12 March 2018

Kenya: The United Nations Strongly Supports Kenya's Push to Achieve Universal Health Care


Nairobi — Mr. Maina Kiai’s account (Nation, 24 February) of the exciting dialogue hosted at Stanford University, USA does not present a true account of what transpired at that meeting.

The former WFP Executive Director Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, students, professors, Silicon Valley professionals and civil society were present at this meeting.

The article has clear factual errors that cannot go unchallenged.

First of all - Attaining Universal Health Coverage (UHC) or Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)3 on health is a substantive human rights agenda that requires sincere and collaborative action across all parts of society. We are talking about everyone's health and wellbeing - we will not get distracted by disingenuous headings like "UNDP's unholy alliance with Jubilee will derail health project" in progressing on this journey. Neither the Jubilee party or UNDP were mentioned in this meeting.

We are living in a day and age where we have the expertise, technology and means to advance everyone’s health and wellbeing. It is our moral obligation as the UN and development partners of Kenya to forge partnerships, find the right modalities to harness the potential out there and make it work for everyone, everywhere.

Second – The dialogue organized at Stanford University was about driving the SDGs and particularly primary health care through collaborative action across all sectors led by the Government of Kenya and supported by the UN through its “One-UN” joint UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). A new UNDAF 2018-2022 is being crafted to align with the Big 4.

I was invited in my role as the UN Resident Coordinator for Kenya and not as the UNDP Resident Representative. Since 2014 when I came to Kenya I have been a strong advocate for UHC.

This open letter by the Frontier Counties Development Council hopefully clarifies and sets things in context about the push by the Government of Kenya and the UN in Kenya to “leave no one behind”.

Third, UHC as part of the Big Four Agenda was never presented as a UNDP’s brainchild or project. Based on the discussions which took place it was stated clearly that the UN country team in Kenya has prioritized UHC aligned to the Government of Kenya’s Big 4 agenda in realizing Health For All within the coming years. The UN family in Kenya will be “Delivering as One” to support this.

Fourth, Mr. Kiai, refers to the process “given its international and foreign focus with little Kenyan participation or ownership” and “turning counties into mere recipients for short term benefits is one more fabrication”. I cannot understand how he makes this statement despite clear elaborations at the meeting on how the process is to be led by the Government of Kenya and the counties, supported by the UN with private sector, philanthropy and civil society partners through engaging in the diagnosis of contextual challenges and opportunities for transformative action from inception.

Fifth, “short term” handouts as misrepresented in the article. As Kenya climbs up the middle-income ladder, development aid will shrink. The Government of Kenya will need to pursue and find alternative means of financing, beyond traditional development aid, to sustainably drive socio-economic transformation in the country. As the UN family we will do everything possible to mobilize resources to support the Government.

Sixth, the discussion on building on lessons learnt from other parts of the world and on addressing corruption and human rights was omitted in the article. It was stated categorically that technology is a way forward to overcome challenges of corruption. The partnership of the Government of Kenya and the UN to reach the most remote and hard to reach areas was even featured in Forbes. This is about human rights.

Finally, the reference to Ms. Nyokabi Muthama is inaccurate. She is an alumna of Stanford University, was there in her private capacity and has every right like anyone else to join meetings at Stanford University or anywhere for that matter where she is invited.

Catastrophic health shocks pushes one million Kenyans into poverty every year due to out of pocket expenses. Let us all join together and move forward in supporting Kenya in attaining the Big 4 agenda, in “Realizing Kenya’s Vision to Achieve Universal Health Coverage” and leave “no one behind”. This will be critical to reap a demographic dividend.


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