The WHO call for ‘Leaving no one behind’ and ‘delivering the Triple Billion Together!’ found great resonance in Immaculate Otene’s words. The mother of four who attended the Kenyan launch of the Universal Health Coverage, UHC, programme in Kisumu City recently expressed her gratitude for the newly launched UHC pilots which she said promised better health and future for her and her family.
“Now I am reassured that the money I would need for the healthcare of my four children can go to their education. The 33-year old mother had attended the national launch of the UHC pilots in Kisumu, December 13, where she witnessed President Uhuru Kenyatta preside over the launch of the national UHC programme in Kisumu City.
She said while she had been fortunate to benefit from the Linda Mama (Protect Mama) initiative intended to encourage and support mothers to give birth in hospital at no cost, the launching of UHC was a new promise for further health care of the whole person.
“It is reassuring and a great promise for the future of my family,” she added. She is unemployed and her husband often goes without a job.
For Trizer Anyango who is expecting her first baby in two months, the UHC promise could not have come at a better time. “I am a student and not working so knowing that my child and I will be taken care of all the way is a great relief,” she said.
Preparations for the launch in the area had already caused a stir as residents waited to see its reality and fulfilment. “Many people in Kisumu who are jobless or do manual jobs cannot pay for their medical bills or healthcare. So they are hoping this initiative will give them great relief if family members get ill,” she added
The launch in Kisumu marks the beginning of what the Kenya’s Ministry of Health has been working towards in 2018 as its experts strived to bring to reality what President Kenyatta declared end of 2017. The President had announced that health care was to be one of the four pillars of his plan for socio-economic growth, alongside food security, affordable housing and manufacturing. He pledged to make quality health care services available to all households in the next four years. This was followed by a pledge by WHO Director-General Dr Tedros in January 2018 when he visited the country and held meetings with the President. He expressed WHO’s commitment to fully support the country as it strives towards attaining UHC.
All this set off the country and Ministry of Health to a busy start in which health teams supported by WHO and health partners worked on a road map that would be suitable for Kenya. The country after months of consultations and deliberations, settled for a two phase strategy in which the UHC model was to be first piloted in four counties before rolling it out to the rest of the country. The four counties are Kisumu, Machakos, Nyeri and Isiolo, all of which were selected because collectively they have a high prevalence of communicable and non-communicable diseases, high population density, high maternal mortality, and high incidence of road traffic injuries. The pilots are the first phase of the UHC model expected to be rolled out in every household in all 47 counties during the next four years.
For Ms Otene and many residents of Kisumu, the day of the launch was a dream come true. The launch was presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta, a significant presence for a project he has championed and want to sustain in the country in the next four years as president. It was also attended by national leaders among them governors and representatives from the four pilot counties, the council of governors and partners who included WHO leadership led by Dr Tedros, the Director-General and Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Africa Regional Director.
Cabinet Secretary Honorable Sicily Kariuki at the launch said: “We want to demonstrate how to perfect the health system in terms of delivery of health services.”
“We also call on everyone to embrace UHC and its benefits and we encourage everyone to take responsibility for their own health by going for check-ups and early screening, immunization of their children and all necessary preventive health measures,” she added.
Speaking at the event Dr Tedros lauded the President and the country for the boldness and commitment to pursue universal health coverage which he said will lead the country to thrive. He thanked President Kenyatta for leading the country in that direction and added: “The changes you are undertaking have the power not just to change the lives of millions of Kenyans, but to change the lives of millions more in the region” he said.
“Kenya is blazing a trail as a regional leader and that success here could have a ripple effect throughout the region.”
He added: “UHC enables individuals, families, communities, businesses and nations to thrive adding that “good health enables adults to earn and children to learn”.
The launch had coincided with the Global Management Meeting (GMM) which had brought all WHO leadership to Nairobi, the first time such a meeting had been held outside the organzations’ Geneva headquarters. Among the leadership and management deliberations were how to align the whole of WHO around the common vision and operating model - General Programme of Work (GP13) - to achieve the triple billion goals focusing on making more impact on people’s lives in every country. The GP13 aims at achieving major shifts in WHO’s organizational culture, to strengthen its performance in countries, and to improve global health. The triple billion goals include: 1 billion more people benefitting from universal health coverage; 1 billion more people better protected from health emergencies; and 1 billion more people enjoying better health and well-being
The GMM meeting hosted President Uhuru Kenyatta who expressed gratitude for WHO’s support and underscored the government’s commitment in delivering UHC to its people. “We view UHC not as a destination but as a continuous process which will involve constant widening of the social safety nets to ensure that no one is left behind,” the president said.