Kenya recently joined 115 countries in administering the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination to girls aged ten. This vaccine will prevent the spread of the virus which causes cervical cancer and kills over a quarter a million women around the world every year. The importance of administering this vaccine to our little girls is very important, given that East Africa has the highest rate of Cervical Cancer in the world.
Launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in Mombasa, the vaccination will be offered to girls around the country, free of charge. According to the President, access to the HPV vaccine by our girls will lead to the reduction of new cervical cancer cases and secure lives of our daughters and sisters. This means that our young women, who are critical to the future of the nation, will be protected from early preventable deaths.
Kenya has now joined the family of nations in the battle against this terrible killer. Known to be responsible for 99 per cent of all cases of cervical cancer, eliminating this virus, as Rwanda has already successfully done, will be a major step in ensuring the healthcare of our families. This policy, which will cost almost Sh800 million, is directly in line with assurances the Kenyan President made at this year’s United Nations General Assembly to ensure access to healthcare for all Kenyans by 2022. This is slated to be accomplished eight years before the deadline set by the UN Sustainable Development Goals Programme.
In order to ensure the accomplishment of this goal, Uhuru has increased the money spent on Kenyan’s health by over 50 per cent. He has similarly continued to strengthen the international partnerships that he has been working to build, partnering with the World Health Organization to ensure that the country meets the promised healthcare benchmarks.
Sadly, 75 per cent of Kenyans today do not have adequate health coverage. Healthcare costs also push over 1.5 million Kenyans below the poverty line every year. It is probably with this understanding of the difficulty associated with affording healthcare that Uhuru and the Ministry of Health launched the creative Afya-Plan savings programme. This functions as a group savings programme, allowing individuals, families and communities to each contribute small amounts of money to be later allocated to health-care costs. We all know how difficult it can be to set money aside while trying to support our families. This ingenious plan makes it easier and ensures that when loved ones do need health-coverage, they can access it and afford it.
Importantly, weaker segments of society will not be excluded by Uhuru’s ambitious plan. Understanding that for some, even small savings are impossible, the President has assured us that Kenyans over 70, new mothers and their babies as well as families with disabled children, will all be covered free of charge. The plan also addresses severe health conditions, which in the past have destroyed families economically and even forced some from their homes. Therefore, diseases like diabetes, cancer and kidney malfunction will all be treated under the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF). And of course, in order to ensure accessibility, Uhuru and his team are working to set up ten new specialty hospitals across the country, including one specializing in cancer treatment.
A true leader is one who looks beyond politics and understands the issues that keep his citizens up at night. While working hard to develop the country’s political system, economy and infrastructure, Uhuru seems not to have forgotten that what matters most is the personal well-being of the people of Kenya. If we don’t have our health, we have nothing. Although we talk about and invest money in addressing other issues that endanger us and our families, such as terrorism and food security, cancer itself is the third leading cause of death in our country, after infectious and cardiovascular diseases. Many of these deaths are preventable, if adequate access to preventative healthcare can be ensured.
And it seems that is exactly what Uhuru is working to accomplish. The President has publicly asserted that “the world has officially recognised the pivotal role that health for all can play in fostering global prosperity”. Kenya, as a continental leader, must play a role in that, for the future of our children, for the future of our families and for the future of our great continent.
Mr Mugolla comments on topical issues. [email protected]