The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday endorsed Kenya’s ambitious Universal Health Coverage (UHC) program whose pilot phase President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to launch in Kisumu on Thursday this week.
As a show of support, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesos said he will mobilize the top leadership of the global health body to attend the Kisumu launch event which kick start the pilot phase of the UHC program in Kisumu, Nyeri, Machakos and Isiolo counties.
The Director General assured President Kenyatta that WHO is committed to support the country’s UHC describing Kenya as a trailblazer in Africa.
“Kenya is starting its UHC journey. Your country is trailblazing a new trend in Health in Africa”, said the WHO boss when he hosted the President at the start of the first management meeting of the organization outside its headquarters in Geneva.
The Nairobi meeting brings together the global leadership of WHO as they commence the implementation of the 13th General Programme of work, 2019-2023.
Speaking when he opened the three-day meeting in a Nairobi hotel, President Kenyatta said the attainment of UHC in Kenya is not a destination but a continuous process which will involve constant widening of the social safety nets to ensure that no one is left behind as the country strives to achieve its national health aspirations.
The Head of State said Kenya has made good progress in uplifting the health of her people, gaps still exist in terms of service coverage, quality and human resource distribution across the country.
According to President Kenyatta, UHC is aimed at addressing the financial burden that perennially drives some Kenyans to poverty and subsequently slowing down the economy.
“Every year, one million Kenyans are driven below the poverty line by healthcare related expenditures. Poverty predisposes vulnerable Kenyans to disease and slows all aspects of growth in the economy,” the Head of State said.
President Kenyatta also noted that remarkable progress in key health indicators have been achieved in the Sub-Sahara region that includes Kenya especially in reducing under-5 mortality, increasing the coverage of HIV treatment and reduction in cases of deaths from tuberculosis.
“However, we continue to grapple with addressing the social determinants of health, poverty and inequality in addition to persistent health challenges such as weak health systems, malaria, drug resistant tuberculosis, and mental health, all of which could easily erode the gains that were made during the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) era,” said the President.
In addition, the Head of State explained that Kenya’s UHC has a strong focus on primary health care especially the fundamentals of health promotion, disease prevention and addressing determinants of health.
“This, we believe, will yield a more sustainable Universal Health Coverage model for Kenya,” the President said.
In addition, President Kenyatta said constraints in health resources due to increased health demands, requires funding innovations and increased inter-sectoral collaboration to meet the needs of the Kenyan people.
The President noted with appreciation that Kenya is the first country to host the WHO management meeting outside Geneva saying this was a testament of the strong bond of friendship and collaboration that Kenya continues to share with the outside world over the years. President Kenyatta extended an invitation to the WHO global family to attend the UHC launch in Kisumu.