By Mary Hearty

The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) held its 11th annual scientific conference -KASH conference themed: Strengthening Health Systems in Kenya through Research, Pandemic Preparedness, Technology and Innovation in the post COVID-19 era from June 8 to 10, 2021. It was the Institute’s first virtual annual scientific conference.

Dr Mercy Mwangangi, Chief Administrative Secretary Ministry of Health  who was the chief guest said  that KEMRI is doing outstanding work in response and containment of COVID-19, by supporting the national COVID-19 surveillance, bulk screening and testing.

She also lauded the Institute’s vast knowledge and experience in research activities on Dengue Fever, Rift Valley Fever, HIV, Hepatitis B and others.

Dr Mwangangi noted that KEMRI recently developed PCR COVID-19 testing kit is not only cheap compared to others, but can also be deployed in remote health facilities to help in community surveillance and mass screening for both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases. She revealed that the testing kit is awaiting formal launch.

Others present during the official opening session included Prof Samuel Kariuki, acting Director General and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) KEMRI, Dr Daniel M. Mbinda, KEMRI Board of Management, Dr Charles Mbogo, Chair of KASH Organizing Committee, Dr Zulu Eliya, Founder and Director of the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP).

Also present were Prof Fredrick Chite Asirwa, CEO of International Cancer Institute, Prof Kariuki Njenga the Chief Research Officer at KEMRI, Prof Lukoye Atwoli, the Dean of Agha Khan University Medical College East Africa, Vice Chancellors from various universities, distinguished scientists, among other delegates.

The conference included 74 abstracts, a wide variety of presentations in 13 scientific sessions, three symposiums and five plenary discussions.

Following the conference tradition, plenary and scientific sessions focused on new scientific knowledge and offered opportunities for structured discourse on the current major issue, the COVID-19 pandemic facing healthcare in Kenya and the Africa region.

Prof Samuel Kariuki, acting Director General and CEO KEMRI, noted that the KASH conference is not just timely for the country but also the rest of Africa and globally, the Institute being a global institution.

“KEMRI stands strong in taking cognizant of the Presidential declaration of the four pillars of development, particularly the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for which our institution has been a key player. We carry out evidence-based activities that enable us to support the Ministry of Health and the public to access affordable healthcare,” Prof Kariuki added.

He stated that UHC is one of KEMRI’s flagship programs in providing not only solutions for diagnostics and management of diseases but also how to provide quality affordable healthcare including disease surveillance.

Dr Zulu Eliya called for the need for collaborations among institutions to optimize knowledge and decision making for development of health policies.