Kalaazar: "A Disease of the Poorest of the Poor"
Every year, kalaazar, a neglected disease kills more than 50,000 thousand people worldwide with over 4,000 people infected in Kenya every year.
Kalaazar whose symptoms include substantial weight loss, swelling of the spleen and liver, and anaemia is endemic in certain areas of Kenya like in Wajir, Mandera, West Pokot and Baringo Counties. If left untreated, it can have a fatality rate as high as 100% within two years.
For those that test positive, the options are limited; only a handful of drugs exist to treat the estimated 500,000 new cases each year. The most common treatment is also prohibitively expensive for many of those who have the disease.
Its management which was developed in the 1930s is long, toxic and painful course of intra-muscular daily injections of Sodium Stibogluconate (Pentostam) for over 30 consecutive days. This has changed, and now there is a 17-day long treatment course with a combination of SSG and Paromomycine.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is one of very few organizations providing free treatment for kalaazar in Kenya, particularly in Kacheliba, West Pokot County.
Two officials from MSF; Mr. Tim McCann-MSF Reporting Officer and Ms.Judith Waguma-Media and Communications Officer, MSF Press Office visited Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) where they were met by Deputy Director, Clinical Services; Dr. Omar Aly, Chairman, Division of Medicine; Dr. Jak Nyabundi, Public Relations and Marketing Officer; Mr. Tony Kirwa and acting Head of Public Health; Mr. Julius Cherop.
The duo was at the Hospital on familiarization tour on April 19, 2012 in preparation for a kalaazar public talk and Photo Exhibitions to be held between May 7th to 11th 2012 at MTRH and the Nandi Gardens in Eldoret town respectively.
MTRH see kalaazar patients referred from various health facilities in Western Kenya.