The Parliamentary Budget Office has called for the prioritization of the health sector in the 2020/2021 budget with allocation of more resources mobilized from own revenue sources as opposed to over reliance on concessional funding from multinationals and donations from corporate entities.

In a budgetary estimates review document published last Friday, the office noted most of the ongoing COVID mitigation response measures are funded outside the budget framework with only Sh2.6 billion allocated to mass testing.

“The tone of the 2020/2021 budget remains ‘business as usual’ despite the highly unusual environment the country is currently operating in. The health budget remains more or less the same with only slight upward adjustments probably to cater for inflationary trends. It has not adequately addressed the challenges that threaten to hinder the attainment of Universal Health coverage particularly,” the report noted.

The budget office proposed the creation of an economic stimulus package to address immediate health and income needs and provide a roadmap for the next phase of recovery post-coronavirus.

“Immediate needs basically entail boosting the capacity of the health system to respond to disaster as well as providing an income safety net to deal with hunger and other needs particularly for the urban poor who are the hardest hit.

Though the COVID-19 Fund is an important intervention particularly with regard to raising resources, it may not be sustainable and should not be relied on solely to mitigate the impact of the crisis. The national budget must play its part. It is time for an economic stimulus through the budget,” the report noted.

The office also called for the strengthening of referral hospitals and enhanced research capacity for the Kenya Medical Research Institute.

“There are no significant changes made towards revamping referral hospitals or to boost research in KEMRI or for mass recruitment of healthcare workers. Massive effort, beyond current measures, should’ve been seen towards recruitment of additional health workers, revamping of health facilities particularly the referral hospitals and acquisition of medical equipment,” PBO said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta previously directed the Public Service Commission and the Ministry of Health to develop a welfare package to cushion medics who are on the frontline as the country battles coronavirus.

He said the package should include actions by medical insurance companies to cover the health requirements of the health care workers.

The report also identified a gap in the provision of cash support to Kenyans who have lost their livelihoods in the wake of the pandemic urging government to create a strategy for direct cash support for such people,  particularly the urban poor.

PBO proposed a hunger safety net that includes direct cash support targeting those who have lost livelihoods.

A recent survey by Population council revealed urban populations in Nairobi are facing a serious food crisis with 76 per cent of slum residents skipping meals.

The research which was conducted in informal settlements of Kibera, Huruma, Kariobangi, Dandora and Mathare may not be able to self-isolate if required to do so in measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Sixty-eight per cent of 2,010 respondents interviewed indicated they feared contracting the virus with only 25 per cent expressed fear of infecting others.

“The ability to stay at home was lower for those with less education (14pc v. 30pc),” the survey which was conducted between Mar 30 and 31 revealed.

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