AURTHOR:  Emmanuel Maingi, Co-Founder and Director, Athena group

As you go through this text, you will come across a moving photo somewhere along, if you look at it closely you will also realize its a very touching one. As for me, its one of the most moving photos I’ve seen in my life courtesy of the internet. To give perspective, this kid had cancer and her wish as depicted in the photo, wished to grow hair like other girls. That’s how life changing it is and especially the painful process of chemotherapy.


What’s my point? Cancer is one of the most fatal diseases in the modern world. I won’t go into the various reasons or different types but coming from a perspective of having a close relative having being or being threatened by it is such a scary position to be in. This is one of the highly fatal diseases anyone can have and it’s unlike any other as it’s not necessarily a lifestyle disease but sometimes hereditary.

Human nature dictates that we forge ahead no matter what the challenges are and in my opinion, it’s to some extent the very reason that research in this field is underfunded if at all funded in a majority of developing nations across the world. And why is this the case? Well, first and foremost, corruption has led to despicable acts by human beings who find it worthy to ‘siphon’ or ‘suck’ funds allocated to healthcare for their personal gain yet we have thousands of people dying of diseases like cancer and yet have no remorse and go on with their lives like nothing’s wrong with that.

Morally and ethically, public funds are to be dedicated to the common good of every citizen of any country hence the term – Public Service – enabling the majority of the people at the bottom of the pyramid and who by the way comprise of the tax base in any given economy access to affordable healthcare facilities. If you’ve grown up in any developing Nation, you can identify with the fact that many-a-people die painfully at their homes because the much they can afford is to attend the local clinic where there’s no availability of diagnostic services and end up being given pain killers and yet the referral hospitals which are and should be the EMC^2 in medicine in developing world are underfunded and the conditions are deplorable.

Image may contain: 1 person , baby and closeup
her wish is to grow hair just like other girls

In reference to my line of thought herein, I can derive several lessons from the case of cancer as it’s like a death sentence if diagnosed with such but I’ll stick to healthcare and narrow down further to my country – Kenya – where we have some of the world’s best brains in Clinical medicine but yet people continue to die like there’s nothing that can be done yet there is. A case an example is the fact that a team of 68 (+/-2) clinical medicine professionals separated co-joined twins at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) at a cost of Kshs 160m <=> $1.57m and the kids are healthy and recovering well ready to conquer the world as individuals which is indicative of the untapped capability.

It’s my personal belief that a healthy Nation is a productive one and if Healthcare can be reverted to be a responsibility of the National Government, then accountability can be part of the game changers I’m this great economy as there are critical sectors that a National Government cannot afford to devolve to County Governments (In this case, Kenya) like:

1. Healthcare
2. National Security
3. Energy (As a developing economy)

It’s a sad state of affairs to see patients being handed death sentences at hospitals which is the last port of call and more so, National Referral Hospitals. As an example which many can relate to is that as a new cancer patient to KNH, the earliest appointment one can get is at least four (4) months (If lucky) and not because the Doctors don’t know what they’re doing but because they’re overwhelmed and under resourced and have to work with what they have at their disposal.

In as much as many Nations (Western) saw the ‘evils’ of Fidel Castro, I cannot comment on the negatives though I can say that according to the information I’ve accesses so far, Healthcare in Cuba is free with over 90% literacy rate making it one of the most medically advanced countries in the world and seeing a majority of Cuban trained doctors offering their services in other countries is a clear sign of an enabling leader he was.

As a country, we have the opportunity to make healthcare one of the key pillars and economic enablers of our great Nation. As an example, in Germany, the Healthcare expenditure is 11.3% of National GDP which equivalent to Kshs 41.9trillion <=> $411.5b (2015 health care outlook: Deloitte) and besides the U.S. and Japan, Germany is by far the most profitable health care market in the World with exports surpassing their National expenditure. Why is it that any neighbouring countries (EAC) bring their sick to Kenya for treatment? It’s because we have the capability but sometimes and a majority of the time this is only accessible to the financially capable.

My message to those in authority and specifically to the Ministry of Health is to get their act together and prioritize Healthcare to enable more people to be more productive than they are and the Country will see a happy and more productive nation than we’ve ever been with more tax collection contributing to the growth of the Country’s economy. Yes, investment in infrastructure is a great move but only the healthy can be productive to be involved in production.

PS: I hope the girl in the photo herein is well and enjoying life as God granted.

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