This is an article written in The Standard Newspaper by NARC Kenya party leader and a former Justice Minister, Martha Karua.
The original article can be read here
REMEMBERING OUR HEALTHCARE WORKERS
Dear Kenyans, we begin this press conference with a message of solidarity and encouragement to our healthcare workers.
WE ARE ENCOURAGED AND GRATEFUL for the continued dedication and sacrifice by those in the frontlines of Kenya’s struggle against Corona. Our deepest gratitude to healthcare workers across the republic who, despite an imperfect working environment, continue to ensure that those in need receive the help they deserve. Our hearts go out those we’ve lost in the line of duty, including but not limited to Doreen Lugaliki, Peter Kiarie, Marian Awuor, Abdi Yussuf, Clifford Manyara and Moses Ringera. May their loved ones find healing and courage in their self-sacrifice.
To date, more than 700 healthcare workers have tested positive for the Corona, yet most cannot access the healthcare services they need to save their lives and their loved ones. AS WE SPEAK, healthcare workers are on strike in Homa Bay county, with other counties likely to follow soon unless quick corrective action is taken by both county and national governments.
WE FIND IT UNACCEPTABLE that despite their critical role at this moment, healthcare workers still go for months without salary; work with insufficient and/or sub-standard Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs); lack medical insurance to access healthcare services they provide for other Kenyans and; have absolutely no compensation mechanism for those who die in the line of duty, leaving families with millions in medical bills that they must pay for before they can bury their loved ones. This we find morally incomprehensible.
DEAR KENYANS, We gather here today to reflect on the State of Our Nation 148 days since the government announced the first recorded case of Corona Virus in Kenya. Since that day in March, the government together with partners and key stakeholders have taken measures to evaluate what this meant for our people’s health, education, economy and ability to put food on their plate.
THE FEDERATION OF KENYA EMPLOYERS (FKE) reports that two months after the announcement of the first case, over 342,000 Kenyans had lost their jobs in an economy that was already bleeding from official corruption, mismanagement and debt-binging long before Corona. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) reported that by May 2020, up to 1/3rd of Kenyans were unable to pay rent while 43% of the active labour force was unable to find work due to the effects of the corona pandemic. Multiple companies have closed down, more have resized their workforce and the gig and kibarua economy lay in ruin across urban and rural Kenya. Simply put, very many Kenyans cannot afford to be alive!
WE ARE AWARE that to date, the government has received billions from external partners, re-allocated and appropriated billions from the last budget including through supplementary budgets, allocated more billions in the current budget, and received billions from individual well-wishers and private businesses and entities in Kenya. It is reasonable to expect a more robust, transparent and humane response by the government.
But that has not been the case. Instead, the pandemic seems to have opened floodgates for abuse of public finance, unreasonable flouting of procurement laws and abuse of supplementary budgets for purposes that are not consistent with public interest.
WE ARE APPALLED that less than 4years since the #MafyaHouseScandal, we are seeing new revelations of theft and abuse of healthcare monies by public servants, their close relatives and partners in crime at a time when millions of Kenyans cannot simply afford to live. Though predictable, President Kenyatta’s silence in the face of this repeat performance is regrettable even as the government shifts the Corona burden from the State to citizens through a chorus of ‘Personal Responsibility’ and self-care. As Kenyans face rising infections including among neglected frontline healthcare workers, questionable state of preparedness at county and national levels and a worsening socio-economic situation, Kenyans need immediate relief, accountability and a credible roadmap in dealing with the pandemic. As Kenyans, we must now make legitimate and urgent demand for a better, more responsive, ethical and empathetic leadership.
WE ARE CONVINCED that President Kenyatta and the government have failed in their duty of care to the citizens. In the last three years, multiple Opinion Polls have highlighted with significant clarity what the people of Kenya consider pressing needs, all of which have become ever more urgent with the Corona pandemic. These include basic needs for (all) food, shelter and security from arbitrary eviction, quality accessible and affordable healthcare and protection of livelihoods and economic opportunities that can sustain ordinary citizens.
President Kenyatta and his government have ignored these pressing needs, preferring their private and political priorities. Billions of shillings are being spent on projects with questionable public utility value. Billions more have been spent on building bridges where there are no rivers, in essence a breaking bridges initiative. We can no longer accept to tie the destiny of tens of millions of Kenyans to the short term and selfish desires of heartless leadership. We are stating unequivocally that President Kenyatta’s private interests and 2022 succession must not be forced on Kenyans when his government remains incapable of doing what governments are supposed to do: TAKE CARE OF ITS CITIZENS and DO NO HARM TO THEM. At a moment of great anxiety and vulnerability, both State-led corruption and a misplaced obsession with succession politics are hurting Kenyans constitutional right to healthcare, education, food, shelter and jobs.
