By Glenah Nyamwaya
Kenya is set to suffer a major setback in its fight against three killer diseases following withdrawal of Sh 5 billion donor funds. The Global Fund has cut by Ksh 3.1 billion funds meant for the purchase of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that prolong the lives of thousands of persons living with HIV/Aids.
Further details presented in Parliament during the tabling of the supplementary budget reveal that the international financing organisation’s support for tuberculosis has been cut by Sh 1.4 billion while malaria funding has been slashed by Sh 400 million. Global Fund’s contribution has in the past been channeled towards the purchase of commodities and lifesaving medicines for HIV/Aids, TB and malaria treatment.
These three infectious diseases continue to be among the leading causes of death in Kenya, and therefore requiring substantial funds to manage. Although the Treasury steered clear of the reasons that may have led to the slashed donor support, international health financiers had previously expressed concern over financial impropriety at the Ministry of Health, following the 2016 Sh 5 billion Afya House scandal.
An internal audit of the ministry’s accounts revealed lack of accountability for funds meant for free maternity care program, started by the Jubilee government once they assumed office. The audit further revealed that top officials had inflated prices of medicine and equipment, forged entries in the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMIS), diverted funds and irregularly awarded contracts to relatives of powerful politicians, causing heavy losses to the taxpayers.
The government was however quick to dismiss the reports as false and is yet to hold anyone to account for the alleged theft of public funds and associated criminal activities such as tax evasion. As it stands in Kenya, medical care is funded by the state, donors and individual patients at 28 per cent, 35 per cent and 37 per cent respectively.
This withdrawal of supports comes in against the backdrop of Kenya’s struggle to curb the three diseases with recently released data indicating that fatalities from malaria increased in 2017 for the first time in more than a decade, as HIV/Aids related deaths dropped due to patients embracing the use of ARV drugs.
Deaths from malaria rose 9.7 per cent to 17,553 as those from HIV/Aids dropped to 8,758, from 9,471 in 2016 and 12,235 in 2014. This is according to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics Economic Survey 2018 data. Worse still, fatalities from tuberculosis nearly doubled from 4,735 cases in 2016 to 9,081 in 2017.