by Mercy Alomba
As Kenya marked fifty years since it became a republic today June 1, 2013, many Kenyans were at their usual places of work regardless of it being a public holiday. To many that we got to talk to, it was just like any other day of the week and year hence their working.
In Nairobi, this year's celebrations were held at Nyayo stadium. In his speech, President Uhuru Kenyatta waived the maternity fees charged in all public hospitals beginning on June 1. He explained that the waiver would help expectant mothers access maternal care at no cost and would also help reduce maternal deaths. Currently, only 43% of Kenyan women give birth in a hospital and 460 of every 100,000 live births result in maternal dealth.
“My government has made adequate budgetary arrangements to enable all pregnant mothers to access free maternal services in all public facilities with effect from June 1, 2013,” he said. Kenyatta also waived the user costs charged at government clinics before patients can access medical services. He said that the KShs.10 and KShs. 20 charged in dispensaries and health centers had been lifted effective June 1.
“These measures are expected to increase access to primary health care in government health centers and dispensaries by all Kenyans,” he explained. But even as Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto promised to provide free maternal care as well as increase the access to cheap affordable health care for Kenyans, they have been urged to ensure that government facilities have the necessary equipment and staff to handle their pledge.
The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union has particularly taken the Jubilee government to task over the estimated budgetary allocation to the health sector. Shortly after the announcement, residents of Kibera expressed their fears that the free maternal attention in public health facilities will lead to more unplanned families, yet the government will not be available to help the parents to raise their many children.
Mercy Alomba is Uweza's Communications Officer and Journalism Club Instructor