FOR THESE AND MANY REASONS, WE DEMAND THE FOLLOWING FROM PRESIDENT KENYATTA AND HIS GOVERNMENT:
- An immediate end to the long-drawn confusion and lack of leadership in the Education sector. Comprehensively address growing concerns by parents about the fate and future of education. We do not believe that putting our children’s education on hold for a year is acceptable. Parents and learners need to see leadership that inspires confidence and that the government knows what it is doing. This is not the case.
- Full disclosure, transparency and accountability for all COVID-19 funds, resources and equipment from ALL sources including loans, grants, donations and in-kind support both locally and internationally. Publish and make accessible the roster of beneficiaries of the government Covid-19 relief funds and PPEs to date.
- Reallocate and redirect significant national government budget and resources to health. Reverse unreasonable additional Covid-19 response-related budget allocations from national security towards public health; The government must their business as usual approach and prioritise the health and well-being of Kenyans, which includes protection of livelihoods for informal workers and businesses as well as the chronically unemployed.
- Investigate, arrest, and successfully prosecute thieves at Afya House and across government who have stolen or made it possible to steal and/or abuse Covid-19 response monies and other resources. Not a single person has been prosecuted in the #MafyaHouseScandal of 2016 despite government promises to do so. We demand accountability. President Kenyatta must address the endemic corruption in the health sector, including the adverse mention of people close to him.
- The national government must meet the medical costs for all healthcare workers diagnosed with COVID-19. We find the state of public health dire, and the situation of healthcare workers morally unacceptable in the middle of a public health emergency of this magnitude. To demonstrate a duty of care for our healthcare workers, we demand:
- Immediate and unconditional payment of all delayed salaries and benefits to healthcare workers
- Immediate provision of QUALITY and SUFFICIENT Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for all healthcare workers
- That County and national governments provide comprehensive medical insurance to ALL frontline healthcare workers and their families
- That the National government implements a compensation package for all frontline healthcare workers to last the duration of the pandemic
- Provide Cash Transfers for all Kenyans in need and suspend HELB payments. Our mobile money capabilities should make this efficient and traceable. It is moments like this that credible, legitimate governments show their citizens the direct and more personalised benefit of their taxes. Additionally, in the wake of the unprecedented job losses and dire economic situation, HELB must suspend compulsory payments for at least 24 months for those who need the relief.
- Provide Cash Grants to MSMEs. Medium, small and micro enterprises are the engine of our economy and yet we continue to see an unhealthy fixation with the 1% of big businesses who are politically connected and have superior lobbying power. We demand a stop to the reckless actions bordering on harassment of legitimate businesses, causing unnecessary harm to those trying to survive the pandemic. We demand cash grants as emergency support for the MSMEs and greater consultation and engagement.
- Immediate remittance of all funds due to the counties. This consistent and deliberate delay in remitting funds to county governments and usurping county functions is at the centre of sabotage against devolution.
- Disclose and re-allocate BBI Funds to COVID-19 Response and Recovery. We demand an account of all the money that has been allocated and/or spent on the BBI Project including foreign support and/or assistance. We demand the immediate cessation of these activities and the reallocation of these resources to Covid-19.
- Public health policy and resource decision making must move from State House and Office of the President back to the Ministry of Health. Health is a devolved function and it is untenable that the bulk of health resources are centralized at State House. We demand health allocation to counties be commensurate with the devolved responsibility. The concentration of decision making at the centre is not only unconstitutional, but it is also emerging as an enabler of corruption, nepotism and patronage.
Finally, we want to thank Kenyans for their steadfast support for one another through numerous acts of generosity in spirit and resources in a way that reflects the importance of individual and collective responsibility. Kenyans have been patient, and our patient is worn thin. We deserve better than the government apathy and neglect we are witnessing. What we need is universal healthcare access, a definitive end to State-led corruption, social safety nets for vulnerable families and credible participatory plans for getting children back either to learning.
For all practical purposes, this government has collapsed. The only things that seems to be functioning in this government are mis-procurement, taxation and political patronage. KENYANS DESERVE BETTER.
Thank you, and May God Bless Kenya