Give non-communicable diseases more attention

A woman is vaccinated against Non-Communicable Diseases in Rwanda.

Photo credit: Cyril Ndegeya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Patients living with NCDs have been put on the back burner as Covid-19 patients are prioritised.
  • NCDs being in every family, let us all fight for the achievement of the highest attainable standards of health, in line with our Constitution.

During a visit to Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital this year, a team from the National Task Force on Mental Health found a pregnant woman trying to climb a fence with patients and staff watching helplessly.

The national psychiatric facility did not have a single injectable drug or appropriate tablet to calm her down. Challenging the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) about it, they seemed to be very surprised that this was an issue of concern at all.

Sadly, patients with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were failed by Kemsa long before the current corruption crisis at the agency. Has the funding for evidence-based, quality essential and lifesaving NCD medicines been allocated to it? For how long?

Patients living with NCDs have been put on the back burner as Covid-19 patients are prioritised. Yet every day we bury people who die to complications of cancer, diabetes, heart, kidney, sickle cell, stroke, mental health disorders and other NCDs. These deaths are due to disrupted access to healthcare, including higher susceptibility to and fear of Covid-19.

Hospital admissions

NCDs account for half of hospital admissions and deaths yet receive only three per cent of the health budget. The Ministry of Health and all health-related agencies should prioritise the management of NCDs through building a resilient supply chain of quality essential NCD medicines and continuous healthcare worker training on NCD-prioritised triaging.

Let the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, though the National Response Committee, include persons living with NCDs among the vulnerable populations eligible for the Covid-19 fund.

September 7-13 was the Global Week of Action on NCDs — to rally advocates to prevention and control of NCDs. This year’s theme is “Accountability — The meaningful involvement of persons with lived experience”. NCDs being in every family, let us all fight for the achievement of the highest attainable standards of health, in line with our Constitution.

Ms Muturi, a member of the Task Force on Mental Health, sits on the NCD Alliance global advisory board. [email protected]