Kenya: 12 Health Ministers Kicked Out Over Covid-19 Scandals

Women from Mokutani in Tiaty East Sub-county hold placards to relay anti-GBV messages as part of a celebration to mark 16 Days of Activism against violence (file photo).

At least a dozen health ministers have resigned across the world over coronavirus-related scandals.

They were forced out of office due to poor handling of the pandemic, misuse of public funds, and controversies related to vaccine roll-outs.

Slovak Health minister Marek Krajčí quit last week following a crisis triggered by a secret deal to acquire Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine. Kenyan authorities banned the administration of Sputnik V, which had already been imported by a private firm.

The pandemic has pushed the world into uncharted territory with the high turnover of ministers, unprecedented in recent times, most of them bowing to pressure over blunders in handling responses to the virus and graft allegations.

Asked whether he has contemplated resigning following controversies such as the Sputnik V vaccine and Kemsa scandal that created overnight millionaires, Health minister Mutahi Kagwe admits his job has not been easy.

"Like all jobs in the public sector, this is a thankless one. A sharp demand for oxygen, for instance, can be turned into a shortage scandal, making it look as if the ministry has failed," said Mr Kagwe, who was barely a month in office when Covid-19 hit Kenya in March last year.

Jordan's Nathir Obeidat resigned after at least six Covid-19 patients died in a government hospital due to a shortage of oxygen. Ecuador's Rodolfo Fardan resigned after just 19 days on the job.

Fardan quit last Friday, citing "strictly personal" reasons but his departure followed a raid by authorities on the ministry and a hospital in Quito, the capital, in an investigation into the vaccine roll-out.

Fardan had succeeded Juan Carlos Zevallos, who was also forced out of office in February in yet another cloud of controversy linked to vaccination. It was reported that Carlos had participated in an inoculation effort at the nursing home where his mother lives.

In February, Argentina's Gines Gonzalez Garcia quit amid concerns that people in the South American nation were using connections to jump the queue for vaccines.

New Zealand's David Clark, who quit in July last year, was fell by his own breaches of lockdown rules. He had already been demoted after breaking rules to take his family to the beach.

Peru's Pilar Mazzetti also stepped down in February following reports that the former president, Martin Vizcarra, had received the vaccine before it became widely available in the country.

Last September, Czech's Adam Vojtech quit, almost three years after taking office, following protests over his handling of the pandemic.

Poland's Łukasz Szumowski resigned last August, a day after his deputy, Janusz Cieszyński, also quit, following allegations of cronyism and misuse of public funds.

Romania's Victor Costache was among the first casualties in March last year, when he quit following a row over testing for coronavirus.

Some voluntarily stepped down, as is the latest resignation by Austria's Rudolf Anschober. Two Brazilian ministers also left office after disagreeing with President Jair Bolsonaro's attitude to downplay the pandemic.

Mr Rudolf cited persistent health problems caused by exhaustion. For 15 months, Mr Rudolf, 60, oversaw the country's health response to the pandemic but he has thrown in the towel, saying he is "overworked and exhausted".

Mr Kagwe told Nation that the job has strained his social life and how he interacts with his extended family, but he appreciates the huge responsibility on his shoulders.

"There is no hour that you are not alert. My colleagues and I are always in communication 24 hours, seven days a week mostly via email and this does not just happen for a day or two. It has been going on for over a year now but we have to keep at it because there is always something that needs handling in the health sector," said Mr Kagwe.

"We have made great strides, I do not know where we would be today had we not made the decisions we made last year. Many lives have been saved."

The father of four, whose last-born was drawn into some controversy last year, said his children's actions do not affect his work.

"I stepped in looking at the medium and long-term goals that we needed to achieve. I also looked at the possibilities of giving opportunities to young people," said Mr Kagwe.

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