Health officials in Lamu County have been startled by a sweeping change of disease patterns amongst the residents, a situation, they say is occasioned by poverty and change of lifestyle.
According to the medics, the new trend is as a result of the tendency by mostly Island residents to prefer regular consumption of rice and fried potatoes which are rich in starch and lack of awareness on proper dietary and need for exercise.
The above emerged during a medical camp sponsored by Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) at Hindi Primary school in the mainland.
“Until five years ago, communicable diseases were high on the list of leading diseases in Lamu County but have now been overtaken by non-communicable diseases by far,” said KPA Chief Pharmacist Dr Jao Majimbo who was leading the medical team during the day-long medical camp.
Dr Mohammed Kombo, a general practitioner in charge of health administration at King Fahad County Referral Hospital observed that cases of hypertension, diabetes, Peptic Ulceration are now high up in the list of diseases affecting Lamu which never used to be the case in the past.
He said the food dietary-related complications are now the most common diseases in the area where cases of Malaria were ranking highly followed by Pneumonia in children, Diarrhoea, Bilharzia and Typhoid respectively.
The medics attribute the change of disease pattern to nutritional indiscipline and lack of exercise.
“Lamu being an Island, consumption of seafood should expose residents to healthy living but because you will find that most people have shifted from boiled foods to oily fries, they are exposed to these lifestyle diseases,” Dr Kombo noted: “Poverty is another cause because most families don’t get enough to eat and as a result, they end up with a lot of acids in the stomach that cause stomach ulcers.”
The medics at the same time have established that cases of injuries from road accidents are on the increase and have surpassed the cases of attacks by animals which have in the past been the most prevalent due to widespread human-wildlife conflict in the region.
“We also used to experience many cases of injuries due to wild animals because the animals would often sneak from their nearby habitat to villages but with increased human activities around, the human-wildlife conflicts are growing fewer and fewer. Instead, cases of serious accidents are now becoming a new trend because of the new road in the mainland and further introduction of motorbikes in the island,” said Dr Kombo.
A number of residents who benefitted from the medical camp were concerned that poor access to quality healthcare has been a key challenge in the County whose only three major health facilities are level four hospitals located within a radius of about 40 Kilometers apart.
“I came here for treatment because I have been unable to get proper medication for the past three years since I started experiencing complications with my left eye. It has continued to worsen and whenever I go to the local dispensary, I am given painkillers which don’t help at all,” explained Anne Wangechi, a resident of Hindi adding she has never seen a specialist in Lamu.
KPA head of corporate affairs Bernard Osero said a total of 536 residents benefitted from the medical camp against a target of 800.
“This is a scheduled exercise to reach out to the community. The focus was to reach about 800 people from across the County but we have also realized having hosted the event on the mainland, the majority of the people from the Island might have found it difficult to attend because of the boat charge as they would require a total of ksh400…that is something we have put into consideration,” said Osero.