By Kinaga Mbugua
I have a friend waiting to take the next available flight to India. And no, he still doesn’t have his visa. I’m not sure about the passport too. But these are not things we discuss, when there’re more important things to think about. One of them being how he will raise monies to finance his return ticket to India.
His name is Governor Joel Evans. We went to school together; but I was his senior. We both went through the same lecturers, and did the same course. Bachelors’ degree in Political Science and Public Administration. A brilliant and promising soul. A Kenyan reincarnation of Thomas Sankara. A young man full of life, but today he can barely enjoy it. Cancer has made it impossible for him to play his part in building this nation.
A year ago, something started developing on the left-side of his neck. It looked like a boil at first, but then it kept growing. Eventually it became a growth. And now, doctors claim its cancerous. They are calling it Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma. They say it has to be removed; fast. He needs Ksh. 900, 000 to have this done, and to cater for his return ticket to India as well. Beyond the money though, he needs us. Each one of us who can whisper a prayer, call to encourage and tell him that everything will be fine. He needs someone who can set apart some Ksh 20, 50, 100…anything to help reduce this budget. He needs each one of us.
And then there’s Carole Warue. A second year student from Moi University as well. She’s majoring in Education (Guidance and Counseling). She’s currently at home though, unable to proceed with her studies. Carole who’s suffering from acute Leukemia, needs about Ksh 6 millionto have a bone marrow transplant in India. Not to mention the Ksh 1.1 million she owes to Kenyatta Hospital; which has seen the family sell of their piece of land to offset the balance. I doubt they have cleared the bill. Like Governor, she too needs us to stand with her, pray for her, and help airlift her to India. She needs our concerted efforts to put a smile back on her face again.
The stories of these two young Kenyans ought to make every Kenyan out there angry. Not just with with the sadness that is brought by an illness, but with how we have chosen to deal with it.
In the recent days, I have been broke; sometimes beyond words. And often when I find myself in such a sorry state (the other time is when I’m pissed off or disappointed), I retreat to a hollowness of thought. And so I went into some meditation.
I wasn’t broke because I had drank all my salary. Or that I had gone into gambling. Or discovered the esthetic pleasure of women. Far from it. I had friends, and sometimes acquaintances who needed my financial intervention on a number of instances. A major one being the off-setting of their hospital bills. I had contributed through M-pesa paybills, bank transfers and even cash at hand. I had done all that. And every time I did, I was reminded that though this may be one of the viable and moral ways of helping out, it wasn’t the most effective. It was, to a large extent, unsustainable. And for what it lacks on unsustainability, it earns on its supplementary status. Meaning, that some other form of funding beyond ourselves ought to take over from our individual contributory status. There was a lot we could do as mere citizens, and even more we could achieve by having the government make certain interventions to aid our efforts.
But because we lack (or have refused to exploit better and more sustainable) contributory avenues, we are forced to turn to crowd-funding to finance these situations.
Let us look at one of the other avenues we could turn to as a country.
NHIF. (National Health Insurance Fund). What we have currently is a silent scandal in waiting, not a health savings scheme. What was meant to cater for health needs of the majority of the informal sector and the lower-tier of the working class is slowly proving to be a disappointing policy. Everyday thousands of Kenyans are chased away from hospitals which claim they don’t acknowledge NHIF outpatient policy. All this while, monthly deductions are detracted from the working class, and their self-employed counter parts.
But the blame isn’t on NHIF entirely. What really is the use of a health insurance fund, in a government hospital that lacks the adequate infrastructure to cure or address the health complications we seek every day? Eventually we are left with the option of flying our brothers and sisters out of the country for further medication overseas. Often, half of these costs go into catering for the return ticket and the daily expenses they have to incur while there. Meaning that the cost of medication at times isn’t as big as we would expect.
While affordable and quality health care remains a constitutional right, only about 15 per cent of Kenyans can comfortably afford this through proper medical covers. And with a population of 43 million Kenyans and growing, more than 35 million Kenyans are left out in the cold, with no one to look after them.
Last year in April, the Kenyan government through the Ministry of Health launched the Health Insurance Subsidy Program (HISP) with support from the World Bank. The program seeks to extend financial risk protection to Kenya’s poorest households by providing them with high quality and affordable health services in both public and private hospitals in Kenya. This program, which was directly placed under the NHIF fund would see a considerable level of improved services especially in government hospitals, following massive funding from the World Bank ($ USD 20 million). More than a year later, the program is still a limping horse, with private hospitals ensued in a battle of blame with NHIF. The former claim that they are yet to formally sign the contract to effect this alongside with the health insurance fund. All this while, the monthly NHIF contributions have been raised, effectively locking out a sizeable number of Kenyans who neither have a stable source of income, or can barely get by life.
So every week we have more Kenyans requiring urgent financial assistance, and since the systems meant to deal with it are still not in place, Kenyans are forced to come together and finance these huge medical bills. And we have done it so well in the past. We are still doing well now. But moving forward, we need to change our tact. We need to push the government into a proactive role in setting a conducive environment for Kenyans who need it. Every day public money goes into the wrong coffers. This needs to change. The more than 4.7 million Kenyans who contribute monthly to the NHIF fund need to see how their money is being spent. And while they may all not individually need medical attention, their fellow countrymen who need, ought to get it. We only need to step up our efforts to reduce wastage and lower corruption levels both inside and outside government, to adequately finance affordable health care to every deserving Kenyan out there.
As we continue to push for a better and quality health care system back at home, I wish to urge us to keep supporting those of us who need us. We did it for Jadudi and others like the late Ezra Momanyi. Now we have Governor Joel Evans and Carole Warue. They need our combined efforts to see a better day. And while we await for policy frameworks that widen and improves our health care system, we shall continue to help them, stand with them and give towards their funds. Let’s strive to leave a smile on their faces.
The writer comments on socio-political and economic issues.
Follow me on twitter @itskinaga
To make your contribution to them, use the following numbers:
Governor Joel Evan’s MPESA number:
Safaricom: 0791 393 535
Airtel: 0736 683 857
National Bank of Kenya.
To Contribute to Carole Warue:
MPESA paybill number: 806200
Account name: Carol