Watch out for promises that are ‘unhealthy’

Health worker Covid vaccine

A health worker prepares to administer a jab. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kenyans are among the most educated people in Africa. Our education system tends to wrestle with the crème de la crème of the region. The people of this sun-kissed country with lush rolling greens south of the Sahara pride themselves in being well educated.

It’s with respect to that degree of education that we must demonstrate some ability to write and interpret manifestos and campaign promises.

If the current political temperature is to be relied upon, we have two main presidential aspirants. The rest are necessary extras to this cutthroat game of chance, mudslinging and loud symbolism. The two ‘Rs’ promise to attend to all our prayer items.

Peace, order and garbage collection, they both will deliver in a timely fashion. As a nurse born and trained in this country, I’ve learnt to ask the ‘how’ question of service delivery. Kenya may have missed a few steps towards this reality if the healthcare promises from the two ‘Rs’ are anything to write home about.

Deputy President William Ruto’s camp has promised to reduce National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) premiums for ‘Wanjiku’—the ordinary person. What he has, conveniently, not said are the criteria to determine the ‘Wanjiku’ and who will cover the deficit.

Several social media attempts to ask him to explain that dream were met with a loud silence. A collective bluetick. We don’t have a manifesto yet from DP Ruto; maybe he’s still giving it one more layer of yellow-and-green make-up.

Seal the leaks

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga launched his manifesto with much oomph, colour and razzmatazz.

I’ve read that manifesto from Tunis to Cape Town but I’m still waiting to see how a Raila presidency will seal the leaks in healthcare.

Raila has borrowed his healthcare strategy from the United States’ Affordable Care Act—fondly nicknamed Obamacare—to coin ‘Babacare’. Under it, the government will pay retired civil servants’ medical insurance. Community health workers will be recognised and utilised to boost primary healthcare.

Kenya has an enviable team of community health workers. There is no immunisation campaign that is run in Kenya without the direct input of community health workers and community health extension workers. They are the drivers of primary healthcare. I believe that private healthcare exists to complement public healthcare, not to replace it. Babacare is just a band aid to a gaping wound.

The fundamental problem is that the common mwananchi does not get all the diagnostic and treatment services they require in public hospitals under NHIF and are forced to go to private hospitals, which almost render them bankrupt. Kenyans don’t hate their public hospitals; what they dislike is having to buy basic stuff like gloves because the medical supply chains to hospitals have shut down.

The coming election should birth a bespoke universal healthcare that addresses all the questions that Kenyans have. We must ask for more than branded lesos and baseball caps at campaign rallies.


Ms Maina is a United Kingdom Registered Nurse and Kenya Registered Nephrology Nurse. [email protected] @catemimi1772

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