BBI should give attention to health governance

Monday, August 31st, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta with Opposition leader Raila Odinga when they announced a political truce in March, 2018. Photo/PD/File

As Kenyans mark the 10th anniversary of the Constitution, we have clearly reached a turning point in the nation’s political and socio-economic evolution.

This stark reality has been brought into sharp focus by the coronavirus pandemic.

The deadly disease demonstrates how central health is to the issues of greatest concern to humanity today – governance, economics and the environment.

Covid-19 has spread and caused untold misery and damage worldwide with severe health, environmental and economic consequences likely to be felt for many years to come.

Scientists estimate that the cost of future pandemics could be in the same order as those of climate change.

For developing countries including Kenya, containment of the virus has shone the spotlight on governance – posing a major transparency and accountability test for governments.

Science and the media have regained their undisputed role as humanity’s standard-bearers on the authorities’ response to the defining global crisis of our time.

They have exposed poor investment and graft in health security, weak health infrastructure and neglected, fragile health systems.

Public outcry over the alleged massive corruption of funds to cushion citizens from the devastating impact of the virus that has roped in the Ministry of Health and the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority vindicates the media’s powerful role as the society watchdog.

World Health Organisation  Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the weeks and months ahead will be a test of our resolve, a test of trust in science, and a test of global solidarity in tackling a pandemic with major political and indeed constitutional ramifications.

 It is a test of the media fulfilling its vanguard duty of exposing graft and disinformation–– what UN Secretary-General António Guterres calls “a second pandemic of misinformation.”

Journalists must steadfastly speak truth to power and steer the direction of public discourse in the coronavirus era with verified, scientific fact-based news and analysis to the people and authorities.

Thanks to Covid-19, we now know that besides corruption, leadership and integrity, separation and increased decentralisation of power and resources, the final Building Bridges Initiative national conversation will be impotent without these crucial functions as items on the agenda.

Healthcare and governance are also major constitutional issues in the US elections due in two months. 

 The handling of the pandemic, the economy and race are the main issues determining who wins between President Donald Trump and his challenger Joe Biden.

Covid-19 has imposed severe health and economic consequences globally, with repercussions that are difficult to anticipate, putting considerable stress on food systems.

For Kenya, the coronavirus crisis is a ‘stress test’ for failing food systems witnessed in the poor coordination between government and communities working on nutrition, agriculture, food, environment, water, health, climate, employment, trade and transport.

As we continue to grapple with the vexing challenge of protecting public health, the environment and reopening the economy and other activities, our guiding principle should be saving lives and livelihoods. 

Other than access to health and basic services for the majority, government must expand social safety nets, extend unemployment insurance coverage to informal workers and broaden finance and the digital economy without worsening vulnerabilities. 

Inequalities in our socio-economic structures badly need reform and financial stimulus ensuring the flow of credit to households and business. [email protected]

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