20 million Kenyans have worm infections, says ministry

worms, worm infections, intestinal worms, tapeworms, roundworms
The intestinal worms are categorised as roundworms, whipworms and hookworms.
Photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

What you need to know:

  • Last year, the Health Ministry in collaboration with partners rolled out a deworming innovation programme in four counties in Western Kenya namely Vihiga, Bungoma, Kakamega and Trans Nzoia.
  • From a study conducted by ministry of health in all 155 wards in the four counties, 140 wards had reported cases of intestinal worms while at least 40 wards had over 40 per cent cases of bilharzia.

At least 20 million Kenyans are infected with intestinal worms, according to the Ministry of Health. Twenty seven counties have recorded high prevalence of the neglected tropical disease.

According to Dr Wycliff Omondi, the head of division, Vector borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Health ministry, Kenya seeks to upscale mapping the regions with high prevalence so as to lower transmission. “We have evidence that over 27 counties have a high prevalence of intestinal worms. This means that everyone living in these endemic areas is at risk of getting worm infections,” he said in Eldoret town during a meeting between health official from the ministry and counties as well as other health stakeholders.

He added: “In the past, we have conducted very precise mapping (of bilharzia and intestinal worms) in two regions in Kenya - western and coastal region, where we have started various treatment interventions. We are looking at upscaling the mapping in the Lake region belt, parts of lower Eastern, parts of central and parts of North Eastern, where we have high burden. We are looking at achieving the elimination of NTDs by 2025.”

Last year, the Health Ministry in collaboration with partners rolled out a deworming innovation programme in four counties in Western Kenya namely Vihiga, Bungoma, Kakamega and Trans Nzoia.

From a study conducted by Ministry of Health in all 155 wards in the four counties, 140 wards had reported cases of intestinal worms while at least 40 wards had over 40 per cent cases of bilharzia.

“The World Health Organization recommends that cases should be below two per cent and we are working towards achieving this. Already, we have administered medicine for the two diseases in the wards to break transmission. In Bungoma alone, we were able to treat 1.5million people who are at risk and 600,000 people in Vihiga County,” said Florence Wakesho from the division of Vector-borne and NTDs, Ministry of Health.

“The intestinal worms are categorised as roundworms, whipworms and hookworms and are transmissible among both children and adults,” said Dr Omondi.

He noted that with the advent of Covid-19 pandemic, the government is facing financial constraints and is engaging endemic counties to mobilise resources to ensure sustainable eradication of the NTDs.

“We have been relying on our development partners (the donors have cut finances with the advent of Covid-19). That is why we are saying it is time to re-examine and find ways to guarantee sustainable distribution of medicine,” he added.

Although the National Health Insurance Fund does not cover NTDs, Dr Omondi said the Universal Health Coverage is looking at shouldering patients’ burden.

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