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KEMSA is the main government agency that purchases drugs and all health-related equipment for the national and county governments.

Capital Health

All eyes on Chao Mwadime to reform KEMSA after COVID millionaires scam and USAID tiff

NAIROBI, Kenya My 2 – All eyes are now on the new Chairperson of the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) board, Mary Chao Mwadime following her appointment by President Uhuru Kenyatta last week.  

Kenyans and international donors are looking up to her to restore confidence at the scandal-riddled agency that is charged with the responsibility of purchasing drugs an non-pharmaceutical items for distribution to government health facilities.

Mwadime is a former USAID employee with vast experience in health matters.

Her appointment came days after USAID complained of strained relationship with KEMSA, which has been in the news since last year for mismanaging billions of shillings on COVID-19 purchases, including money from donors.

The scandal a KEMSA is under investigation by the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) and the parliamentary Public Investment Committee (PIC). No arrests or prosecutions have been effected yet several months after President Uhuru Kenyatta set out timelines.

Just recently, USAID complained of trust issues at KEMSA over the distribution of ARVs which were stuck at the port of Mombasa.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe admits this and has vowed more reforms there.

Mwadime replaces Kembi Gitura who was appointed to chair the Communications Authority board last year.

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The entire board he chaired has been in office until last week when President Uhuru Kenyatta dismissed it and named a new one headed by Mwadime.

The changes are critical to not only Kenyans but the international donors and partners as well, among them USAID which heavily supports Kenya’s health programmes.

Just last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta held virtual talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was on a virtual tour of Kenya and Nigeria, on a range bilateral issues, including on health and fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Uhuru Kenyatta held virtual bilateral talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on April 2, 2021.

During the talks, Blinken is reported to have emphasized on concrete actions needed to be taken at KEMSA to allow people living with HIV/AIDS continue to enjoy what was started by former US President Bush, The Presidential Emergency Programme For Aids Relief (PEPFAR),  which allowed people to carry on with their productive lives.

President Kenyatta and Secretary Blinken also discussed trade and investment opportunities, touching on the untapped potential held by the Kenya-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA), according to a statement issued by State House Spokeswoman Kanze Dena.

“Also discussed was Kenya’s elevated role in regional peace and security as a member of the UN Security Council. Other matters discussed by President Kenyatta and Secretary Blinken were human rights, refugees, health and climate change,” she said.

With regard to COVID, Blinken noted that there’s obviously been a challenge because the primary contributor to COVAX in terms of the vaccines has been India, which is currently recording massive infections and deaths.

He however said. ‘’Moving forward, what you heard I think announced is, having

got to the point where we are comfortable that our population can be effectively vaccinated,

we have supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which we have contracted for, as well down the

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road as other vaccines that may be becoming available to us, which we are now in turn shortly

going to be in a position of making available to other countries – either through COVAX, or

directly, bilaterally’’. 

The US Secretary of state said they have engaged with COVAX where the US has invested $2 billion upfront and there is another 2 billion dollars to come between now and 2022 as other countries step up.

This will see selected African countries benefit from 60 million doses of the vaccine currently under review in the United States. 

Corona virus which continues to replicate, he said, is believed to be mutating into new variants, and those variants could come back and bite countries and people who have already been vaccinated potentially.

He therefore, said that the right thing to do, is to make sure that everyone everywhere is getting access to the vaccine, and that this be done on an equitable basis, responsive as well to where the need is most urgent.

African countries have had difficulties in accessing the COVID-19 vaccines due to a shortage leading to accusations of hoarding by the developed countries.

Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary has warned of a delay in the second batch of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine dosses, which were expected in the country, attributing the challenge to the high demand in India, which is worst, affected by the pandemic lately.

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Kagwe said Kenya was now working to acquire doses for the Johnson and Johnson as well as the Pfizer.

Kenya had acquired 1.02 million vaccines through the COVAX facility in February. The new delay means people expecting to get the second dose of the vaccine will wait longer.

Less than 100,000 people who received Russia’s Sputnik vaccine, which was brought in by a private distributor, have already received their second dose, with the government having banned the importation of the vaccine for lack of proper government approvals.

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