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June 3, 2021

Boosting COVID-19 Testing Capacity at KEMRI for the National Emergency Response in Kenya

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been a key partner of Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) since its establishment in 1979. KEMRI is now among the institutions taking a leading role in Kenya's response to COVID-19 through various flagship projects among them whole genome sequencing, evaluation of COVID-19 screening kits, production of virus transport media, development of Point-of-Care test kits and COVD-19 testing. In August 2020, JICA donated 50,000 PCR test kits to KEMRI to boost its laboratory capacity for COVID-19 testing. In addition, JICA provided support to the institute to conduct targeted training on preparedness and response to infectious diseases including COVID-19, reaching up to 151 laboratory personnel from the Counties

On 3rd June 2021, the Government of Japan through JICA donated another batch of 75,000 PCR test kits to KEMRI to help the Government of Kenya ramp up the testing for COVID-19. Sen. Hon. Mutahi Kagwe, Cabinet Secretary for Health and H.E. Horie Ryoichi, Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Kenya, attended the handing over ceremony held at the Ministry of Health.

While appreciating Japan's global leadership not only in the health sector but also for Kenya's socio-economic development, the Cabinet Secretary expressed his gratitude for the provision of the test kits particularly under the situation where the spread of the Indian variant was active in the western region of Nyanza including Kisumu County. "We need further support for healthcare. The population needs to be covered by vaccination, while we still have Malaria and Cholera, yet COVID-19 has strained the budget and resources available for essential health services", said Hon. Kagwe.

As for KEMRI, the Cabinet Secretary stressed the need to strengthen not only health research but also human capital at the institute. He spoke about setting up of ‘Kenya Biobank', an enterprise institute to strengthen commercialization noting that the relationship between research and intellectual property rights would bring further benefits.

On his part, H.E. Ambassador Horie noted that the battle against the pandemic has continued for more than a year, which is longer than anyone expected. He extended his appreciation to the people of Kenya for courageously bearing the hardship and effects of the pandemic for such a long time.

He further said that, "through the hard fight against the virus across the world, we have learnt that high level vaccine coverage is one of the most effective ways to combat this virus. Having the vaccination itself, however, does not necessarily assure its sound rollout". Noting the importance of the capacity for administration, Japan has extended an emergency grant aid of over 200 million Kenya Shillings, through UNICEF, to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund will be utilised for the procurement of cold chain equipment and for the reinforcement of the country's institutional capacity to widely and safely administer the vaccine doses.

PhotoHon. Mutahi Kagwe poses for a group photograph with Amb. Horie and other guests at the ceremony

Amb. Horie introduced the work of two Japanese nationals contributing to the COVID-19 response in Kenya. Dr. Raita TAMAKI, a JICA expert, is currently working in the Ministry of Health conducting research and assisting in the implementation on disease surveillance systems. His work assists in the reinforcement of Kenya's institutional capacity to implement policies and to conduct research on COVID-19. There is also a Junior Professional Officer seconded by the Government of Japan to the World Health Organization (WHO) Kenya office. His name is Dr. Kazuki SHIMIZU. He is working on the Health Emergency Programme in Kenya providing support to the Emergency Operating Centre located in the Ministry of Health.

The COVID-19 pandemic requires global action by all Governments, partners and communities in order to contain the spread of the disease, limit the loss of lives and implement measures necessary for socio-economic recovery. JICA together with local and international partners is contributing to the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic as part of its international cooperation activities.


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