NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 11 – Exactly a year ago, the mother of five-month-old Baby Bhakita came knocking for donations at Capital FM’s door.
Her daughter suffered from a heart deformity that required specialised treatment; treatment she could not receive at home. And so it was that she had turned beggar; looking for handouts so she could fly her child to India – ‘the land of healing.’
But regrettably hers is not a unique story, every year, several times a year, many more appeals are made.
Baby Bakhita was lucky because Capital FM’s listeners took up the cause and donated Sh1.6 million in just three days; the target had been Sh1.5 million to be raised in 10 days.
Ben Muchemi, prolific rally driver, wasn’t so lucky; in December of 2013 he lost his battle with stomach cancer.
“Last month I had some belching, I decided to go and see a doctor and they discovered my cancer has come back,” he’d told Capital FM News a year earlier.
The doctors he’d gone to see, were in India. “This,” he said holding up a lavender hued tablet, “costs Sh14,000 in Kenya. In India it cost me Sh700.”
At that point he’d already had 80 percent of his stomach taken out because for four years, in Kenya, he kept receiving a diagnosis of acid reflux.
The story was the same for Kenya’s former Minister for Medical Services Anyang’ Nyong’o. “Here I was, Minister for Medical Services, somebody who is pretty literate, who should have accessed the Internet, and yet for a long time I completely depended on the doctors. I would go to them, they would tell me things I do not check.”
“I was very lucky I caught my cancer in time when it was at a primary level. In fact, when I went to upstate New York for examination, the doctor looked at my PSA [Prostate Specific Antigen] levels and told me I was sitting between the devil and the deep blue sea.”
On Monday, President Uhuru Kenyatta himself recognised that Kenya could stand to gain from India’s advancements in cancer therapy.
His announcement that India would partner with Kenya in developing not only its pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity but in the construction and equipping of a cancer hospital could not have come a moment too soon.
“Many Kenyans have received treatment in Indian hospitals… The Government of India has offered support to Kenya in the area of health; an area in which their expertise and leadership is globally respected. Today, we discussed and approved a proposal forwarded by India to fully fund the development and equipping of a cancer hospital in Kenya,” he said following bi-lateral talks with the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi.
The urgency, Modi said, had become evident even to him in his interaction with President Kenyatta.
“I understand that healthcare is President Uhuru’s key priority. India can join hands with your priorities to shape an affordable and efficient healthcare system in Kenya.”
And so it was that he took with him to State House the keys to 30 field ambulances and the promise of a Bhabhatron — a state-of-the-art nuclear cancer therapy machine developed and manufactured in India — for Kenyatta National Hospital.