The Chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Prof. Joseph Mathu Ndung’u, has been appointed Executive Director of the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), Kenya.
Prof. Ndung’u retains his position as head of the Neglected Tropical Diseases at the Geneva based Foundation.
According to a statement, FIND, which is the implementing partner of Kenya’s Ministry of Health, on leishmaniasis control, will be responsible for; distribution of drugs and diagnostics in all counties where the disease is reported, training of healthcare workers in diagnosis and management of the disease, advocacy and sensitization.
The new partnership which also brings on board Crown Agents, is aimed at strengthening visceral leishmaniasis (VL) testing and addressing current VL outbreaks in Kenya, as part of Accelerating the Sustainable Control and Elimination of NTDs (ASCEND), a UK government initiative to defeat neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
ASCEND is designed to advance the impact and sustainability of national programmes tackling NTDs, while Crown Agents will lead a consortium of technical partners to implement ASCEND across South Asia, and East and Southern Africa.
On the other hand, FIND is working on essential training of health workers for the diagnosis and management of VL, supply of rapid diagnostic tests, and community sensitization in Isiolo, Marsabit, Turkana and Wajir counties. Its activities are set to expand into Baringo, Garissa, Kitui and West Pokot counties.
VL, also known as kala azar, is an NTD caused by protozoan parasites and transmitted through the bites of sand flies. It is almost always fatal if not diagnosed and treated. Poor rural communities in Eastern Africa and the Indian sub-continent, carry the highest burden of the disease.
In Kenya, which is among the top 10 high-burden countries for VL across the world, more than 5 million people live at constant risk of infection, with approximately 1,200 cases reported each year – figures that are certainly underestimated due to the lack of access to diagnosis.
ASCEND is advancing the Kenyan national goal of prevention and control of VL in all endemic areas of the country. FIND recently registered an office in Kenya, and has been working closely with the Kenyan government on VL control and elimination since 2016. Work on the ASCEND VL project will build on the organization’s previous work to strengthen diagnostics and testing services across the country and address the current VL outbreaks in Garissa and Kitui counties.
Commenting about his appointment, the new Head of the FIND NTD programme and Executive Director of FIND Kenya, Prof Ndung’u said, “We are honoured to bring our experience in VL to ASCEND, and to continue to help support Kenya’s Ministry of Health to build the testing capacity needed to underpin elimination efforts in all the counties where the disease is being reported today.”
“The new partnership with FIND will support the Kenya government to have a sustainable control of VL in all endemic counties, improve diagnosis and treatment, strengthen supply chain, increase awareness of the disease and most importantly integrate VL control and into the health system,” said Dr. Duncan Ochol, ASCEND Country Lead, Kenya.
The project is funded by UK Aid from the British people, as part of ASCEND (Accelerating the Sustainable Control and Elimination of NTDs).
Prof. Ngung’u who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Medicine and Surgery (BVM) from the University of Nairobi, and a PhD in the Immunopathology of human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) from the University of Glasgow’s Veterinary School in Scotland, was appointed JKUAT Chancellor for a period of five years effective January 11, 2019.
He was recently a beneficiary of the African Union’s prestigious Excellence Award, 2019, for his achievement and contribution to research and control of T & T in recognition for spearheading the Development of New Diagnostics Tools for Neglected Tropical Diseases.