, Kajiado and Narok counties. 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 remarkable gains.

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 across the globe.