The atmosphere in the press room was one of excitement, when it was announced that Kenya would see its last case of endemic malaria in the year 2017.
This date came from the 2007 Malaria Indicator Survey, showing that malaria is on the decline in various parts of the country. Kenya has therefore chosen the path towards elimination, and will do so when having sufficient funding.
Willis Akhwale, head of the country's Department of Disease Control and Prevention, sat in front of the press room and announced: "We are at a point of moving towards a malaria-free Kenya in 2017". Backed by Elizabeth Juma, head of the Division of Malaria Control, it was even acclaimed that it can be done with the tools at hand, as long as 100 million $ is available.
"We plan to change the strategy of intervention in the arid and semi-arid areas and launch a mass drug administration campaign in areas where the disease is endemic," said Akhwale. It made me wonder how this will be done. How can one reach the few and far in between individuals (nomads) or worse, gangs of Somalis that make large chunks of northern Kenya a dangerous place to be? If access and drug administration is vital for success, will this be possible in the whole of Kenya?
Some 13 per cent of pregnant women in Kenya now use insecticide treated nets (ITNs) in all malaria endemic areas, according to the 2007 survey. The number of children aged five and under using ITNs rose from under five per cent in 2003 to more than half in 2006.
Robert Newman, director of the WHO's Global Malaria Programme, said he was confident that Kenya would meet the 2017 target but he added that success depended on improved political will as well as the development of new tools to improve disease surveillance. It was not clear to be what these new tools will be.
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