Experts link poor water and sanitation services to a surge in chronic diseases
Fresh evidence linking rising cases of non communicable diseases (NCD) with poor water and sanitation services in Kenya could inform increased international cooperation over the issue at an international summit next week (19 to 20 September 2011).
Data presented by officials from the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation (MPHS) during the first National Forum on Non Communicable Diseases in Nairobi identified poor water and sanitation delivery as one of leading causes of cardiovascular diseases, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases.
According to James Gesami, MPHS’ assistant minister, environmental pollution, climate change and policy constraints have influenced the poor delivery of quality health services, a trend that is likely to continue unless the government reviews its commitment to improve the sector.
An international NCD summit is due to be held in New York next week (19 to 20 September 2011), to which Gesami says he hopes Kenya will send a delegation to table these concerns. He adds: “Meanwhile we are relying on the national strategic plan to shield the country from further burden of the diseases by improving service delivery.”
A separate report presented during the Nairobi meeting reveals there has been limited research on causes of NCDs, with more attention being paid to infectious diseases.
“There has been limited research over the last 25 years because NCDs were assumed to be less threatening and less urgent,” says the report. “But improving health requires addressing poverty, access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and more resource allocation in the health sector.”
Poor funding and a multiplicity in roles among line ministries have also been linked to poor delivery of services and rising cases of NCDs but opinion is now widely held that a review of future international cooperation could prove useful to meeting Kenya’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
According to Kenya’s Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, commitment to meet MDGs on water and sanitation by 2015 is threatened by a major onslaught on country’s health system due to low public investment.
Going by the United Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) projection, sub Saharan Africa needs at least USD 28.8 million annually to achieve the 2015 target on water, while the region will have to pump in some USD 34.5 million annually to reach the sanitation target.
“This challenge should be met by a firm and major resolution at the September UN high level meeting to which Kenya looks forward to make a substantial contribution,” says Odinga.
The Nairobi NCD forum lists cardiovascular diseases as the leading cause of death in Kenya at 12.7 per cent followed by cancer and diabetes at 6.7 per cent and 4 per cent respectively.