Can the Kenyan election be a unifying experience for child health?



Jack Ndegwa is a Vaccine Advocacy Officer with the Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium, an ACTION partner. 

I recently took my son, Allan, to receive his measles jab. As a typical nine-month old baby, let’s just say he was not too pleased with the experience. Unlike my son, I was excited to see my personal and professional lives combine – watching my son receive protection from measles, and see the results of my work in child health and immunization advocacy. Though baby Allan was temporarily displeased with the jab, I was reminded of the nearly 200,000 Kenyan children who miss out on the measles vaccine each year, and 60 children who have lost their lives to measles since 2011.

In part as a result of my work in child health and immunization advocacy with the Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium, Kenya launched a much delayed measles campaign to increase coverage and protection against the dangerous disease last October. Over 6 million children between the ages of 9 months and 5 years received the measles vaccine during the course of the five day campaign which required innovation and collaboration across all sectors.[1]  I was inspired by the unification across sectors, religions, languages and regions to achieve impressive coverage rates of 95 percent.

As the Kenyan election is underway, I am hopeful for a similar unifying experience – one in which we aim to better the lives of all Kenyans and protect children against preventable diseases regardless of where they live, and regardless of what political party wins. Kenya will undergo immense changes as the new constitution is implemented, including devolution of health services, and government restructuring.

One thing will remain true, however – all Kenyan parents should be afforded the opportunity to see their 9 month old babies like Allan get a jab that you know will protect them from suffering and give them a shot at a healthy upbringing.