Kenya Parliament passes motion calling for free cancer treatment but fails to point out simultaneously the deficient budgetary allocation to the public health sector.

Parliament recently passed a motion compelling the Government to make cancer treatment free for all Kenyans. This must come as a relief to thousands of Kenyans who are suffering now or in the future, from cancer but are unable to access treatment due to prohibitive costs. The cost of treatment for cancer in the public sector is beyond reach of majority of Kenyans.

A closer look at the contents of the motion presented by Member for Kandara, Hon James Maina Kamau, to the National Assembly on 1st September, 2011, brings out clearly the pathetic status regarding cancer in Kenya:

  •  82,000 new cancer cases are reported every year; [this being only tip of the iceberg];
  • An estimated 18,000 Kenyans die annually due to various cancers;
  • Most cancers are treatable when diagnosed early;
  • Availability and use of advanced technology is essential to early diagnosis and treatment of cancer;
  • Kenya lacks a national policy on cancer, cancer control law and national cancer strategy;
  • Diagnosis of cancer for majority of Kenyans is equivalent to receiving a death sentence owing to lack of access to facilities for proper treatment;
  • High and forbidding cost of cancer treatment is the ultimate barrier to accessing cancer treatment in Kenya.

However, what is clearly missing from the praiseworthy motion is an acknowledgement of the inadequacy of public investment towards minimizing cancer related suffering and deaths among Kenyans, despite the fact that Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o admitted that under-funding constrained provision of services . In endorsing free cancer treatment MPs ought to have simultaneously demanded the immediate increase in budgetary allocation to the health sector, which can provide for meaningful free services as called for in the motion.

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