Kudzai Mhishi, Health Policy Research Fellow – WACI Health
On October 13, 2017 WACI Health, the Health NGOs Network in Kenya (HENNET) and partners including KANCO, National Network of People Living with HIV – NEPHAK, International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW+), Health Rights Advocacy Forum (HERAF), AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST), Social Welfare Development program (SOWED), Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), Global TB caucus, HENNET, CBM, INERELA+, ADDK, Kibera Integrated Community Self Help Program (KICOSHEP), Malteser International, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)- Belgium and National Organisation of Peer Educators (NOPE) convened for a consultation on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) advocacy and accountability with a specific focus on civil society engagement in the UHC2030 movement. This forum brought members from various civil society and community organizations and networks including the Ministry of Health (MoH) was also present at the consultation to provide updates on the country progress on UHC as well as give insights as to what the ministry sees as the role and entry points for civil society.
The consultation came at a critical point when counties would be getting into renewing their strategic plans. This presented a great opportunity for civil society to advocate for and persuade County Governments to place UHC high on the agenda by incorporating relevant indicators into their next 5-year County-specific strategic documents.
Discussions not only focused on UHC progress in Kenya but also the role of CSOs in advocacy and accountability and means of working better together through a coordinated Civil Society Engagement Mechanism (CSEM) at country level.
There were three key expected outcomes from this consultation:
- Key recommendations on how to address the health systems strengthening (HSS)/UHC advocacy issues identified.
- Recommendations on how UHC 2030 initiative can strengthen citizens’ voices and empower communities to demand accountability and take health actions.
- Recommendations on how CSOs can work together for UHC advocacy and accountability in Kenya.
Dr. Margaret Makumi, an expert in strengthening Health Systems in Kenya, introduced UHC emphasizing that all citizens from any community had the right to access quality health services be it promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health care without incurring financial hardship – ‘that’s the basis of UHC!’. Since health is a basic human right enshrined in the constitution of Kenya, Dr. Makumi encouraged CSOs to get involved at both national and county level through dialogue, influencing decision-making for a conducive policy environment for UHC.
She stressed on three important elements of UHC, equity in access to health services – everyone who needs services should get them not only those who can pay for them. In Kenya, for example the free maternal and child health services, free or minimal pay for primary health care (PHC) services though to some extent. Quality health services which should be good enough to improve the health of those receiving these services and the community should be protected against financial-risk, ensuring that the cost of using services does not put those accessing it at risk of financial harm
Moving towards UHC in Kenya: perspectives from the Ministry of Health
A representative from the Ministry of Health (MoH), Mr. Julius Mutiso affirmed the government’s continued commitment in implementing health systems reforms for UHC. Part of the reforms include employing adequate policies, legal and institutional frameworks such as Bills of Right (chapter 4) and the Constitution of Kenya 2010 (pp 31-38). This, he said, was the citizens’ right to health and a long-term development goal of Kenya Vision 2030. Again, it was highlighted that health services must not expose its citizens to financial risk.
Towards UHC, the MoH so far has done numerous actions such as introducing free maternity services, upgrading healthcare in informal settlements and providing more support in HIV/TB and Malaria programs. This, he said, has contributed to decreased maternal and infant mortality rate, improved uptake of health services (TB detection, ART treatment etc.) and improved utilisation insecticide treated nets. He further highlighted the following as key next steps towards UHC by the ministry:
|Finalize and operationalize the Kenya Health Financing strategy|
|Improve on social protection to minimize financial hardships|
|Ensure availability of essential medicines, commodities and provision of quality health services|
|More support for public health programs and training of health workers|
|Expansion health infrastructure|
|More awareness on UHC at all levels|
|Provide technical support to counties implementing UHC|
Participants noted that while the government of Kenya has set up various programs towards making progress on UHC, civil society has not adequately engaged in such UHC discussions hence the need to organize and coordinate effectively as a way to strengthening CSO engagement.
A discussion on CSEM and coordination of UHC advocacy and accountability work brought forward the following key highlights:
Civil society must work together in engaging the government on UHC through accountability and advocacy efforts. This engagement could include: helping to identify who the marginalized in the population are; establish whether health services are reaching the vulnerable and whether programs are purposively targeting those that can easily be left behind; monitoring budgets and expenditure; participating in public information sharing forums and tracking results among other areas. It was agreed that through proper documentation, CSOs must ascertain what has worked well and what has not worked in the past and build upon this through a coordinated CSEM.
In conclusion, participants provided a set of recommendations on how CSOs in Kenya can work better together; how UHC2030 can strengthen citizen voices; and how to strengthen country CSEM. As a next step civil society will reconvene to jointly develop an Action Plan to guide the country CSEM according to the recommendations of this consultation.