Do not forget health sector in the heat of campaigns

The Regional Cancer Treatment Centre at Coast General Hospital in Mombasa County on February 8, 2022.  [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Politics plays an indispensable role in health affairs. The Kenya Constitution (2010) provides democratic rights for citizens to engage in political processes. It is every citizen’s hope that elected leaders will embrace the same constitution by enacting 'build back better' laws and bolster policies that will shape and streamline the social determinants of health.

Everyone recognises that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. However, this can only be possible if there is a political commitment that will judiciously implement the Abuja declaration of April 2001 through which African heads of state unanimously consented to allocate at least 15 per cent of their annual budgets to improve the health sector.

In the same vein, the one per cent allocation of gross domestic product for research and development that was agreed on in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2007 should not become a mirage.

In the 2021/2022 budget, the health sector was allocated Sh121.09 billion out the overall budget estimated at Sh3.66 trillion. This translates to 3.3 per cent, an indication that we are still treading on unfulfilled political declarations. Parliament is planning to develop the supplementary budget and annual budget for the financial year 2022/2023.

It should aspire to allocate more financial resources to the health sector, both at the county and national levels to cushion the eventualities of the upcoming election. Electioneering periods have been associated with the government giving the health sector a wide berth. It so happens that resources are channelled to security and electoral matters.

Political 'epidemics'

However, this should not result in political 'epidemics' and 'earthquakes' that will consequently hamper the reinvigoration of the health systems and Covid-19 vaccination efforts. The budget should compel all levels of government to improve physical infrastructure, forecast, quantify and procure enough health products and technologies. More healthcare workers and staff should be hired and be motivated through timely salary payment.

This will be in tandem with universal healthcare coverage that was rolled out countrywide by President Uhuru Kenyatta. UHC aims at inspiring citizens to access and enjoy full spectrum of quality health services where and when they need them without suffering financial hardships. National and county governments, parastatals and non-governmental organisations should make sure that staff medical insurances are valid and acceptable for utilisation in various health facilities.

Individually, everyone is encouraged to cushion themselves from political epidemic by ensuring you’re insured medically. This will drastically reduce out-of-pocket expenditure. If you anchor Article 43 to this discussion, truly and politically speaking, it is within the duty of the government to ensure that no one chooses between buying medicine and buying food for their family.

Every life matters. If you are healthy, you can wish for anything and strive to achieve it, but if you are not healthy, your only wish is to have your health back.

Mr Maragia is a Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (FELTP) Resident-Nairobi. [email protected]