The UK announced support for innovative scientific research that will help individual Kenyan scientists detect coronavirus antibodies in blood donors, visitors to ante-natal care clinics and healthcare workers. The programme will help monitor, understand and inform the ongoing coronavirus response in Kenya and provide learnings for similar countries in responding to and controlling the disease.
The UK has a longstanding record of working with Kenya to prepare for large disease outbreaks, including providing supplies and making sure its healthcare system is well equipped. The British funded Public Health Emergency Operations Centre, opened in 2016, has been at the heart of Kenya’s coronavirus response – helping to trace and rapidly respond to cases.
Announcing the funding during a virtual visit to Kenya, the UK’s International Development Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan said:
Coronavirus is a threat to every one of us around the world. It’s vital we work together to defeat this disease.
The UK is placing science at the heart of our support for Kenya during this pandemic. We believe these studies will provide robust predictions about the spread of infection and help to control the disease, contributing to keeping us all safe.
We will continue to work in close partnership with the Kenyan government and Kenyans in other ways to contain and tackle coronavirus – including through strengthening healthcare and boosting the economy by protecting jobs.
The study is funded by UK aid and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is expected to end in June 2021. The sample study, led by local scientists and authorities, will focus on both confirmed cases where there are no symptoms, confirmed non-severe cases and cases where there are severe symptoms.
During her visit, the International Development Secretary also had an opportunity to hear about the UK and Kenya’s science partnership through a virtual visit to KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Kilifi. Here she witnessed UK and Kenya health partnerships; including our longstanding record of working together to prepare for large disease outbreaks. Earlier, she held bilateral talks with Cabinet Secretary for Health, Mutahi Kagwe, and Chief Administrative Secretary Health, Dr Mercy Mwangangi, where they discussed wider UK and Kenya health partnerships; including the longstanding record of working together. On his part, the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Mutahi Kagwe, thanked the UK government for its support and pledged to continue working together in supporting the Health Sector.
This study is led by scientists from the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, working with officials from the Ministry of Health, the Presidential Policy and Strategy Unit, Aga Khan University Hospital, Kenyatta Hospital, Kenya National Blood Transfusion Services, and several county government executive committee members, among others.
The findings of this work will be shared with the Ministry of Health National coronavirus taskforce and Emergency Operations Centre, helping support the government’s response, whose aim is to protect the most vulnerable people while keeping Kenyan society running.
UK Health Partnerships
The UK has long supported Kenya in providing supplies and supporting health systems in areas of family planning, nutrition, maternal and newborn health.
We have also provided significant support to Kenya through the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM).
Through a 30-year partnership between the University of Oxford and Kenya Medical Research Institute KEMRI, we have worked together in ground-breaking and life-saving research, such as trialling bed nets as a prevention tool for Malaria, pneumonia vaccine trials, and Ebola vaccine trials.
The UK funded the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre opened in 2016, which has been at the heart of Kenya’s COVID-19 response – responsible for contact tracing and rapid responses to cases.
Through UK support, KEMRI is working with researchers at the University of Warwick by producing forecasts of the pandemic in Kenya. These findings are directly informing Ministry of Health decisions through the Kenya COVID-19 modelling review team, led by the University of Nairobi.