Kenya’s efforts to keep a healthy population are being hampered by the often-ignored ailments like seasonal influenza (flu), the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
In its situation report, WHO indicates that as many as 650,000 people die from respiratory problems annually, warning governments to focus more on these ailments.
According to the global health body, Kenya is among countries where these types of diseases are a major burden on the population. However, governments in the affected countries have underfunded the sector.
“All counties must work together to control influenza outbreaks before the arrival of the next pandemic. This includes building capacity to detect and respond to outbreaks, and strengthening health systems to improve the health of the most vulnerable and those most at risk,” said WHO in a statement on the situation.
In Kenya, one in ten people dies from respiratory complications.
And although the Ministry of Health does not focus on flu, it shows the disease could nonetheless cause a huge financial burden on families as its outbreak requires drugs to manage.
In September, a study by the US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) indicated that respiratory infections were among the top five health challenges facing the country.
“The scourges of HIV, diarrhoea and lower respiratory infections are Kenya’s worst health challenges, forming “triad of troubles” that is preventing millions from living long, healthy lives,” showed the study.
The new WHO figures are based on more recent data from countries of different economic levels including lower middle income countries like Kenya but exclude deaths from non-respiratory diseases.
Dr Peter Salama, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme said the new figures indicate the high burden of influenza and its substantial social and economic cost to the world.
“They highlight the importance of influenza prevention for seasonal epidemics, as well as preparedness for pandemics,” said Dr Salama.
Seasonal influenza is an acute viral infection that spreads easily from person to person and circulates worldwide.
Most people recover within a week without requiring medical attention. Common respiratory diseases related to seasonal influenza that can cause death include pneumonia and bronchitis.