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December 16, 2018

Kenya loses Malaria award, nurses strike blamed

Nurses on strike march holding banners as they take part in a protest in Nairobi, Kenya June 12, 2017. REUTERS
Nurses on strike march holding banners as they take part in a protest in Nairobi, Kenya June 12, 2017. REUTERS

The recent nurses' strike which lasted for five months may have cost Kenya a continental award in reducing the prevalence of malaria during the 30th African Union Summit in Ethiopia on Sunday.

African presidents instead awarded six other countries for their exemplary leadership in driving down malaria cases.

Madagascar, Gambia, Senegal and Zimbabwe were awarded for reducing malaria cases by more than 20 per cent from 2015 to 2016.

The leaders also awarded Algeria and Comoros for being on track to achieve a more than 40 per cent drop in cases by 2020.

Kenya reduced malaria from 11 per cent in 2010 to eight per cent in 2016.

However, Kenya lost momentum last year and a major malaria outbreak during the prolonged nurses strike killed more than 30 people within two weeks in October.

Observers said this may have cost the country an award, despite its good record.

The awards were given to countries that showed consistent reduction of cases while the rest of the world was losing momentum.

“To win the war against malaria, countries will have to work differently and smarter to outsmart the mosquito and the parasite it carries,” Joy Phumaphi, head of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, said.

ALMA is an alliance of 49 African countries working to end malaria on the continent by 2030.

Speakers at the awards ceremony urged countries to prioritise funding for malaria, ensure that life-saving tools such as medicines, mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying reach the people who need them, while investing in better surveillance and strengthening health systems.

“Currently, 87 per cent of our health facilities have the capacity to diagnose malaria. Through capacity-building, mentorship and supervision 97 per cent of all confirmed malaria cases receive the recommended medicine in the public health facilities,” former Health Cabinet Secretary Dr Cleopa Mailu noted before the awards.

While malaria deaths across Africa have plunged by more than 60 per cent since 2000, cases rose in a majority of African countries in 2016, signaling that years of progress are at risk of stalling.

Commenting on the awards, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a new development era, there is need to go further, with greater resolve to not only reverse malaria incidence, but to stop transmission altogether.

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