Malaria drugs shortage looms

Samuel Kumba & John Ngirachu | 20 Feb 2009
Daily Nation
The government has issued a warning about a possible shortage of malaria and TB drugs later in the year, after what officials described as a misunderstanding with the Global Fund.

Medical Services minister Anyang' Nyong'o said available stocks of the drugs would only last for about seven months.

"I can only confirm that in six or seven months from today, there might be lack of drugs for malaria and TB," he said.

Negotiations

Malaria poses an enormous health and economic burden in Kenya, being a leading cause of illness and death, especially among children under the age of five years.

Statistics show that the disease is responsible for 16,000 deaths annually while Kenya is ranked 13th among 32 countries with a high TB burden.

Prof Nyong'o said negotiations were under way after the alleged mismanagement of billions of shillings from donors.

"I am sure you are aware that we, as a government, have been having problems with the Global Fund (GF)," he said, adding that the current government was not to blame.

As an alternative, Prof Nyong'o said his ministry was negotiating for the health sector to be allocated more money in the next budget.

The senior communications adviser at the Stop TB Partnership secretariat, Ms Judith Mandelbaum-Schmid, said the TB division in Kenya had adequate medicines to last for the next two years.

One of the factors slowing down the resolution of the issue is uncertainty over which of the two ministries, Public Health and Sanitation or Medical Services, should lead the discussions.

A leading researcher says developing environmentally-friendly pesticides and concentrating on eliminating the mosquito that causes malaria could provide a solution to the disease.

These, combined with affordable drugs and consistent funding to fight the disease, were crucial in eradicating malaria, according to Prof Onesmo ole Moi Yoi.

He was speaking at the official opening of the "Worlds of the Indian Ocean" conference at the National Museums of Kenya.

Earlier this month, researchers from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK said the mosquito that transmits malaria had developed resistance against popular insecticides used for indoor spraying and treating bed nets.

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