Major healthcare boost as residents benefit from free medical camp
Thursday, November 16, 2023
KNA by Richard Muhambe/Anthony Melly
Hundreds of West Pokot residents are benefitting from a free medical camp held at St. Comboni Kacheliba Girls’ Primary School in Kacheliba Sub County, courtesy of the Drug for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDI) in collaboration with West Pokot county government among other partners.
Hundreds of residents, mainly in dry areas, have been silently bearing the brunt of medical neglect as arrays of tropical diseases continue to surreptitiously ravage them.
Dr. Borna Nyaoke, Head of mycetoma at DNDI, a research organization, said they have mobilised support for patients suffering from neglected diseases, encouraged institutional and community efforts to support them.
Dr. Nyaoke regretted that despite the progress made so far for the last two decades, an estimated 50 per cent of patients still do not have access to appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
“Many patients don’t know if they have the diseases and health workers sometimes fail to identify them. For mycetoma, the injury does not heal and grows slowly, like a soft non-painful tumour,” she explained.
The medic noted that those suffering general illness were treated, while those that needed further treatment booked for further treatment.
She said mycetoma and kala-azar diseases could be easily cured if timely treatment is sought urging the community to consider seeking treatment earlier when they fall ill.
“There are many neglected diseases that are killing people as a result of lack of proper medical check-up,” said Dr. Nyaoke.
She added that apart from offering treatment to patients, they were also sensitising the community on how vital check-ups were key to living a good life.
She said the aim of medical camp to sensitise the community on the value of early disease detection noting that majority of the residents were found suffering from the disease are those who could not afford proper medical treatment and chose to offer them free medical camp.
She noted that mycetoma never stops growing and at some point and the wound starts to release pus with white or colored grains (black, yellow or red) which fail to heal spontaneously.
She noted that the treatment is different depending on the microbe that grows inside the body.
“This means your wound would be analysed before treatment is decided. In case you have mycetoma, you must complete the treatment which probably takes a long time,” stated Dr. Nyaoke adding that patients are given one tablet twice daily for one year.
“If the wound persists, the part is chopped off. One can get the disease from being pierced by thorns infested with bacteria or fungi from soil or water,” she said urging pastoralists and farmers to put on shoes to prevent the infection.
Kacheliba Sub County Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr. Njenga Kimani revealed that more than 2500 cases of the disease had been reported for the last five years and there is a need for serious sensitisation in villages about Kala-azar and mycetoma.
Dr. Kimani called for frequent medical tests by entomologists and control of sand flies which are responsible for transmission of the disease.
Dr. Kimani said Kala-azar (black fever) has signs and symptoms similar to those of malaria making many patients to go for wrong medication.
“Signs and symptoms of Kala-azar include headache, fever, vomiting, lack of appetite, general body weakness. These are signs and symptoms diagnosed for malaria,” he explained.
He highlighted that plans were in the offing to start using drugs which are affordable and shorter hospital stay following the ongoing study.
“We have had the burden for the last one year. We had 670 cases from West Pokot County. There is still a burden as already more than 500 cases have been detected this year. “There are Kala-azar treatment centres at Kacheliba and Marich in Sigor and Turkana County,” said Dr. Kimani.
Dr. Kimani cited that Kala-azar is treated by combination therapy of sodium Stibogluconate (SSG) plus Paramocycin for 17 days or use of Rapid Diagnostic test.
West Pokot County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Health Claire Parklea noted that they have trained 50 health workers and 100 community health workers.
She cited that Kala-azar (Termes) is common in areas of Alale, Sekerr, Masol, Lomut, Ombolion, Kasei, Amarel, Takaywa, Chesegon, Kasei, Kokochwai, Chesta areas of West Pokot and Baringo.
“Around 60 per cent of patients in Kacheliba come from Sigor. We have got a few people who are malnourished,” said Ms Parklea.
Charles Gitonga from FIND Organization said that they have been doing capacity building in hospitals for doctors, clinical officers, nurses and laboratory technicians.
He noted that they distribute drugs to 11 counties courtesy of World Health Organization (WHO).
“They treat using the Rapid Diagnostic Test 39 and Direct Agri-test which is superior. When you test positive you are put on medication,” said Gitonga.
He said the Rotary International was mobilizing volunteers and partners since it is expensive to start a treatment site which requires around Sh5 million.
Moses Korinyang, a resident, called on the County Government to be providing drugs for the neglected diseases every month because majority of the residents are low income earners.
“I am a retired teacher and I know many people migrate to Uganda in search of pasture for their livestock and are suffering silently,” said Korinyang.
Susan Kodereng whose 20-year-old girl Evelyn Nakat from Nakuyen village was found with mycetomia says she had suffered for five years without treatment.
Kala-azar or Visceral Leishimaniasis that affects liver, spleen and bone marrows is spread by a bite from an infected female sand fly.
Diseases such as leishmaniasis, dengue fever, bilharzia and sleeping sickness, are classified now in 12 arid Counties of Isiolo, Garissa, Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir, Tharaka Nithi, Kajiado and Kitui because of climate change.
There are three main forms of leishmaniasis: visceral (also known as kala-azar), cutaneous (the most common), and mucocutaneous.
The visceral form is the most severe and is fatal if left untreated. There are 50,000 to 90,000 new cases annually, with the highest number being reported in Eastern African countries of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda.
The disease mostly affects people in resource-limited settings, arid and semi-arid areas with half of the victims being children under 15.
Leishmaniasis is also a climate-sensitive disease: rising temperatures could affect the pathogen- carrying vectors and worsens its impact.
Over 1000 individuals showed up on day one to receive essential medical treatment including vital checkups, consultation for different age groups, diagnosis and treatment.
Many got treatment for common illnesses, screening for non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension while others accessed family planning services, screening for cervical, breast and prostate cancers.
Routine immunizations were also given, dental check-ups done, nutritional counseling, HIV/AIDA testing and counseling for substance use.
The medical camp that started on Wednesday, November 15, 2023 will be crowned with a 10-kilometre race on Saturday, dubbed Neglected Patients.