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Letters

LETTERS: Why recurrent malaria outbreaks are worrying

Malaria
Malaria kills a child every two minutes. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

For long, mosquitoes have caused man restiveness, throbbing pain and death. Across the country, malaria causing anopheles mosquitoes are responsible for about 4,000 annual deaths and around 6.7 million clinical cases.

Other than the long-feared noxious anopheles’ mosquitoes, recent research reveals aedes mosquitoes are equally deadly and responsible for the spread of deleterious Chikungunya virus that caused panic in Mandera circa 2016. The aedes spread arboviruses that are transmitted from one person to another by a bite of an infected aedes mosquito.

Common symptoms of Chikungunya include joints and muscle pain, nausea, fatigue, rashes and fever. This type of virus has viraemia, lacks vaccine and takes between a day to 12 days for symptoms to fully emerge.

The maxim of preventive than curative interventions is often adorable, a concept that has found an ample application beyond the medical sphere. Improper road transport infrastructure coupled with biting hunger and few hospital facilities alongside the geographical remoteness of residents are confounding factors that make malaria epidemic to thrive in Baringo.

These challenges are overwhelmingly huge for the County government to handle which allocated Sh898,295,026 on health services, which translates to a paltry Sh1,347.25 per capita. Apparently, the County allocated four times more on preventive courses than curative at Sh726,216,098 and Sh172,078,928, respectively in the current financial year.

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It has been revealed before, lags before getting medical examination can be very costly. A disease that could have found a cure can kill because of a delay to get a connoisseur.

The cost of treating a single case of malaria escalates between Sh5,000 and Sh7,500 according to various estimates. This can render hopelessness to hapless families, especially households that are female-headed.

When children become sick, depending on the size of household, it is mothers who provide them with primary care and take them to hospital. But where and when these mothers become sick, the situation becomes even more disheartening.

To date, malaria kills a child every two minutes across the globe and is a leading killer of under five children in Kenya. Provision of mosquito nets has proved to plummet malaria cases in the country.

Alongside the constant use of same medicines, insecticides in a routinely changing environment thanks to shifts between floods and droughts, mosquitoes have become mutant.

Treating of nets used is important and although treated, heuristic investigations are needed to ensconce their effectiveness in a constantly changing environment.

Additional allocation of resources and alongside deployment of trained medical personnel will go a long in curbing emergent and re-emergent of unprecedented health shocks such as malaria. Widespread flash floods increase chances of people contracting malaria as they provide ideal breeding zones for mosquitoes.

The low-lying areas in Kwale, Tana River, Kilifi, Mombasa and Lamu are routinely prone to floods. The experience has not been any better in Baringo County and for much of the counties in the lake region.

Combined, these hotspots account for nearly 45 percent of all malaria cases in the country whose cost remains high for many to afford.

The full roll out of the Universal Health Coverage as espoused in the Big Four Agenda will doubtlessly relieve many households who cannot afford to meet the current cost. It is estimated that the cost for treating children alone is about Sh. 11 billion, annually. Notwithstanding these worrying statistics is the revelation that malaria accounts for 30,000 deaths every year.

The outbreak in Baringo comes at a time when the country is grappling with the widespread invasion of locusts.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation has warned of the invasive swarms spreading through the northern Kenyan corridor as they move to Uganda.

To assertively manage a disease epidemic like malaria and others that threaten humanity’s comfort, collaboration among research institutions and governments is key. These collaborations require sufficient investments for continued research and leveraging on nanotechnology.

Obed Nyangena and Tabitha Odera, via email

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