•The network, meeting in Nairobi, said the challenges faced by the health sector in the region include poor vaccine access, hesitancy, pandemic preparedness and local production of vaccines.
•On Thursday, the East African workers demanded that East African states must invest at least 15 per cent of their budgets in health.
Health workers from East Africa have accused the regional governments of neglecting health services.
Their concerns come weeks after 20 other civil society groups indicted the Kenyan government for deliberately promoting the privatisation of health.
On Thursday, the East African workers demanded that East African states invest at least 15 per cent of their budgets in health.
“We, therefore, call on the governments within the East Africa region to increase the health sector allocation in the annual budgets to at least 15 per cent entrenched in the Abuja Declaration of 2001,” the East Africa Health Sector Unions’ Network (EAHSUN) said in a communique.
They also called on governments to employ more healthcare workers, pay them adequately and provide adequate medical supplies with good public healthcare infrastructure.
They said the Covid-19 pandemic, Ebola, extreme impacts of climate change, and poor funding of public healthcare services have left health services badly exposed.
“States in the region are generally struggling to invest a minimum of 15 per cent of the total annual national budget as demanded by the Abuja declaration in 2001,” they said.
The network, meeting in Nairobi, said the challenges faced by the health sector in the region include poor vaccine access, hesitancy, pandemic preparedness and local production of vaccines.
The unions also called on governments to involve the workers in developing and implementing measures to curb the impact of climate change on health.
They further demanded that governments prioritise the mental health and psychosocial well-being of healthcare workers.
“We call would like the governments in East African Countries to commit to engaging us as key stakeholders of health so that together we can have a healthy region that in turn will be productive and build the region to greater heights,” they said.
The network encompasses health sector unions in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania Rwanda, Burundi and Congo.In their Wednesday meeting, Davji Atellah was elected President of the East Africa Health sector unions Network.
The network includes the Kenya National Union of Nurses and the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union.
The complaints come weeks after 20 civil society groups wrote to the United Nations, saying Kenya’s healthcare system is being handed over to profiteers.
The group said government deliberately under-invests in public facilities while encouraging private hospitals, which are out of reach by the majority poor.
Between 2013 and 2022, the proportion of private for-profit facilities grew from 33 to 44 per cent, vastly outstripping increases for public facilities, according to the Ministry of Health data.
The civil society petition claimed that Usaid has since 2004 been pushing Kenya to privatise its health services, to create a market for US companies.
“USAID adopted a Private Sector Engagement Policy in 2018 that is a ‘call to action' to 'embrace market-based approaches.’ This explicitly aims to benefit US companies and promote US economic growth,” the letter said.
Private facilities receive the lion’s share of the National Health Insurance Fund payouts, according to the Fund’s audited accounts.
They included Amnesty International, Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and Aids (Kelin) and PSI International.
Their petition was sent to several UN human rights rapporteurs and experts, including the special rapporteurs on the right to health, the rights of persons with disabilities and on extreme poverty and human rights.