Nurses have been asked not to accept the temporary jobs advertised by the Kenya Red Cross Society two weeks ago.
Kenya Red Cross planned to send successful applicants to 11 arid counties to immunise nearly 300,000 children under one year, who remain unvaccinated since the nurses strike began five months ago.
But Kenya National Union of Nurses deputy secretary general Maurice Opetu told nurses not to accept the jobs.
He said there are enough government-employed nurses in those counties, who are now striking.
Opetu said the government should instead resolve the strike instead of encouraging contract jobs by third parties.
“This is a plan in futility. We have advised our members not to apply. We already have nurses who work there and they know the terrain better,” he said.
Opetu said such 'knee-jerk solutions' would not help the country achieve universal healthcare.
“When you have only pockets of the country where nurses are working, is that universal primary healthcare? We now have threat of marburg infection in neighbouring Uganda, how are we going to deal with that? Certainly knee-jerk solutions won't help.”
The nurses went on strike on June 5, demanding the registration of their draft Collective Bargaining Agreement, which the government says would cost taxpayers Sh10 billion every year.
However, the union claims it would cost Sh4 billion annually because they have backed down on some of their original demands.
Since June, the number of unvaccinated children has nearly doubled to 265,523 compared to 157,584 last year, ministry of health records show.
Skilled care during pregnancy has declined by 44 per cent while deliveries in health facilities has reduced from 85,000 to 57,000.
KRC had said it would deploy the contract nurses “for emergency response” to Marsabit, Mandera, Baringo, Isolo, Samburu, Wajir and Gariss, Tana River, Turkana, Lamu and West Pokot.
The announcement was made during the malaria outbreak last month but the ministry of health said they would also help vaccinate children.
Unicef said it would also support the emergency immunisation response.
The representative of Unicef in Kenya, Werner Schultink, said, “In order to avoid a reversal of the hard-earned gains achieved for children in recent years, it is essential that we work together with the Ministry of Health and partners such as the Kenya Red Cross to provide critical health services to the most vulnerable populations.”
Unicef is currently supporting mobile outreach sites that offer integrated nutrition and health services to communities in drought-stricken areas.
KRC said it would support the operationalization of selected critical facilities and those that cater to high volumes of clients in order to ensure the continuation of inpatient services for the next two months.