UN Inter Agency Task Force visits Kenya to boost efforts in addressing prevention and control of non-communicable diseases

NAIROBI, Kenya |30 September 2014 – A United Nations Inter Agency Task Force comprising WHO, UNDP, UNFPA, World Bank, UNICEF and UNAIDS launched a ground- breaking mission in Kenya today to support the country to effectively respond to the epidemic of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cancers, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and heart diseases.

NCDs account for 27% of deaths suffered by Kenyans aged between 30 and 70 years, equivalent to almost 370 000 people. The main risk factors for NCDs in Kenya are tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, consumption of unhealthy diets and harmful use of alcohol. NCDs contribute to over 50% of inpatient admissions and 40% of hospital deaths, causing a substantial financial burden and pushing individuals, families and communities into poverty.

Dr Custodia Mandlhate, WHO’s Representative to Kenya, says the aim of the week-long mission is to assist the country in finalizing – and put into effect as soon as possible – an action plan and implementation framework to address heart diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, different forms of cancer, and other NCDs, involving a number of government ministries, UN agencies, and partners from civil society and the private sector.

“Tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet and the harmful use of alcohol are the main causes of these diseases,” says Dr Mandlhate. “Working together to tackle these diseases and their risk factors was agreed at the World Health Assembly last year as integral part of the WHO Global NCD Action Plan, 2013-2020.”

The Joint Mission of the United Nations Interagency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of NCDs (UNIATF) is using its five-day mission to encourage Kenya to address NCDs using a multi-sectoral approach, as the health sector cannot address the NCDs scourge alone.

“The health sector alone cannot turn back the tide of NCDs,” according to Dr Nicholas Banatvala, from the Geneva-based WHO Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health Cluster. “Action on NCDs requires all-of-society action, and this is why this mission to Kenya is so important, as it is bringing together ministries from across government, the civil society, and multiple UN agencies with diverse mandates to join forces in the battle against NCDs. We know what works when it comes to government and its partners helping individuals in Kenya make healthy choices: we need to ensure these NCD-friendly policies are in place”

The great levels of illness and death associated with NCDs has meant that the Kenyan government has prioritized NCDs prevention and control in its National Medium Term Plan (MTPII) 2014-2018; National Health Strategic Plan (KNSSP) 2014-2018; the just-launched United Nations Development Assisted Framework (UNDAF) 2014-2018 for Kenya; and the Kenya third generation WHO Country Cooperation Strategy (2014-2019).

This week’s UNIATF mission will include meetings with Kenya’s Principal Secretary for Health, senior officials within Kenya’s Ministry of Health responsible for NCDs, health promotion, community health and tobacco control. The mission will also meet with officials from Kenya’s ministries of Labour and Social Security; the Treasury, Information, Communication and Technology; Transport and Industrialization; Land Housing and Urban Development; and Education; plus the Tobacco Control Board and National Authority for the Campaign Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse (NACADA).

The United Nations Resident Coordinator for Kenya and other members of UN Country team for Kenya will be briefed on the objectives of the mission as well as the main findings and recommendations. The UN taskforce will also meet with representatives of academia and civil society.

Globally, 38 million people die every year from NCDs, including 28 million in developing countries. Some 16 million of these deaths are premature, involving people dying before they reach the age of 70. The number of NCD deaths has increased worldwide and in every region since 2000.

About the Joint Mission of the United Nations Interagency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (UNIATF)

The UNIATF, which will stage numerous more missions to other countries during 2014 and 2015, is clear that the responsibility for tacking NCDs lies with government, but that it can only do this through extensive collaboration across government and with a broad range of development partners. The aim is to reduce the vast number of premature deaths for NCDs in Kenya in line with WHO voluntary global target of a 25% reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2025.

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For further information, please contacts:

WHO Country Office, Kenya
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WHO HQ: Paul Garwood
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