Evidence Action is pleased to support Kenya’s Ministry of Health and its Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Unit as it carries out mass treatment for lymphatic filariasis. Led by the government of Kenya, treatment is provided to communities in all six of Kenya’s endemic counties, targeting over 2.3 million adults and children. The drugs used are a combination of albendazole and diethylcarbamazine (DEC), provided at no cost by the WHO global drug donation program.
Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is commonly known as elephantiasis because it can cause limbs and extremities to swell, and to develop rough, thickened skin. Like soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) and schistosomiasis -the diseases targeted by Kenya’s National School Based Deworming Programme–it is a neglected tropical disease. LF is transmitted to humans through mosquitoes. In Kenya, approximately 3.6 million individuals are at risk for the disfiguring disease in the six counties of the coastal region.
The most recent treatment in endemic areas was conducted in October 2015, targeting individuals aged 2 and above. To achieve LF elimination by the year 2020, at least five more rounds of consistent mass treatment are required, with each round reaching at least 65% of individuals in the communities.
Given our close working relationship with the Ministry of Health, and proven success as the primary technical assistance provider for the National School Based Deworming Programme, the NTD Unit requested our partnership to support this year’s LF treatment as well. Albendazole is the same drug used to treat children through school-based deworming, and thus LF treatment in these areas will also combat STH. Additionally, the NTD Unit has worked to schedule the two treatments at complementary intervals, achieving maximum benefit for individuals in need of treatment. The medicine is administered by Community Health Extension Workers (CHEWs) and volunteer distributors, who are trusted individuals selected by the targeted villages through public forums called barazas.
In the past two months, Evidence Action has provided technical assistance to the NTD Unit, helping to train key staff with a well-established training cascade. We also worked with the NTD Unit staff to update training materials and coordinate the drug supply chain. As we do for the National School Based Deworming Programme, we are also providing process monitoring and coverage validation to determine the effectiveness of program processes and assess how many individuals were treated.
Treatments will take place in November in five counties, followed by treatment in the remaining county in May 2017. The END Fund has provided both financial and substantive partnership to the technical assistance of this work.