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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 - March 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 Unpublished USAID PREDICT-Kenya data identified the following gaps: (1) the role of biological diversity and its ecological role in relation to transmission of EIDs; (2)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

During the reporting period the following activities were undertaken:

1. The PI met with US Mission in charge for Global Security Agenda and briefed him on their work and future work plans and how this aligns with national public health agenda
2. PI and CO-PIs met and discussed the 3rd quarter activities and engaged the University for logistical and planning purposes.
3. The PI met with County Director for Health Laikipia County to request for permission and approval to engage the County health facilities and health care workers for the 3rd quarter activities

In the next quarter, the PI and his team plan to carry out the following activities
1. Training and induction of local liaison contacts on data collection; administering of questionnaire to different target groups including rangers, animal herders, health care workers, health facilities, animal health workers, biodiversity/ecology and households on various risk factors that may influence outbreaks, pandemics, disease control and biodiversity conservation. Lastly, training of health care workers, deployment of clinic cards that captures one health approach in disease diagnosis.



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