Government of Kenya Sitting On Malaria Fund

Published on 9th September 2008
How can a government sit on money belonging to people infected with malaria and related diseases while thousands die annually? How many more ought to die due to governments' inefficiency to implement and use funds appropriately?

34,000 children under the age of five years die annually from malaria and 24 million Kenyans are at risk of malaria infections while US$80 million lie unutilized by the Kenyan government.

The situation may force the main funding body, the Global Fund in its round 2 phase 2 allocation of funds towards the initiative to deny Kenya $ 23,059,930 by end of September 2008.

Kenya’s inability to effectively plan its activities and failure to utilize the Global Fund money to fight malaria can be attributed to its mismanagement and the porous nature of administration. Procurement laws and the bureaucracy that Non Governmental Organization’s have to contend with while dealing with the government is another barrier to utilisation of these funds on the ground.

This is not the first time the Kenyan Government is wrangling with the Global Fund. In 2006, Kenya was put to task to account for $10 Million in Global fund grants or risk suspension of $100 million in funding.

Is it that the Kenyan government does not see value in saving lives it so much needs not only to sustain its economy but to protect the future generations or is it selective in  dealing with specific diseases?

This raises questions as the Kenyan government has been very firm in the fight against HIV/AIDS scourge. It has given massive backing to the fight against HIV/AIDS. Why is the commitment lacking when it comes to malaria which remains the biggest cause of morbidity and mortality in Kenya?

Gerald Walterfang Mwangi, Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya NGOs Alliance Against Malaria, (KeNAAM) has called on the government to give attention to this disease and allocate funds in the fight against malaria. He added that malaria reduces 1% growth in GDP and reminded the government that ‘dead people don’t contribute to growth of economies’.

Malaria is a protozoan infection transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. It is one of the world's most common and serious tropical diseases. More than 41% of the world's population risk acquiring malaria, and the proportion increases yearly due to deteriorating health systems, growing drug and insecticide resistance, climate change, and war. While high-risk groups include children, pregnant women, travelers, refugees, displaced persons, and labourers entering endemic areas, a lack of commitment in addressing pertinent issues like health in developing countries is one of the major issues that face Africa.

There are however other countries in Africa that have reported dramatic success in alleviating the disease. In 2005, Eritrea reported that the number of cases affected by malaria had fallen by 85 percent due to the increased use of free treated bed nets provided by the government. Zambia is also beginning to record reduced malaria cases as indicated in its 2007 Health Management Information System. Both of these countries benefit from the Global Fund because of their determination to reduce deaths caused by malaria. Others include Ghana and Rwanda.

Successful high-impact malaria control programs are being implemented that emphasize sound vector control as an essential component of integrated national malaria control programs throughout Africa. Insecticide-Treated Bed Nets (ITNs) and/or Indoor Residual Spraying with insecticides (IRS) are used in most malaria programs in Africa to achieve significant reductions in malaria morbidity and mortality.

Governments need to facilitate malaria treatment for all. Prompt and effective treatment of malaria can reduce death rates by 50% and should be included in routine child and maternal health care. Insecticide spraying, bed nets, and other cost-effective measures can help prevent malaria if governments allocate necessary funding and manpower for the same.

Use of community health workers is another way of fighting the disease. It has been very instrumental in some countries like Mali. Governments and international donors have consistently prioritized decentralized health centers where people are expected to walk up to 100km to reach. They should instead send health workers out into villages.

Governments’ capacity to distribute drugs like ACTs has posed a challenge as they are expensive compared to other drugs. They should however be available at all public health institutions for free. That is why it is imperative for governments to utilize funds allocated to them adequately to save lives.

As Kenya faces rough times ahead with the Global Fund, it should facilitate access to treatment of malaria and access to prevention intervention as well as adaptation of new innovations that are able to deal with the resistant mosquito parasites.

Let Kenya and others in Africa borrow a leaf from Eritrea who is the sole signatory that met the Abuja goals set in 2000 in Nigeria. By 2005 Eritrea was able to provide at least 60 percent of those suffering from malaria particularly children under five years of age and pregnant women prompt access to affordable and appropriate treatment within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. It was able to ensure that people benefit from the most suitable combination of personal and community protective measures, such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets and other interventions that are accessible and affordable to prevent infection and suffering, and provided access to intermittent preventative treatment or some other chemical prophylactic.

By Monicah Kimeu
Monicah is a writer with The African Executive

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