The Government will this year fully fund all national teams participating in international sports events, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.
The President said sports, culture and arts were crucial to the economic development of the country, and therefore could no longer be left in the hands of well-wishers to sponsor activities.
“This year Harambee Stars will not beg or borrow, but will be fully funded by the Government,” the President said, adding: “Likewise, our national rugby team, netball team and all other national teams will be fully sponsored by the Government.”
The President was addressing more than 25,000 participants in the fourth edition of the Beyond Zero Half Marathon yesterday morning.
He reiterated that all athletes would be sponsored and that they would no longer lack uniform, as they represent the nation in international sporting events.
“The new Sports, Arts and Social Development Fund will ensure no athlete is left behind,” Uhuru said.
The President commended the First Lady for her efforts in helping mothers and children access quality healthcare services, saying the initiative had highly contributed to the decrease of maternal and child mortality rates.
“This is a noble initiative, which goes a long way in assisting to achieve the national government agenda of zero maternal and child mortality,” said the President.
Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and former First Lady Roman Tesfaye participated in yesterday’s race, which attracted both amateur and elite athletes.
Deputy President William Ruto, Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana and Nyandarua’s Francis Kimemia also participated.
Josephat Bett and Brilliant Kipkoech won the 21km men and women’s races, and were awarded cash prizes of Sh250,000 each.
In the 10km race, where the First Lady competed, Vincent Ng’etich won the men’s event while Margaret Chelimo took the lead in the women’s category.
She beat Irene Kimais and Monica Ngige, who were second and third respectively.
While thanking the participants for their commitment to the Beyond Zero initiative, the First Lady said proceeds from this year’s marathon would be invested in interventions aimed at advocating policy formulation to transform the lives of women and children.
“We dedicate it to babies - who are the future of this country. We dedicate it to our children, especially those living with physical and intellectual challenges,” said the First Lady.
“We also dedicate this day to our elderly, our senior citizens, our grandparents — for their love and sacrifice to make Kenya what it is today.”
Dr Ruto commended the First Lady for her relentless efforts in ensuring access to quality health services for women and children, saying all Kenyans of goodwill should continue to support her noble efforts.
Mr Desalegn praised the First Lady, saying the entire region was inspired by her initiative that was worth emulating.
Others who spoke at the event were Heath Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki and her Sports counterpart Amina Mohamed.
The First Lady said the pioneering concept of the marathon was inspired by the high rates of maternal and child mortality countrywide.