Meet the crack medical team assembled to fight coronavirus


Coronavirus in Kenya
Coronavirus in Kenya

By Reporter

The government has unveiled an elaborate team of experts, who are expected to save Kenyans from the coronavirus, which had by Monday infected 50 people and killed one. 

The team includes the Ministry of Health officials, experts from the NGOs, the private sector and academia.

This is also the team fighting to protect the healthcare system from being overwhelmed and wrecked by disproportionate infections. 

At the top of Kenya’s response team is the national emergency response committee, unveiled by President Uhuru Kenyatta on February 28. 

The committee is headed by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe. 

Below this committee are eight sub-committees. 

These are community engagement, case management, and capacity building sub-committees. 

The Star learned there are also facilities management sub-committee, emergency operations centre, call centre, communication, and technical sub-committee.

The epidemic has also thrust forward these key individuals in the eye of the storm.

The Scientists 

Patrick Amoth
Patrick Amoth

Patrick Omwanda Amoth, acting Director-General for Health

Apart from being the technical adviser to the Health Cabinet Secretary, Amoth is responsible for preventing and guarding against the introduction of infectious diseases into Kenya.

This puts in the eye of the storm the son of paramount chief Amoth Owira of Alego and step-brother of Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga. 

He sits in the National Emergency Response Committee, coordinates response activities and briefs CS Kagwe every day. 

Mamo Umuro
Mamo Umuro

Mamo Umuro Abudo

He heads the Division of National Public Health Laboratory Services at the Ministry of Health.

A rather reserved researcher, Umuro is the man at the centre of all coronavirus testing activities in Kenya. 

NPHL, the body he heads, comprises seven reference laboratory units that provide referral services, including the National Influenza Centre, at the Kenyatta National Hospital. 

NIC, which was the first to conduct a coronavirus test, was established in 2014 and has been designated by the World Health Organisation as the main NIC in Kenya.

Umuro is also the man validating all test kits in Kenya.

Dr Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, Amref Health Africa.
Dr Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, Amref Health Africa.

Dr Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, Amref Health Africa

When he began working as a doctor 24 years ago, Dr Githinji Gitahi realised one thing: “The more patients I saw the more patients came. It never happened the more patients I saw the less came to the clinic.”

Gitahi, a well known pro-poor health advocate, says the problem is that our health system is not designed to keep people healthy.

“It is designed to respond to diseases. Those systems are designed to wait for people,” he said in a Rockefeller Foundation podcast on August 2, last year.

His recommendation? “You need to empower people to deal with health at home, not when they go to the hospital. If you focus on the people it is likely you will need less and less health infrastructure.”

Gitahi is now leading the training of more than 24,000 community health workers across Kenya, on coronavirus.

Amref Health Africa, the organisation he heads, is also working closely with other African ministries of health, Africa CDC alongside the World Health Organisation by strengthening frontline health workers.

In Kenya, Amref is using its mobile app – Leap- to train the CHW on the pandemic. 

Omu Anzala
Omu Anzala

Prof Omu Anzala, University of Nairobi.

Prof Anzala is best known for his research into HIV treatment and vaccines. 

He is now among experts leading the training of health workers, and the treatment of those infected. 

Anzala is a professor in the department of medical microbiology at the University of Nairobi.

He is a leading HIV vaccine investigator in Kenya and was one of the founders of KAVI in 2001 as the HIV Vaccine Research Unit in Kenya, and part of moving it to its current status as an Institute of Clinical Research in 2013. KAVI-ICR is now a fully-fledged Institute of the University of Nairobi under his leadership.

Anzala is not a social media enthusiast and his twitter handle shows the last time he tweeted was January 6, 2014, to say: “Hello to all. Wish each and everyone the best in 2014.”

The professor attended Magadi Primary School in Kajiado in 1978 before proceeding to Alliance High School, then to University of Nairobi. 

His research in HIV has focused on why some sex workers infected with HIV do not develop Aids, despite no treatment. 

He is also expected to be the team leading study into coronavirus in Africa.

Director of Environmental Health Dr Kepha Ombacho.
CONCERNED: Director of Environmental Health Dr Kepha Ombacho.
Image: FILE

Kepha Ombacho

The veteran Ministry of Health public health specialist has survived many boardroom battles and is expected to face coronavirus head-on.

In 2017, Ombacho survived attempts to kick him out of the ministry, having attained 60 years, the mandatory retirement age. 

In July 2019 he was replaced at the public health department by Patrick Amoth, and was moved to head a newly-created department of environmental health.

In the current response strategy, Ombacho is in a three-person team to man all ports of entry.

This is also the team ensuring all incomers are quarantined as per the government directive. 

Francis Gwama

Kwale Health CEC

The one Covid-19 case in Kwale puts Dr Francis Gwama on the spot. He has been coordinating the Covid-19 disease in the county since the first case was confirmed at Msambweni Referral hospital.

He said the nurses who were involved in handling the first patient are on 14-day quarantine.

Among the team behind the fight are four nurses, two medical officers, one Cuban doctor and a physician.

The CEC says the doctors have been cooperative because the county is offering continuous training sessions to motivate them.

“We take these doctors through certain forums to equip them with enough expertise and build courage while on duty,” Gwama said.

He ensures all equipment like face masks, ventilators and other medical tools have been procured.

Dr Iqbal Khandalwa, chief administrator Coast General Hospital

Mombasa county has six cases of  Covid-19.

Dr Iqbal Khandalwa is now leading the team of doctors at the Coast General Hospital.

He has assembled a team of 24 medical personnel to deal with coronavirus patients.

The team comprises doctors, nurses and support staff who will work round the clock.

Anisa Omar, Kilifi Health CEC

Omar is leading the team of medical experts in the fight against Covid-19 in Kilifi county as the overall leader.

The county currently has four isolation wards at Mbudzi in Ganze, Gede in Kilifi North sub-county, Msumarini in Kilifi South and Jibana in Kaloleni sub county.



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