How technology could help tackle the Cholera outbreak in Kenya

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Artist impression of Royal Philips Community Life Centre (CLC).

“The National Government through the Ministry of Health is concerned with the increasing incidences of food borne diarrheal, poisoning and cholera in different towns and cities in the country, often related to public functions and outsourcing of food,” read part of a statement from the, Republic of Kenya, Ministry of Health.

The Cholera outbreak in Kenya has gotten so bad one might be tempted to refer to it as a pandemic, lest I be too rash here are the statistics from the Ministry of Health: “So far 336 cases with related signs and symptoms; and 3 deaths have been recorded by the Nairobi County since May 2017,”

“The latest incidence at KICC is being investigated and samples of food water and sewer have been collected from outsourced caterers and taken to the National Public Health Laboratory. The results are expected in the course of next week. The total number of affected persons is being compiled from different private health facilities in the city,”

In order to contain the situation and declare Kenya a cholera free country, the Ministry of Health has constituted a taskforce to oversee that the situation is put under control. The constitution of the taskforce is multisectoral and its main task is to respond to the ongoing cholera transmission, so as to kick cholera out of the country. The taskforce is expanded to include experts, Ministry of Water and Irrigation, UNHCR, UNICEF, WHO, Red Cross and AMREF among others.

How does a story like this end up on CIO East Africa? (you might be wondering) and how does technology come into play here? Well the simple answer is, case study!

Case study: Is Tech the answer?

Royal Philips in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Government of Mandera County, recently opened a new Community Life Centre (CLC) in the County.

The new primary care and community hub is part of Philips’ ongoing commitment to improve access to quality primary healthcare and to decrease maternal and infant mortality rates – a huge challenge across sub-Saharan Africa. The CLC is a scalable, self-sufficient concept for primary healthcare delivery that Philips is pioneering in Africa, and which it aims to introduce across the continent.

One of the world’s highest maternal mortality ratios

In Sub-Saharan Africa, four in ten people have no access to health facilities or personnel, and for those that do have access, the quality of services is often low. The need for primary healthcare in the County is unparalleled; it is a hard to reach, unsecure and an arid part of North-Eastern Kenya, with one of the world’s highest maternal mortality ratios amounting to 3,795 per 100,000 live births.

This rate surpasses that of wartime Sierra Leone (2000 deaths per 100,000 live births) and is far above Kenya’s national average (448 deaths per 100,000 live births). At the same time the County, a border region, struggles with a growing population of refugees fleeing the Somalian civil war and in need of care.

The newly inaugurated CLC, at Dandu Ward of the County, is an important milestone for partners under the Private Sector Heath Partnership Kenya and will provide the community with modern, integrated quality health services for mother and child care, diagnosis and treatment of communicable diseases, and general health services. At the same time, it will offer the community clean energy supply, employment opportunities, and going forward, the potential to develop commercial activities, and a secure social activity hub within reach of over 40,000 (forty thousand) people.

“The healthcare challenges in Mandera are hugely concerning; and they are a reflection of the issues and realities faced by millions of individuals in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Jasper Westerink, CEO of Philips Africa. “Philips has been dedicated to advancing primary healthcare in Africa for many years, with a strong focus on mother and child care. Through the Philips CLC platform, we have introduced a new value delivery model. Our ambition is to introduce this model throughout Africa to drastically improve access to primary care.”

The issues facing primary care in Africa are complicated and multifaceted and in order to create sustainable improvement, addressing a wide range of issues collectively is needed. Challenges include a lack of qualified healthcare workers, non-operability of available medical equipment, lack of electricity, water and basic healthcare technology, sustainability, and a lack of reliable data.

Scalable modular self-sufficient concept

The flexibility and modularity of the CLC platform allows it to be tailored to the local healthcare requirements, in terms of the service package offered, the volume of patients, and local needs and circumstances. The CLC in the County will act as a vital community hub where technology is bundled with health services.

The technology package includes solar power (for a reliable and clean energy supply), efficient and durable indoor and outdoor LED-lighting (enabling extended opening hours and providing security to patients and staff), health care equipment (to enable patient monitoring, diagnosis and triage), laboratory equipment (especially for antenatal care tests) and refrigeration (blood storage).

Phase two will include IT-solutions (storage of patient data) and water supply and purification (preventing waterborne diseases). In addition to the improvement of the facility, Philips has also supplied Outreach Kits  that allow community health volunteers to extend basic health services into the community.

Dr. Ademola Olajide, UNFPA Country Representative to Kenya, said, “The inauguration of the CLC in Mandera is an important milestone in finding new ways for significantly advancing maternal and new-born health outcomes in the 6 counties in Kenya, which contribute close to 50% of all maternal deaths in the country. We look forward to continue learning from its operations and seeing how it will contribute to improvement in the lives and well-being in the community”.

Currently Cholera cases are being  reported in Nairobi County, but in the spirit of being more proactive and less reactive should the Government (mainly ministry of health) look into initiatives such as the CLC platform in a bid to prevent more death reports coming out of other parts of the country?

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