The US President’s Malaria Initiative will give Kenya Sh3 billion to fight malaria next year. This is slightly less than the Sh3.5 billion President Donald Trump’s administration gave the country in 2017.

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The detailed Kenya Malaria Operational Plan FY 2018 was published by the US State Department on November 13 indicating funding approval by the US Malaria Co-ordinator.

The drop in funding, though small, signifies the first time since the launch of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) in 2005 that it has failed to record an annual increment. In May, the US Congress published a budget justification document, which included a 44 per cent proposed reduction to PMI funding for 2018.

On Tuesday last week, the Imperial College London, UK, estimated that the cuts could lead to 67 million additional cases of malaria in the 19 countries supported by PMI in the next four years. The cut follows a similar one by Global Fund, the biggest funder of malaria activities in Kenya.

In December, the Global Fund announced a Sh6.5 billion package for Kenya for 2018-2020, which was almost half of previous donations for a similar period.

“This leaves a huge gap,” said Waqo Ejersa, the head of Kenya’s National Malaria Control Programme, in a post on the World Health Organisation (WHO) website.

Details of the US malaria plan indicate the bulk of activities and financing will mainly go to eight counties in Western Kenya with the highest malaria prevalence.

The eight – Bungoma, Busia, Homa Bay, Kakamega, Kisumu, Migori, Siaya and Vihiga – with an estimated population of 9.6 million in 2018, have the highest burden of malaria infections in the country.

Most of these counties will also be hosting one of the world’s largest malaria vaccination drives next year. While the actual vaccinations kick off next year, preparations were supposed to begin in the last quarter of this year.

But sources in the health sector indicate that electioneering activities may have slowed down preparations or put the whole exercise in doubt.

“We hope political temperatures will cool down quickly to allow planned activities to go on,” a senior official with the Ministry of Health told The Standard.

An international tender floated by WHO indicates half of 240,000 children aged between five and 8 months will receive the vaccine manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. The rest will act as controls.