Kenyan children standing outside (© AP Images)
Children in Kenya will get flavored TB medicine. (© AP Images)

Kenya becomes the first country in the world to roll out a national program giving children tuberculosis medicines in tasty flavors, like strawberry, making it more likely children actually take the medicine.

Experts predict the new sweet-tasting medicines will improve survival rates for children.

“No child should die of TB, yet for too long, we have not had the medicines to mount a sustainable response against childhood TB,” said Robert Matiru, director of operations for UNITAID, a global health initiative.

Until now, health workers have had to cut up bitter-tasting pills to get the right doses for children. The global TB Alliance says that has contributed to “treatment failure and death” in children.

The new treatment comes in the correct doses, is flavored and dissolves in water. Children across Kenya are slated to start receiving the free medicines beginning October 1.

Tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial disease that affects the lungs. It is preventable and curable, but the World Health Organization says that in 2014, TB infected 1 million children worldwide and killed 140,000.

Kenya’s Ministry of Health recorded 7,000 cases of TB in children and infants in 2015.

The development of the improved child-friendly treatment took three years. It was funded by UNITAID, which gave the TB Alliance a grant of $16 million.

So far, 20 other countries have ordered the child-friendly medicines and are planning to roll them out in their respective areas.

“Childhood TB is a problem that can be solved when we choose to act,” said Dr. Enos Masini, head of Kenya’s National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Lung Disease Program.

This article draws on a report from the Voice of America.