A joint exercise by health officials from Turkana and Karamoja-Uganda has seen 2,138 pastoralists receive trachoma drugs during the Mass Drug Administration campaign carried out in Napak and Moroto districts that began five days ago. A majority of the pastoralists are from Turkana West and Loima and had crossed over into Uganda in search of pasture.
Turkana County Eye Coordinator Samson Lokele today in Moroto said that although blinding trachoma has dropped from 8.9% in 2010 to the current 0.5%, the disease is still troubling residents of Turkana West and Loima Sub-Counties and need to be eradicated completely. He added that Turkana West prevalence currently stands at 17%, while Loima is at 11%.
He also said that there is hope that the disease will be eliminated by 2025, thanks to MoH Turkana partners such as Sight Savers-Kenya, Fred Hollows and Diocese of Lodwar. He observed most patients in some areas showed signs of Trachoma Trichiasis that will need future surgical exercise.
While Turkana County Coordinator for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Jimmy Lore said that there is hope the MDA exercise will be successful as health education is carried out beside treatment as a strategy and preventive measure to avoid retransmission of the disease from person to person.
He said Trachoma is a crippling disease that can affect socio-economic activities of people, calling for a concerted effort to eliminate it across the borders. The exercise is targeting everyone from children to adults.
Lore further revealed both Karamoja Turkana health officials are also using the occasion to carry out surveillance of other NTD diseases such as Kala-azar, Madura foot, Guinea Worm Post Certification for further action.
MoH Turkana West Joel Lochor pointed out that Trachoma prevalence is dependent on health education, personal and environmental hygiene practices, noting that majority of trachoma patients are people who live in valleys, sometimes cooler and with more flies especially along the escarpment that borders Uganda.
Senior Gender and Youth Advisor, WI-HER, ACT/EAST Emmanuel SSegawa said that Moroto District had a trachoma prevalence which was 50%, reduced to 10% but currently 16% with hope of being eliminated completely. He also said the Turkana health officials’ role is to help build trust of the Turkana pastoralists to accept the treatment to avoid creation of reservoirs of future transmissions as they move back and forth from Kenya to Uganda.
The 10-day exercise is being supported by Uganda Government partners such as USAID, RTI International and Act to End NTDS EAST. The teams visited areas where the Turkana community had settled such as Kobebe, Losogol, Lopei, Naput, Chokchok, Nakabaat, Losilan, Nadunget among others.
The joint team also included Moroto District Health Officer Dr. Lemukol Samuel, Loima Sub-County MoH Abdirahaman Musa, Eye Coordinator Turkana West Sixtus Emoni, Eye Coordinator Loima Richard Lowoto, Loima Sub-County Pharmacist Newton Chebon, Turkana West Sub-County Pharmacist Kennedy Keter, RTI representative Stephen Megusa, Rupa Sub-County Health Preventive and Promotive officer Charles Onyang among others.