Heavy rains and flooding in Baringo County, some 250km north of capital Nairobi, has recorded a surge in cases of malaria.
Among affected areas is Ilng’arua Location, where residents have accused the county government of failing to stock hospitals with necessary medicines and supply mosquito nets.
Elena Kachike, a community health volunteer says the disease has been on the rise for the past three weeks.
Kachike, 46, is among those ailing from malaria, together with her 10-year-old granddaughter. They are forced to travel for about 10 kilometres to receive treatment at Marigat Sub-County Hospital. But sometimes there are no drugs at the facility.
“It is worrying that some people are resorting to using herbs, because the health centre does not have even painkillers,” says Kachike, who is experiencing fever, headache, general body weakness and vomiting.
She adds that a number of residents also do not have access to mosquito nets, despite the many mosquito breeding sites following floods and heavy rains.
Distribute mosquito nets
“People have been urging the government to at least distribute mosquito nets, but no action has been taken,” says Kachike.
Three weeks ago, Jeridah Lalwei, 29, was also diagnosed with acute malaria that led to anaemia at Marigat Sub-county Hospital.
According to a medical report, the seven months pregnant woman had acute abdominal pain, headache and fever. “I am attending regular check-up after I was diagnosed with acute malaria. Hopefully I will recover before I am due for delivery,” she says.
County epidemiologist Dr Robert Rono says a team of surveillance officers has been dispatched to malaria-prone areas to conduct tests and documentation.
Dr Rono attributed the high cases to ongoing rains and floods, more so in Ilng’arua location. “We do not have current data on malaria cases, but there seems to be an increase because of the rains. A team of medics is collecting data for action,” he said in an interview.
High cases of malaria
Health centres that have documented high cases of malaria according to health report include Kimalel, Loboi, Sirata, and Kiserian in Baringo South, and Ayatya and Kambi Samaki in Baringo North.
In 2019, Ayatya Hospital recorded the highest cases of malaria, at 2,240 cases.
This was an increase from 2,018 recorded in 2018 and 2,077 in 2017. The figure peaked in 2016, with 2,357 cases.
Dr Rono reiterates the county government’s commitment to distributing antimalarial drugs and mosquito nets to hospitals that experience high incidences of malaria.
In February 2020, the Ministry of Health directed the counties of Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet to strengthen their preventive health system to address the malaria situation.
Among preventive measures the counties are expected to put in place are routine distribution of long lasting insecticidal nets and setting up maternal and child welfare clinics.
The directive followed a surge in the number of malaria cases in the months of October, November and December 2019 and January 2020 in the country, more so along Kerio Valley.
Manage the disease
The counties were also expected to establish a diagnosis-based treatment policy that would ensure stocking hospitals with adequate medicines to manage the disease.
The Ministry of Health dispatched a team to undertake disease surveillance in order to draw proper control and preventive measures. It also undertook to integrate vector management through spraying breeding zones of mosquitoes and clearing vegetation.
The ministry cited lack of functional hospitals as a major challenge in Baringo, forcing residents to walk long distances in search of health care services.
According to the Baringo health report, hospitals are within a seven-kilometre radius against the WHO recommendation of five kilometres.
“Outreach programmes are normally used to reach out to communities which are far from hospitals, but currently, the activities have been halted due to Covid-19,” says Dr Rono.