Diseases in Kenya
As a country with a population growing by more than one million people per year, the Sub-Saharan African nation of Kenya struggles to treat and contain diseases. Kenya is a densely populated nation that experiences significant treatable diseases due to a lack of economic development and poor water quality. Common diseases in Kenya such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and lower respiratory infections remain a consistent threat to the population though significant progress has been made in recent years.

Today’s biggest threat is HIV/AIDS, which was Kenya’s leading cause of death in the last 10 years, killing 36,000 people in 2015. This number is down from 54,000 in 2012, however, as HIV prevention programs were greatly successful in reducing new infections and raising awareness about the disease. The National AIDS Control Council (NACC) headed the effort and is currently working toward a set of objectives to achieve by 2019, including reducing new HIV infections by 75% and reducing AIDS-related mortality by 25%.

Kenya has a high rate of water-borne illnesses such as malaria, dengue fever and schistosomiasis. In a country where 70% of the 46 million people are at risk for malaria, preventative efforts in recent years focused on highest-risk areas to curb the spread of the diseases in Kenya. Efforts such as the use of intermittent preventative treatment and insect-treated nets have played a crucial role in dropping the malaria prevalence by 3% between 2010 and 2015. Anti-malaria measures have contributed to a 29% drop in child mortality since 2008.

Kenya also faces threats from bacterial diseases such as tuberculosis. Typhoid fever rates are highest among children age two to four, and the disease disproportionately affects those in urban areas and slums.

One of the most significant factors preventing the treatment of common diseases in Kenya is the lack of hospitals and other healthcare infrastructure. Currently, Kenya has just one doctor and only 12 nurses for every 10,000 people.

Friction between the Kenyan government and doctors adds to the problems mounting in the country’s continuing fight against preventable disease. In March of 2017, Kenyan doctors ended their 100-day strike, aimed at increasing pay and restoring run-down public health facilities. A lack of funding may also create future problems when it comes to preventable disease. In December 2016, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria announced that its package toward malaria programs in Kenya would be cut in half.

While significant progress was made to reduce the threat of preventable diseases like HIV and malaria, Kenyans remain at risk. With a rapidly growing population and limited availability of healthcare resources, Kenya will continue to face challenges to keep its population healthy and needs to remain vigilant to prevent further spread of disease.

Nick Dugan

Photo: Flickr