Kenya intensifies efforts to beat NTDs
Out of the 20 Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Kenya is endemic to 19. Of these, the East African country has been certified free of guinea worm disease (in 2018). With 18 more NTDs still endemic, Kenya is on the verge of rolling out a new master plan to steer its actions towards the control and elimination of NTDs with Lymphatic filariasis and blinding trachoma earmarked for elimination as public health threats by 2026. Other diseases such as Human African Trypanosomiasis and Onchocerciasis are close to elimination.
To facilitate its trajectory towards the ambitions of its new master plan, Kenya has this week adopted a national NTD Control and Elimination Scorecard management tool which tracks the progress of indicators that reflect the priorities and objectives set by the country’s Ministry of Health.
This development comes after a week-long strengthening workshop on the NTD scorecard. Held in Machakos, Kenya, the session was led by Kenya’s Division of Vector-Borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases with the support of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA). It was attended by focal points from the national Vector Borne and NTDs Division and partner organizations such as the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and AMREF.
“The adoption of the scorecard is an important way to visualise where we stand as a country. By helping us track indicators that are doing well and those that are lagging behind, we can determine what needs to be done to fast track progress towards elimination,” said Dr. Wyckliff Omondi, the Head of Division – Vector Borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases, Ministry of Health.
“Every indicator we have on the scorecard aligns with an objective that we aim to achieve as a division, making it a great management tool. It also helps us report on where we are as a country. When you have a system like this through which the country’s standing is portrayed, and to which targets are tied, it pushes you towards achieving set objectives,” said Florence Wakesho the Focal Point for STH/SCH in Kenya’s MoH Division of Vector Borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases.
As Kenya embarks on utilising the NTDs scorecard to strengthen its actions towards control and elimination, it is further committed to cascade it to the grassroots through the county, sub-county, and community level structures as it seeks to intensify Social and Behaviour Change Communication to encourage proactive action from community members in preventing and controlling NTDs as part of its current priorities.
Through its rollout, the country further seeks to increase access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Promotion (WASH) services in areas across the country that are endemic to NTDs and further advocate for increased domestic budget allocation to expand and deepen the range of services such as Mass Drug Administration aimed at driving progress. At the same time, the country looks to exceed the global benchmark which is set at the elimination of at least one NTD per endemic country by eliminating at least 4 including Lymphatic Filariasis, Trachoma, Human African Trypanosomiasis, and Onchocerciasis.
Kenya’s adoption of the national NTDs scorecard comes after the Kigali Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases. Held in June, the high-level political declaration which aims to mobilise political will and secure commitments to achieve the SDG 3 target on NTDs and to deliver the targets set out in the WHO NTDs Roadmap 2021-2030 has already galvanized substantial commitments. Together, donor governments, endemic country governments, pharmaceutical companies, and NGOs have mobilised US$1.5 billion in financial commitments. Even with this remarkable milestone, lack of resources remains a significant barrier to the control, elimination, and eradication of NTDs. Intensified by COVID-19 which caused extreme delays and disruption to NTDs programs, and further saw resources repurposed and diverted, sustainable financing for NTDs has never been more crucial.
Like many other (15) African Union member states that have adopted the national NTDs scorecard, the tool provides more than a tracking tool for Kenya, it provides the country with data and insights that can be leveraged for resource mobilisation to address gaps in the implementation of NTD programs and interventions . Kenya’s H1 2022 NTD scorecard will be uploaded to the ALMA scorecard hub (a platform that allows countries to share their scorecards publicly and best practices on how they have used the tool to improve health outcomes) following the completion of an MDA exercise scheduled to take place in December.