Today, Kenya is growing more active on the international health stage. The fact that the joint and persistent efforts of Kenya and her partners: Brazil, Malaysia, India, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Italy, among others, resulted in the approval of a new resolution at the WHA in May 2006 is something we are justly proud of.
When the Minister of Health, the Honorable Charity Ngilu opened the First Conference in May 2003, she pointed out that Kenya, like any other developing country, has its own burden of neglected diseases. Although some progress has been made in this area, it is important to recognise that the health situation in Kenya, as in other Sub-Saharam African countries, is constantly under threat.
Malaria is not releasing its fatal grip and continues to be a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in Kenya, particularly among pregnant women and children under the age of 5 years. Studies suggest that between 20 - 25% of all deaths can be attributed to malaria. We have also had recent outbreaks of visceral leishmaniasis in Wajir and Isiolo districts in the North Eastern Province. These deadly diseases are afflicting and killing mostly children, and thus affecting our country’s future. We urgently need to control the vectors that spread these diseases and stock more of the existing drugs to treat them and save lives. But we also need new medicines that can cure faster and with fewer side-effects.
DNDi is working to make this need a reality. This collaborative, not-for-profit initiative is focusing its resources in the development of drugs for neglected diseases; not by building laboratory facilities or drug manufacturing plants, but by building regional partnerships in the form of research platforms that bring together existing resources to fight neglected diseases. These resources come in the form of strengthening our critical mass of expertise and facilities.
The goal of building regional partnerships is not only to facilitate the development of new and effective health tools for neglected diseases, but also to strengthen drug R&D capacity in Kenya and our neighbouring countries. The ultimate aim is to make Africa and other neglected-disease endemic regions of the world self-sufficient in the area of drug R&D. This may take many years, but it is a laudable aim and I wish to assure you of total support from the Government of Kenya.
I wish DNDi success, for in their success lies hope for all our fellow Africans suffering from neglected diseases. I urge all those involved in drug delivery systems to support the work of DNDi. It is only through this that we shall achieve some meaningful success. This kind of multi-pronged partnership is critical if we are to make even a dent in the war against fatal infectious diseases.