Rope in every citizen to protect public health resources
Article 43 (1) (a) in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights states that, “Every person has the right to the highest attainable standards of health, which includes the right to healthcare services, including reproductive healthcare”.
In addition, Article 20 (2) provides that, “Every person shall enjoy the rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights to the greatest extent consistent with the nature of the right or fundamental freedom”. These provisions confer health rights to all persons and further expand the right to the greatest extent possible.
It is worth remembering that the enjoyment of health rights has been granted to everyone, irrespective of their financial position and/or their position in society. The primary responsibility of enforcing rights lies with the state and state agencies.
When it comes to enforcement of rights, the Constitution provides in Article 21 (1) that, “It is a fundamental duty of the State and every State organ to observe, respect, protect, promote and fulfill the rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights.” In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare services have taken centre stage.
More than ever, the spotlight is on our medical services and Kenyans are questioning whether our doctors and nurses are at all prepared to take care of them. A healthy society will not only guarantee future healthy generations but also promote growth and development.
For this reason, there is utmost need to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of health resources to safeguard the fundamental right to health. By doing so, we will ensure prudent management of public health and safety and deliver on the principles of the Constitution.
While there are state institutions such as the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission that work towards enhancing integrity in the use of public funds, civil society organisations have equally played a pivotal role in holding those in authority accountable.
Over the years, NGOs and community-based entities have blown the whistle on corrupt deals and ensured those responsible are held to account. The objective being to ensure those who steal from public coffers are not allowed to walk scot-free but are arrested and prosecuted for their acts of commission or omission.
Human rights organisations have therefore contributed a lot in ensuring graft and maladministration in government do not go unpunished. Through working with public systems, they have narrowed the space for abuse and made it challenging for thieves in the national and county governments to have their way with the public coffers.
It is these efforts, coupled with efforts of state institutions, that have led to the recovery of illegally acquired resources. However, more needs to be done to ensure even the common mwananchi is involved in safeguarding public resources.
Organisations such as Haki Africa and Human Rights Agenda are presently working to empower communities to follow up and assess the utilisation of health resources by the Mombasa government in relation to the Covid-19 situation.
Under the Strengthening Public Accountability Integrity System programme supported by the United Nations Development Programme, the two organisations have taken a bold step to enlighten communities and make them aware of the existing social mechanisms to demand accountability in the health sector for improved services.
The theory of change in the strategy is to empower mwananchi to be at the forefront of championing for change in their society. The programme is anchored in the rights-based approach to healthcare that views health not merely as a service but an inalienable human right.
The theory of change for the programme is premised on the fact that if communities are enlightened and made aware of the existing social processes of enhancing transparency in the health sector, then they will be empowered to demand accountability thus lead to improved healthcare services.
Tackling corruption requires the efforts of every Kenyan. When all and sundry, including state and communities, work together, Kenya will defeat the corruption monster that hinders our development.
By Hussein Khalid