By HENRY OWINO (Senior Correspondent)

The County Government of Homa Bay, Western Kenya in partnership with USAID would spend Ksh 412million for Indoor Residual Spray (IRS) exercise aimed at cutting down malaria transmission cycle.

The twenty-four days exercise is being conducted by trained operators and targets 218,000 structures that are sprayed across the county. The project which began on 9 February is expected to be completed early March 2020.

The IRS is a core vector control intervention that could rapidly reduce malaria transmission. It involves the application of a residual insecticide to internal walls and ceilings of housing structures where malaria vectors may come into contact with the insecticide.

This operational manual aims to assist malaria programme managers, entomologists and public health officers in designing, implementing and sustaining high-quality IRS programmes. Over 1,000 residents were trained to undertake the exercise.

Speaking during the event, Professor Richard Muga said that the exercise, which is a partnership between the County Government of Homa Bay and USAID, would cost Ksh 412 Million. He implored all residents to cooperate with the operators whenever they visit their homes.

Prof Muga, the County Executive Committee member assured the public that there should be no cause for alarm as quality tests that have been carried out on the insecticide indicate that it is not harmful to human life.

“Malaria claims the life of one child every two minutes. The disease is a leading killer of children younger than 5 years in Kenya,” Pro Muga regrets.

“The programme is aimed at reducing malaria deaths and substantially decreasing malaria prevalence as part of a long-term goal of eliminating the disease, Prof Muga said.

“This exercise is being done in all our eight sub-counties. We are targeting all structures occupied by people including schools, offices and hotels,” he added.

Interventions

According to Dr Ishmael Abbey, Director, Kenya Malaria Control Program (KMCP) Ministry of Health, Malaria prevalence rate in Homa Bay County stands at 27 percent. He noted it could only be reduced when necessary interventions like indoor residual spraying are undertaken in all residential apartments.

Dr Adel Ottoman, Director for Preventive and Promotive Health Services (Public Health) in Homa Bay County said in spite of the Indoor Residual Spray, the County Government has put in place other measures.  These include insecticidal Treated Nets, Vaccinations among others to ensure that Malaria Prevalence rate reduces in the County.

Dr Ottoman disclosed that his Department would carry out Malaria Indicator Survey to determine the prevalence and impact of IRS by end of June.  

Homa Bay County Executive Member for Health services, Prof Richard Muga, flagged off the exercise as the third and final phase of IRS exercise aimed at cutting down malaria transmission cycle.

The application of this protective measure involves spraying a long lasting insecticide indoors onto the walls and ceilings of all rooms. The insecticide typically lasts for 3-6 months when it then needs to be reapplied.

 Indoor residual spraying (IRS) results in fewer mosquitoes coming indoors and, more importantly, it kills any mosquitoes that rest on the sprayed areas. Through IRS the incidence of malaria can be drastically reduced.

IRS works best when the target mosquito species prefers to bite indoors and to rest indoors either before or after biting. IRS can also have a significant impact on mosquitoes that prefer biting outdoors, but tend to rest indoors after feeding.

Such  mosquitoes often choose to rest in animal sheds and outhouses so spraying the ceilings and walls of these is often as important as spraying the dwellings themselves.

Malaria prevalence  in Homa Bay county stands at about 26 per cent, making it one of the high malaria zones alongside include Kilifi, Mombasa, Lamu, Taita Taveta, Kisumu, Siaya, Migori, Vihiga, Kakamega and Bungoma.

We have a number of malaria prevention interventions which include use of treated mosquito nets, malaria vaccine and others. This exercise will enable us eliminate malaria,” Prof Muga added.

Targets

The County Executive Committee member warned residents against misuse of the anti-mosquito drug. He said there are cases of residents using the drug for fishing.

“This drug should not be used for fishing because it is poisonous. Let the drugs be used for the right purpose,” Prof Muga cautioned.

The USAID’s representative said Dr Daniel Wacira said they were undertaking a similar programme in the neighboring Migori County.

“We will also undertake the project in other counties neighbouring Homa Bay and Migori to prevent the malaria in the lake region,” said Dr Wacira.

Homa Bay County Chief Officer for Health Gerald Akech was also present during the official launching of the Indoor Residual Spray.

Homa Bay County is one of eight counties that was selected in Kenya where first Malaria Vaccine was introduced marking a historic moment. This was on 13 September 2019 with declarations of support for the promising new malaria prevention tool and to demonstrate a ceremonial first vaccination of a 6-month-old child.

The vaccine, known as RTS, S, is now available to children from 6 months of age in selected areas of the country in a phased pilot introduction. It is the first and only vaccine to significantly reduce malaria in children, including life-threatening malaria.

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