Shortage of paediatricians to blame for child deaths, say doctors

Association says most specialists are concentrated in cities, leaving those in rural areas largely marginalised

Kenya Paediatricians Association chairman Thomas Ngwiri
SHORTAGE: Kenya Paediatricians Association chairman Thomas Ngwiri
Image: FILE

The increasing number of child deaths is due to the shortage of pediatricians, doctors have said.

The Kenya Pediatricians Association on Thursday said there was need to have more pediatricians to curb increased mortality among children.

KPA chairman Thomas Ngwiri said there were only 500 pediatricians who are mostly concentrated in the cities.

He said the delivery of universal healthcare is hampered by scarcity if the specialist doctors.

Speaking in Mombasa during a pediatricians conference, Ngwiri said children in rural areas have been marginalised.

“You will find that many of these pediatricians are in big cities like Nairobi and Kisumu, far away from many Kenyans living rural areas,” Ngwiri said.

He called for an even distribution of the doctors.

He said diseases like prematurity of babies was also to blame for the child deaths.

Ngwiri said diseases like high blood pressure, often suffered by pregnant mothers, causes prematurity in children. Others included difficulties in breathing, infections caused by bacteria, pneumonia and diarrhoea.

“The highest number of deaths occur in the newborn period, many children die in the first month of life and then a significant number also die within the first year,” Ngwiri said.

He said the Universal Health Coverage project, being piloted in Kisumu, Nyeri, Isiolo and Machakos counties, will improve child health. He however, said there were challenges to be urgently addressed.

"One is the issue of supplies. We need to have adequate pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical supplies in the pilot counties so that when patients go to hospitals, they find the medications that they require,” Ngwiri said.

He also urged the government to employ more medics to address staff shortage.

“The workers are often overstretched. We need adequate staff to deliver quality services," he said. He said the challenges ought to be addressed for a successful national rollout.

Edited by Peter Obuya