For many Kenyans, the cost of health care is a key issue that hinders the decision to seek treatment when they happen to fall ill. A very small portion of Kenyans get to enjoy the blessing of having medical insurance, knowing that even with a headache, one can still be able to access medical treatment. This is however not the case for some of Kenya’s poorest families.
Now, more Kenyans are set to benefit from free medical services after the Safaricom Foundation increased its funding by Kshs 36 million. This money will be used for screening and treating cancer, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases across the country for two years.
Established in August 2003 by Safaricom Limited, The Safaricom Foundation has engaged in activities aimed at giving back to communities, organizations and societies at large. It seeks to make positive contributions to Kenyan communities in areas like education, economic empowerment, the environment, health, music and sports & arts and culture.
Cancer continues to globally cause more deaths than HIV, TB and malaria combined with a burden of over 70% of cancer patients in low and middle income countries like Kenya according to the Kenya Network of Cancer Organizations. Among the estimated 39,000 new cases of cancer each year, over 70-80% are diagnosed in late stages mostly due to an inadequate number of treatment and diagnostic facilities. Diabetes has an almost similar story. Most patients living with the disease are diagnosed too late. There is a dire need to increase community awareness and one-on-one engagement to prevent death from some of these diseases.
Now in their tenth year, the Sh200 million program which is at its sixth phase, features free medical camps which have enabled over one million Kenyans to receive free consultation and treatment for health services.
The funds will be spent to conduct 12 free medical camps and three diabetes youth camps across the country over the next two years. The camps are conducted in partnership with the Kenya Diabetes Management and Information Centre. In line with the shifting trends in Kenyan healthcare, the next phase of the medical camps will see a renewed focus on non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer, in addition to general ailments.
“This forms part of our continuous effort to increase access to health care services for Kenyans. Kenya’s Vision 2030 aims to provide an efficient integrated and high quality affordable health care to all citizens with priority given to preventive care at community and household level. It is for this reason that we aim to support government’s agenda of promoting health care in Kenya,” said Joe Ogutu, Chairman, Safaricom Foundation.
The Kenyan health system has continued to suffer setbacks especially in the grassroots level because of lack of facilities and staff. With many Kenyans living below the poverty line it is almost impossible to get quality medical attention especially in dire situations.
According to the World Health Organization, the rise of non-communicable diseases in Kenya is more distinct than in the rest of Africa. Deaths as a result of non-communicable diseases in Kenya rose by 44 percent between the year 2000 and 2012 against the East African rate of 26 percent.
Kenya Diabetes Management and Information Centre Executive Director Eva Muchemi noted that from the just concluded medical camps, at least 5 percent of those who got screened for diabetes turned positive.
“We are keen on creating awareness on non-communicable diseases which is why we encourage those who attend the free medical camps to screen for diabetes and other non-communicable diseases,” Muchemi said. “This way, we are able to capture those who may be suffering but are not aware,” she concluded.