“I started feeling a little weak and my body temperatures could shoot. My wife Wambui is good at self diagnosis, she calls her mum and they agree I have malaria,” Safaricom C.E.O Bob Collymore told Jeff Koinange this week on JKL as he narrated for the first time his battle with cancer.
Bob has been out of the country fighting cancer for 9 months and he is now recovering. He found out last year that he had acute myeloid leukemia which is cancer of the borne marrow. He flew to Britain where he had a borne marrow transplant. He jokes and says,” I was not worried I had cancer, I was sick of staying 69 weeks out of office.”
Bob says the largest contribution of cancer deaths and expensive treatment in Kenya, is partly due to Kenyans not being able to pay for insurance. He goes ahead to say, “Health will never be free.” This calls for government intervention.
33 percent of Kenyans survive on less than two dollars a day, with Health CS Sicily Kariuki revealing that four out of every five Kenyans have no access to medical insurance and that among the poorest quintile only 3% have health insurance with disparities between rural and urban populations, where rates of coverage are an average of 12% and 27% respectively.
Poverty contributes largely to many shying off tests that could aid in early detection of cancer. An article published by Daily Nation has Dr. Odhiambo indication that a mammogram test cost sh.3000 and treatment is well over a million shillings.
The government has established new policies that see every Kenyan registered with NHIF which will help cover the medical expenses. And the Universal Health Care has been integrated to revolutionalise the Kenyan health system. In fact, it was allocated 44 billion shillings this financial year and according to Sicily it is aimed at cushioning citizens against out of pocket expenditure on health services.
In July as year, the government launched the 2017- 2022 national cancer control strategy that reads; “To reduce cancer incidence, morbidity, mortality and survival rate in Kenya through access to population based primary prevention, early detection, quality diagnostics treatment and palliative care services by the year 2022.”
Although health seats among the top four agendas of the government, cancer mortality is at 28,000 with the incident increasing to 40,000. The government has retaliated time and again the willingness to fight the disease but Kenyans cannot stop flying to India to seek treatment. Bob says, “If we were in Britain, I would enrol you to National Health Service which is far much better than the private hospitals here.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the cancer treatment center at Kenyatta National Hospital with a cancer treatment machine donated by Indian government expected to reduce the treatment time from three months to under a month and cater for 190 patients a day. He also gave a promise of starting six other centers; I only hope it won’t be like the stadia promises.
Cancer has cure. No matter the costs, healthy living exercises and early detection is a step to cure. Bob says “If there was no cure, I would be the late Safaricom C.E.O.”