If health isn’t a priority in Kenya, what is?

Kenya Medical Supplies Authority offices in Industrial Area, Nairobi, on September 9. 


Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Kemsa is currently caught up in procurement and financial irregularities, misuse of Covid-19 funds as well as overpricing of medical supplies, including drugs.
  • Kenyan doctors are still on strike, demanding increased capacity, compensation and staffing, which are not new demands but somehow still go unheard.

The Covid-19 pandemic has over the past few weeks exposed lack of prioritisation of the real issues Kenyans are facing. It’s bemusing that even when it’s evident that the world has turbulently changed and the people facing double vulnerabilities should be a priority, Kenya is still steadfast in its inability to operate out of care.

A good example is the scandal at the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa), which revealed the undisguised depths of theft and the contempt that government agencies harbour for the people.

Kemsa, a state corporation under the Ministry of Health whose mandate is to procure, warehouse and distribute drugs and medical supplies, is currently caught up in procurement and financial irregularities, misuse of Covid-19 funds as well as overpricing of medical supplies, including drugs.

HIV/Aids drugs

On top of this, it was reported that Kemsa is yet to supply HIV/Aids drugs worth Sh1.2 billion to the National Aids and STD Control Programme (NASCOP), forcing millions of Kenyans who depend on anti-retroviral medicine to either buy from private hospitals or go without.

According to UNAIDS, “All people living with HIV should reach out to their health-care providers to ensure they have adequate stocks of essential medicines” , but in cases where these medicines aren’t available, where does this leave the people in need?

Amid these jarring revelations, Kenyan doctors are still on strike, demanding increased capacity, compensation and staffing, which are not new demands but somehow still go unheard.

Patients who sought medical care at public hospitals were turned away because there was no one to attend to them. The situation needs immediate intervention, yet this seems not to be a priority.

Sh300 million

Kenya’s health system needs support. And that it’s people who don’t have the privilege of going to private facilities who’ll pay the price of this lacking support is completely alarming.

It is baffling that the government donated Sh300 million to the African Union Covid-19 Response Fund and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) when its own internal health situation is positively wanting?

It makes one wonder what genuinely are the priorities when people get turned away from hospitals, HIV patients don’t have access to ARVs, doctors don’t have what they need, yet there is money to be donated.

There’s nothing wrong with donating funds; it’s just questionable when key issues are left hanging and undone. What message doe this send to doctors and caregivers who’ve been on the frontline battling coronavirus without adequate resources or protective gear, which cost them their own lives?

What message does this send to other Kenyans who have to make impossible choices between food, health or even shelter? Where is the line drawn for the government to begin operating in a manner that demonstrates its genuine care for the people?

okoreschea@gmail.com