US grants Kenya Sh200m to fight malaria

11 Oct 2009
Daily Nation
The fight against killer malaria on Sunday got a boost when the US government announced more than Sh200 million towards fighting the disease in Kenya.

The community grant awards to two organisations involved in combating malaria in the country, is part of a $10.5 million grants to seven organisations in six countries in Africa to extend malaria prevention and control activities in communities most affected, particularly children under five years and pregnant women.

The donation comes at a time when Kenya is bracing for an upsurge in malaria cases when the anticipated El NiƱo rains start pounding the country this week. Already, floods have hit parts of Western Kenya. Medical experts are already warning that most of the malaria cases are likely to occur among children aged below five years.

The experts warn that breeding sites for mosquitoes that transmit the disease will increase during the rains, leading to an upsurge in cases.

The grants, announced by the United States Agency for International Development, will be channelled through HealthRight International (HRI) and Merlin-two organisations dealing with the malaria war in the country.

The grants were provided through the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI), an interagency initiative led by USAID with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as key players.

The Malaria Communities Program (MCP), a $30 million initiative created under PMI, is providing the grants to support the efforts of communities and local organisations to combat malaria in Africa. The programme specifically aims to identify organisations that are interested in working with the U.S. government and are uniquely positioned to work at the community level.

Malaria is the leading cause of death in Kenya, mostly affecting the rural poor, especially young children and pregnant women. It also accounts for 30 per cent of out-patient attendances and 19 per cent of admissions to health facilities.

Through the US donation, HealthRight International will implement a three-year $1.5 million (over Sh112 million) malaria programme targeting more than 200,000 children age five and pregnant women in the North Rift.

"Through community education and training activities, the project hopes to reduce morbidity and mortality from malaria in five target districts by promoting community adoption of positive prevention and care-seeking behaviours and by strengthening community access to quality malaria prevention and treatment services," says USAID.

HRI will also build the capacity of 21 target facilities and five District Health Management Teams to deliver appropriate prevention, diagnosis, and treatment services and distribute long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs).

On the other hand, Merlin, with a three-year grant totalling some Sh112 million, will deliver malaria prevention and treatment to an estimated 220,000 children below five years of age and pregnant women in five malaria epidemic prone districts of Nyanza Province. It (Merlin) will work with the Ministry of Health and other health providers to increase community awareness and knowledge on malaria prevention, treatment and case management. The project will promote correct and consistent use of LLINs, and increase access to intermittent preventive treatment (IPT) among pregnant women.

"The key to saving lives, especially children, is to expand proven approaches and interventions until they reach each and every child who needs them," says R. Tim Ziemer, US Malaria Coordinator.

Other countries benefiting from the programme that also seeks to increase community-based malaria prevention and treatment activities, include; Zambia, Mozambique, Uganda, Ghana and Mali.