• Even before the current shortage, children in Kenya were facing trouble accessing the right medication.
• On Friday, a section of Nyanza MPs appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene in the standoff between the government and the Usaid contractor.
Children and unborn babies will suffer the most from a Sh90 million tax stand-off between the state and a US importer of ARVs.
The impasse has led to a shortage of ARVs in Kenya, with Homa Bay county being most affected as the lifesaving drugs lie at the port.
Even before the current shortage, children in Kenya were facing trouble accessing the right medication.
Last year, at least 6,806 babies were born with HIV, mainly because their mothers did not take medication properly during pregnancy and after birth.
About 106,807 Kenyan children below 14 years are living with HIV, but only 72,968 are on treatment, according to the National Aids Control Council. That number is expected to rise.
The shortage has especially affected dolutegravir, whose sweet tablets for children had been announced in December.
Most common paediatric drugs today include a syrup that is 40 per cent alcohol, and has a bitter metallic taste that lingers for hours.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said in 2019 that 4,333 children were killed by Aids, being 11 per cent of all HIV-related deaths that year.
Lack of drugs for adults could also lead to more babies born with HIV.
On Friday, some Nyanza MPs appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene in the standoff between the government and the USAID contractor.
The leaders warned that health facilities in the region have run out of essential commodities, putting at risk thousands of lives.
“We are concerned for our people. We are concerned that we are going to have more deaths, probably more than they are dying of Covid-19,” Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga said.
Wanga led her colleagues; Rozaa Buyu (Kisumu county), Seme MP James Nyikal, Pamela Odhiambo (Migori county), Nyatike’s Tom Odege and Christine Ombaka (Siaya county) is raising the red flag at a press conference held outside Parliament Buildings on Thursday.
“There is also an acute shortage of rapid test kids. The only way you test people and get them into treatment is through the rapid test. Currently, they are only choosing who to test because many facilities do not have these kits,” she said.
The stand-off comes after USAID, who sponsors the commodities, eschewed Kemsa and sent ARVs and test kits to Kenya through a private US company, Chemonics International.
As a result, a Sh1.1 billion consignment has been lying at the port since January 18 after being handed a Sh90 million tax bill.
Usaid also wants to establish its own, parallel drug distribution system in Kenya through Chemonics instead of using Kemsa.
The Kenyan government and civil society are against this.
Some of the commodities being held include HIV testing, treatment and prevention commodities such as ARVs, laboratory reagents as well as TB diagnostic and prevention medications.
(edited by o. owino)