BY NAFTALI MWAURA
Access to quality and affordable healthcare appears as elusive as ever to majority of Kenyans as they continue battling with debilitating effects of abject poverty, a workshop on inequality heard on Monday.
A number of participants at a Plenary on Health mostly drawn from marginal regions in this Country gave a candid but gory illustration of the state of affairs in these neglected frontiers where so limited number of health facilities exists and the ones that are found there are severely understaffed and lacks Medical expertise.
The heath infrastructure in remote corners of North Eastern, Coast, Rift valley and Nyanza Provinces is dilapidated and can hardly meet grave health crisis that afflicts communities in the regions.
Several communicable diseases have spiraled out of control in these regions taking heaviest toll on Women and Children. There is no light at the end of the tunnel as a combination of poor and broken health, road infrastructure and official neglect all conspire to condemn the communities to a living hell, according to sentiments voiced by participants.
Tabitha Ndede, a Programme Facilitator with Plan International in Homa Bay District gave a grim narration of the situation in the District and Nyanza Province in general where communities are braving daily torment from numerous infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Typhoid and Tuberculosis and which are claiming Nyanza residents in their hundreds. According to Ndede, Nyanza province is currently a basket case in the Health sphere where the few Hospitals and Dispensaries there are poorly equipped with medicine and health workers.
The Hospitals can hardly meet the overwhelming needs of the ever surging population blighted by HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other communicable diseases.
In the entire Homabay District, there is no Pediatrician; only a surgeon and gynecologist, according to Ndede.
Lack of a pediatrician in the District aggravates further the health of Children in the area who continue to bear the wrath of several diseases like Measles, Malaria and HIV/AIDS related complications. Infant mortality in Homa Bay District is high and according to Ndede, out of one thousand (1000) live births, two hundred and fifty four (254) die; a figure that is twice higher than the number recorded nationally.
The Women in Homa bay District are also bearing full brunt as health crises in the area surges to high levels. They are unable to access reproductive health services and continue to grapple with Birth related complications.
Majority of the women who visits Homa Bay District Hospital for ante natal care are usually in the age bracket of 15-30 years and complain of complications associated with HIV/AIDS and malnutrition.
Anemia is also endemic to the young pregnant mothers in the District. These pregnant women also have to brave walking for miles in an otherwise rugged terrain before they get to the nearest Health centre, echoed the Programme facilitator who has spent a number of years working with the grassroots communities in Homa Bay.
Inaccessible healthcare to the pregnant mothers in Homa Bay is forcing a good majority of them to give birth at homes under the supervision of traditional birth attendants who are mostly illiterate and devoid of basic knowledge in healthcare that would enable them perform the task with utmost care and hygiene.
Quality and affordable healthcare is still a distant mirage to most Kenyans not only in Nyanza Province but also in other parts of the Country.
The poor and vulnerable groups of Women, Children and Youth are bearing the brunt. Mohammed Duji from Bura, Tana River District had a similar story.
The community health Educator in the far flung District said that the entire Tana River District has glaring deficiency in healthcare facilities and the few found there are dilapidated, lacks medicine and Doctors who shy away from working in the remote District whose hallmark is poverty, and all forms of backwardness. In the wake of Malaria, HIV/AIDS and water borne diseases that blight communities in the District, no ray of hope is visible at the horizon since the Government is yet to galvanize a concerted campaign to address the worrying situation.
Mohammed feels that decades of official neglect has reduced Tana River into a backwater where countless diseases have found a fertile ground to bloom and cause untold suffering to the residents.
The sentiments raised from these participants from across the Country had one consensus; Healthcare is still a far cry to majority of poor Kenyans and it is no wonder that the recently launched National Health survey paints a grim scenario by stating that 56% of Kenyans hardly visit hospitals when they fall sick because the cost of treatment is way above their meager income.