Netherlands partnership with Kenya will improve access to healthcare

Dutch Ambassador to Kenya Maarten Brouwer. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

The Covid-19 crisis has taught us that today's health challenges are increasingly international, multidimensional and complex.

Amongst other things, climate change, air quality, urbanisation, mobility, population growth and humanitarian crises are key factors behind global health challenges. As these factors play out in sometimes different and sometimes comparable impacts in all countries, international collaboration is called for.

That made the Netherlands to publish its first Global Health Strategy recently, in which it recognises the importance of strengthening health systems to improve access to primary healthcare. Efforts to strengthen primary healthcare are an efficient and effective strategy for a more equal society and a healthier population.

The essence is uniting the competences of government, universities, private sector, NGOs and financial institutes as well as pooling together of various goals, funds, risks and responsibilities. This way, innovations are more likely to come about and to bring Universal Health Coverage (UHC) closer to realisation.

Globally, the pandemic revealed how partnerships can lead to innovative solutions. Examples from the Netherlands are: artificial intelligence experts supported governments in developing Covid-dashboards that helped predict and prevent outbreaks; at Delft University of Technology a team of students developed a safe, low-cost and easy-to-manufacture mechanical ventilator; and at Brainport Eindhoven, SARA Robotics developed a robot that provides companionship in elderly homes in lockdown.

So why do I raise this issue? Globally, about one-third of the population does not have access to essential health services. In Kenya, this is close to 50 per cent. UHC, a stated goal by the Kenyan government, means that all people have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, and without financial hardship. Very often I hear Kenyans talking about the need for more and better access to health services, a formidable challenge.

This week, a health sector trade mission from the Netherlands will visit Kenya to seek collaboration for tackling this challenge between both countries but more so between private sector companies. There are three central elements to this collaboration; access to high-quality health services, skilled health workers and policymakers that commit to invest in UHC. This mission aims to strengthen public and private sector alliances to achieve SDG goals on health.

The upcoming mission can build on a longstanding support of the Netherlands to Kenya's health ambitions. For instance, private collaboration with PharmAccess produced the SafeCare programme which makes it possible to measure healthcare services against a set of internationally recognised standards.

SafeCare benchmarking enables investors, insurers, patients and donors to make informed, data-driven decisions. Also, the PharmAccess' Medical Credit Fund provides loans to SMEs in the health sector in sub-Sahara Africa that previously had limited access to capital to improve or expand their services. Already, $100 million in loans has been committed to more than 1,800 companies.

Lastly, Philips is widely known in Kenya to deliver highly valued equipment to many hospitals through commercial partnerships with government and various health institutions across the country.

Philips is in close collaboration with the Brainport Eindhoven, a rich source of innovation, to deliver even better equipment in the future. This exemplifies the Dutch Diamond Approach, in which science, private sector, government and civil society work closely to bring about the desired outputs.

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