Kenya is set to host a regional centre of excellence in Assistive Technologies [ATs] which will address underlying gaps in accessing devices and appliances for people living with disabilities.
Through a collaborative approach between the Ministry of Health [MOH], World Health Organisation and other partners, establishment of the centre is informed by limited access to assistive technologies by the disabled in the country and the region.
The centre, which will be headquartered at Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology [JKUAT], will among other things manufacture innovative technologies, create awareness and address shortage of health experts in the area.
According to Dr Raphael Kerio ,a practicing prosthetist-orthoptist at Kenyatta National Hospital, an average of 4 million Kenyans are in need of assistive devices but only 40,000 of those have access.
Dr Kerio said there is a huge gap in satisfying provision of services to the disabled and Kenya has positioned itself as a destination for rehabilitative care and services in Africa.
Dr Kerio said the move to host the centre in Kenya will synergise the efforts by the governments, professionals and innovators to provide tailor-made technologies for various forms of disabilities.
He said the various forms of these technologies will address physical disabilities, audio-visual impairments, digital and communications gaps, memory aids to enable beneficiaries live healthy and dignified lives.
Dr Kerio hailed last year’s presidential directive to integrate assistive technologies in the Universal Health Coverage noting that the move will allow patients access care under the National Health Insurance cover [NHIF].
On her part, Martha Mmasi, a physiotherapist from the Ministry of Health, said the centre will revolutionise health care by enhancing access to affordable devices covering all areas of disabilities.
Ms Mmasi said high costs and limited access to these assistive devices, mostly by the marginalised, continue to inhibit acquisition a gap that all players need to address.
“There is need to integrate Assistive Technologies as an essential service in order to achieve equality in accessing healthcare,” said Ms Mmasi.
Speaking during a health symposium on adoption of Assistive Technologies [AT] in Naivasha, Ms Mmasi called on counties to embrace measures, plans and infrastructures that will enhance access for the marginalised groups.
On his part, Dr John Odiero, a consultant prosthetic at KNH, petitioned the government to waive taxes for raw materials used to make these assistive devices in order to lower the costs and boost access.
Speaking at the event, Timothee Pakou Yowou, the President of African Federation of Orthopedic Technicians [FATO] said that 15 percent of African population (210 million) live with a disability.
Yowou lauded Kenya for the numerous strides in improving access to assistive devices for people living with disabilities.
He called for enhanced collaboration among African governments to remove access barriers including financial costs, shortage of experts, lack of enough data and health care facilities.
This, he noted, will herald a new dawn to the beneficiaries who are mostly from poor backgrounds.
By Erastus Gichohi