Government should do much more to save Kenyans' lives
| April 7th 2021
Today, Kenya joins the rest of the world in marking World Health Day. This day, first celebrated in 1950, is aimed at creating awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organisation (WHO).
This year's theme, building a fairer, healthier world for everyone, is apt coming at a time when the world is ailing, thanks to the raging covid-19 pandemic. Globally, more than three million people have been felled by Covid-19. Kenya has recorded more than 2,000 deaths.
The world has never been gloomier since the Second World War. Luckily, there is a glimmer of hope. Several vaccines have been developed and deployed around the world.
Unfortunately, even as these vaccines promise to give the world a lifeline, poor countries are being left out. Well-off countries are using their immense wealth to stockpile on vaccines at the expense of poorer ones.
That way, it will be impossible to build a fairer, healthier world for everyone. Encouragingly, COVAX, co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and WHO, is doing its best to ensure the poor are not left behind. But clearly, it has a long way to go.
For that reason, poor countries, besides banking on COVAX, should order whatever amount of vaccines they can directly from the manufacturers to hasten the vaccination process. Rwanda has done this. There is no reason Kenya shouldn't.
But besides vaccines, Kenya has a lot to think about on this World Health Day. Our health facilities are stretched to the limit and most lack crucial equipment and staff.
Hospitals are increasingly suffering a shortage of medical oxygen, which is important in saving the lives of Covid-19 patients in need of respiratory support. Kenyatta National Hospital is the latest to report an acute shortage of oxygen. Hospitals are also running short of ICU beds as the number of Covid-19 patients continues to rise. The government must do everything within its means to ensure that our health facilities get these essentials so as we can save lives.
But even as we do everything to trounce the coronavirus, we must not relent our efforts to tackle other killer diseases. The government should be lauded for taking action to release antiretroviral and TB medicines that have been held at the Port of Mombasa since January this year over a tax dispute. It is incredible that such important medicines were held up at the port while Kenyans were suffering. News of their impending release is no doubt sweet music to the ears of Kenyans on this World Health Day.
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