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PARTNERSHIPS FOR ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT IN RESEARCH (PEER)
Cycle 9 (2020 Deadline)


Enhancing capacity of local communities in Laikipia County, Kenya: increasing preparedness and response to emerging infectious diseases in parallel with preservation of biodiversity

PI: Joseph Kamau (muiruri@uonbi.ac.ke), University of Nairobi
U.S. Partner: Dawn Zimmerman, Smithsonian Institution
Project Dates: April 2021 - June 2023

Project Overview:
 
The burden of zoonotic diseases has been increasing globally over the last few decades, raising concern among governments. Zoonotic disease has led to increased household health-care costs, loss of income from livestock trade, and loss of endangered and rare wildlife biodiversity, among many other negative impacts. These diseases impair progress towards attainment of Sustainable Development Goals, the African Union Agenda 2063, and Kenya’s Vision 2030. The factors contributing to the increasing burden of these diseases include the expanding population, degrading wildlife habitats, international travel and trade, changing farming systems, urbanization, cultural practices, poverty, and climate change, among others. The One Health approach that brings the interconnection between biosafety, biosecurity, and biodiversity, involving multisectoral and multidisciplinary collaboration between human health, animal health and environment sectors among other stakeholders, is only one approach that presents a viable solution to this challenge.

A key finding of the just concluded USAID funded PREDICT-2 program in Laikipia County, Kenya, was a general lack of awareness in all communities that contact with animals can cause disease in people. Laikipia has closely interacting human, wildlife, and livestock elements in an environment under multiple pressures such as land use changes and increasing livestock, wildlife, and human populations. Unpublished USAID PREDICT-Kenya data identified the following gaps: (1) the role of biological diversity and its ecological role in relation to transmission of EIDs; (2) potential behavioral and cultural practices that potentially expose the community to EIDs; and (3) lack of EID risk awareness in terms of sources, identification, and interventions. It is on this basis that future risk mitigation strategies should emphasize education tailored to specific sites to be socially and culturally acceptable. Targeted training of community-based health workers, community leaders, rangers and wardens who are chosen by the community would provide a communication channel for dissemination of national and tailored local public health initiatives to vulnerable people living at high-risk human-animal interfaces. The proposed study seeks to increase preparedness and response to EIDs by enhancing the local communities’ understanding, through a more integrated One Health approach, of the importance of ecological correlates to global EIDs.

The proposed study will contribute knowledge applicable in the management of ranches by stakeholders such as the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) that could be adopted by the government into policy. Through the PI’s collaborations with One Health practitioners in the region, the findings of the study will contribute to enriching Kenya’s One Health Strategy and may be used as an example by other countries in the region. The local communities’ abilities to minimize EID risks while conserving their environment will improve their quality of life by saving their resources from disease burden. This will enable fast-track localization of national and international strategies.

Summary of Recent Activities

From July-September 2022, the PEER team deployed their clinic card to areas not covered during their first phase. They also analyzed the data from the first deployment of their clinic card. That data informed them of the needs or gaps to be considered during the combined One Health training they carried out. The team then continued developing training materials to increase community engagement and to train medical and animal health care workers. To establish the progress so far and to find a clear path forward for the next year, they monitored and evaluated the project during this July-September time frame.

The PEER team has a variety of plans they intend on conducting in the coming year:
  1. Using a One Health approach, the team will conduct trainings on disease surveillance and diagnosis in resource-limited setups for medical, public, and animal health professionals.
  2. The team will encourage community engagement in the study of disease occurrence, distribution, detection, or identification using clinical signs. They will communicate this to health care workers.
  3. They will conduct a post-questionnaire interview to gauge the effectiveness of their engagement.
  4. Conduct a manuscript writing session and project review.
  5. Develop an intervention workshop with engagement from stakeholders.
  6. Conduct a workshop session with the Directorate of Health from Laikipia County. This session will cover possibly policy brief or reports that can support the county’s disease surveillance.
  7. Carry out a metagenomics study of ticks, with samples collected from the environment and from snakes. This project will aim to determine why certain community associates with wounds fail to respond to antibiotics. The team will then inform health care workers of possible pathogens that could be causing this problem.
  8. They will carry out a final NAS PEER report and share this with the NAS and USAID mission.



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