Nairobi — Kenya is set to immunise 400,000 children in the next 100 days in an ambitious campaign launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi Wednesday.
The campaign dubbed accelerated immunisation outreach is aimed at raising the immunisation coverage which has remained stable at 80 per cent, below the national target of 90 per cent.
Speaking when he presided over the launch of the rapid results response, which also served as the official send-off of specialist doctors from Cuba, President Kenyatta underscored the importance of immunisation as an important component of the ongoing drive towards the realisation of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for Kenya, a key deliverable in his Big 4 development agenda.
"The failure to immunise children will not only undermine their health and human dignity but will also occasion national risks such as disease outbreaks. I am therefore pleased to launch the national rapid results initiative on child immunisation which will increase the number of children that are immunised against killer diseases," said President Kenyatta.
Further, he challenged the Ministries of Health and Education, working closely with County Governments to prioritize the immunisation of school-going children in the country stating that it is his desire to have all children immunised before they join school.
"I urge the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to work closely with the County Governments to put in place measures to ensure that all children are vaccinated by the time they join school," the President advised.
On the 100 specialist doctors from the Republic of Cuba who are in the country as part of a bilateral arrangement with Kenya, the President hailed the arrangement stating that Kenya's health sector stands to benefit immensely from the intervention.
"Our doctor-to-patient ratio of 1 doctor to every 16,000 Kenyans remains an obstacle towards achieving Universal Health Coverage. Local specialists are few and far between, yet their services are in high demand in the country. The bilateral agreement between Kenya and Cuba will therefore enhance health collaboration in specialized service provision and also build the capacity of our local doctors," said President Kenyatta.
The President added, "The 100 Cuban doctors specializing in cardiology, nephrology and neurosurgery, amongst other specializations, are now ready to move to the counties and I am delighted to formally send them off to deliver the much needed services to the people of Kenya. Let us embrace and support them."
Speaking at the event held at the Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA) depot in Embakasi, Nairobi, Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said that the launch of the immunisation drive which included release of a variety of medical equipment, motorcycles and vehicles for use by health personnel would ensure a wider access to children in all corners of the country.
Touching on the subject of Cuban doctors, the Cabinet Secretary said that her ministry was ready and delighted to welcome the specialists whose world acclaimed experience in primary healthcare provision will go a long way in strengthening Kenya's efforts to achieve universal healthcare.
Also present at the event was Cuba's Ambassador to Kenya Ernesto Gomez Diaz who said that the deployment of the specialist doctors was key in cementing the growing bilateral relationship between Kenya and Cuba.
The envoy observed that more than 400,000 Cuban doctors work in 65 countries across the globe and those in Kenya are willing to share their experience even as they learn from their local counterparts.
On his part, Isiolo Governor Mohamed Kuti who is also the Chairperson of the Health Committee of the Council of Governors said that counties ready and grateful to the national government for both the Cuban doctors as well as the roll out of the aggressive immunisation campaign.
Governor Kuti added that days when County Governments were in constant competition and acrimony with the national government are long gone and that the two levels of government are pursuing a path of win-win engagements.
"The successful deployment of the Cuban doctors to the Counties and the official roll out of the immunisation campaign signals a new era of a mutually beneficial relationship between the national and County Governments," Governor Kuti said.
The Cuban doctors dispatched to the counties comprise critical care physicians, cardiologists, oncologists, radiologists, orthopaedic surgeons, maxillofacial surgeons and plastic reconstructive surgeons among other specializations and were allocated to Counties based on Kenya's disease burden spread.