At least 30 people have died of Malaria in Marsabit and Baringo counties in the past week.
Seventeen of them — mostly adults below 40 years and children — were from Dukana, North Horr, Illeret and Loiyangalani wards in Marsabit county, while 13 were from Tiaty sub county in Baringo county.
In Baringo, four more people died at the Chemolingot sub-county hospital in Tiaty constituency yesterday, bringing the death toll from the disease to 13 in the past week.
Tiaty sub-County health services co-ordinator Joseph Nakopir said the four died while they were being treated.
“We have received more than 80 malaria patients since Monday. Unfortunately four died at the facility while undergoing treatment,” said Mr Nakopir, adding that the hospital was faced with an acute shortage of blood.
In Marsabit, the Kenya Red Cross regional coordinator Talaso Chucho said most of those affected were herders who have been grazing their animals in forests far away from health facilities.
“The situation is dire and as much as we are here to help, it will take some time to control the disease. We have distributed mosquito nets, malaria drugs and sent six nurses to the most affected area,” he said.
Mr Nakopir said his staff were overwhelmed by the high number of patients following the departure of their colleagues early this year due to rampant insecurity in the region.
“Early this year when the government mapped out some regions as dangerous, most of the medics from other communities fled, while other development partners withdrew completely,” he said.
At Chemolingot Sub-County hospital on Tuesday, a Nation team witnessed a two-year old boy who had been referred from Akwichatis area being resuscitated after suffering a severe malaria attack. Records at the outpatients department revealed that eight out of every 10 patients treated at the hospital, most of whom are children, had tested positive for malaria.
The situation has been compounded by the lack of ambulances to ferry patients from far-flung parts of the county.
The only four ambulances in the sub county were grounded due to lack of fuel.
Baringo County chief officer Richard Koech said they had dispatched medics to the affected areas, adding: “It is true some of the ambulances had no fuel but we have refuelled and deployed them to the affected areas. We have also dispatched medics to the affected areas and we are also appealing to religious organisations to assist us in improving services in the region.”
He said that agencies such as the Red Cross and World Vision had been on hand to ferry drugs and medics to the worst hit areas of Kongor, Chesawach, Kapau, Nasorot, Akwichatis and Kapau. Yesterday, Ministry of Health officials attributed the situation to the rainy season.
Medical Services director Jackson Kioko said the cases “have not reached the public health threshold for classification as an outbreak”.
“What we are seeing are severe cases of malaria resulting from delayed treatment, caused by the ongoing nurses’ strike and lack of medicines in counties like Marsabit,” explained Dr Kioko.
Explaining the upsurge in cases, head of Malaria Control Unit Dr Waqo Ejersa said the affected communities had not experienced malaria outbreaks for a long time and had thus developed low immunity to the disease.
“When this happens, the cases can shoot up,” he said while visiting Marsabit where he announced that 4,000 test kits and 24,000 anti-malaria drugs will be distributed to the three counties.
Dr Kioko said Marsabit lacked adequate supply of anti-malaria medicines and was, therefore, unable to cope with an outbreak.
The Health Ministry, through the Malaria Control Unit and Kenya Medical Research Institute, yesterday sent experts to test blood samples from patients to check if there were any other underlying illnesses.
Reported by Irene Mwendwa, Florah Koech and Elizabeth Merab