Kenya NGOs call for deregulation of ACTs

Henry Neondo | 17 Mar 2008
Africa Science News Service

According to the Kenya NGO Alliance Against Malaria, KENAAM, the reality today is that the prescription-only status for ACTs makes its availability limited given that the number of licensed outlets is limited. The NGOs want the government to reschedule ACTs to be over-the-counter medicines and permit their sale through drug shops.

"This is especially crucial because the Government has issued a notice banning the manufacture, importation and distribution of other anti-malarial treatments effective April 1 2008", Charles Nyiro, Malaria Advocacy Officer - KeNAAM said.

These anti-malarials were more accessible since they did not have over the counter selling limitations.

While other interventions like distribution of Long Lasting Insect Side Nets, creating awareness of the causes of malaria, and protection of families through Indoor Residue Spraying are a step in the right direction, KeNAAM say it believes that making the anti-malarial treatment more accessible through deregulation would go a long way into reducing the mortality and morbidity rates from malaria in vulnerable groups in Kenya.

Malaria is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Kenya. According to the Ministry of Health, it is estimated that over 70 per cent of Kenya's population is exposed to the risk of contracting malaria whereby over 3.5 million children below five years of age remain at high risk.

It is further estimated that over 34,000 children below five years die each year from the direct consequences of malaria.

This accounts for an average of 94 children per day. At least 14,000 children require hospitalization annually due to malaria.

Economically, the malaria epidemic compounds the already existing burden in Kenya. It is estimated that disability due to malaria amongst adults accounts for a loss to the country's economy of more than 170 million working hours per year.

The ministry notes that Malaria puts a huge economic burden on "breadwinners", who are forced to indulge in health care giving instead of providing and generating income for their families. This aggravates poverty among families.

The household expenditures on malaria related illnesses and complications further strains the already limited family income in poor households. In adults, HIV infection has been found to double the risk of an individual having malaria parasites in their blood.

Acute malaria infection suppresses the immune system and increases the HIV viral load. This malaria-associated increase in viral load could lead to increased transmission of HIV and a more rapid progression of HIV illness.

One study found that the viral load decreased when effective malaria treatment was administered.

The Kenya NGO alliance against malaria - KeNAAM is a network of national NGOs, FBOs and CBOs whose aim is to supplement the efforts of the Kenya Government through the Ministry of Health to reduce and altogether eliminate the burden of Malaria in the country.