Relatives to persons living with severe disability in Kisii County have called upon the government to fast track universal health coverage rollout as per the big four development agenda to ease their access to quality healthcare; a matter they say has been compounded by the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking separately from their homes in Kisii Central and Sameta Sub Counties, they said access to essential health services free of charge would go a long way in retaining cash in their pockets including the disability funds received from the social welfare Inua Jamii Programme.
Tending to her 19 years old last born who was born with severe disability at Iteresi village, in Kisii central sub county, a vegetable vendor, Damaris Kemunto said the challenges she undergoes when the daughter falls sick drains her energy.
Kemunto said she was forced to pay hospital bills for the child and a lot more for transport especially bodaboda because the riders pick and drop them at the door step.
She said most of her meagre earnings from the vegetable business was insufficient to sustain the family and decried the long wait for the disability card she applied for over a year ago and which would enable the daughter to access free medical care.
Several kilometers away in Bondanya Village in Sameta Sub County, Ruth Moraa, a mother of three, said she is distraught looking after her disabled firstborn, Joseph Omare aged 20 years.
Moraa said the son who looks years younger due to the severity of the disability needs urgent medical attention after he developed chest enlargement a few weeks ago.
Moraa who applauds the government for the Sh2, 000 disability cash transfer to her disabled child every month, appealed for more assistance especially on health care saying the funds were inadequate for all his needs.
She said she was forced to leave the child in the house alone to do menial jobs so as to supplement the disability support.
She wished the safety net cash was released every month instead of three times a year to enable her meet the needs of the disabled child.
In the same Sub-county at Rise village, Gladys Moraa a widow and mother of six children who developed disability due to complications during the birth of her 3 years old child is in dire need of a wheelchair but she cannot afford it because she is not enlisted in the disability net kitty and health insurance.
Moraa who was born healthy is an alumnus of Ichuni Girls secondary school in the area where she scored a C plus after her form four national examinations.
Her sister Christine Kwamboka said it was difficult to care for her and her children due to inadequate food and lack of a wheelchair as she had put on much weight due to minimal mobility.
A social worker Dominic Obadiah appealed to the government to release the social net cash in time to enable such families to plan for the necessities.
Obadiah decried stigma attached to disability saying it had made many parents to hide such children and called upon the community to accord the affected persons social support.
County Commissioner Abdirisack Jaldesa said all vulnerable persons benefiting from the cash transfer kitty were enlisted through the chiefs and nyumba kumi officials who identify them before they are vetted by the Department of Social Services.
On the transfer of the cash, Jaldesa noted that it was easier to transfer the money three times a year owing to the high number of the beneficiaries.
He clarified that retired government employees who earned pension do not qualify for the fund and urged those left out to report to their local chiefs for enlisting.
Association of Persons with Disability Kenya (APDK) Kisii Branch Coordinator Shem Arasa said the onset of Covid-19 pandemic had affected universal health care roll out to counties as the government concentrated more on improving human resource to the overstretched health facilities.
Arasa who is also the Principal Chief Physiotherapist at Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital said there were 30,000 disabled persons in Kisii as per 2018 national population census most of whom were physically challenged, deaf and dumb, blind and or suffered Albinism.
He called for mainstreaming of disability in the health care system to ensure easy access to services, affordability through insurance, and to curb communication barriers.
He said many disabled persons were yet to benefit from the free medical services through the disability card because they remained ignorant even after it was passed through an Act of Parliament in 2003.
The greatest challenge he said was that printing of the cards took long because it was not decentralized to the counties with the health care after devolution.
He called on all stakeholders and well-wishers to reach out to the disabled who could not adhere to the Ministry of Health protocols on covid-19 because many of them have severe disability and therefore have to wholly depend on their care givers.
He underscored the need to help even those with mild and moderate disability to keep a healthy lifestyle saying some might development lifestyle diseases because of less physical activities during the current covid19 pandemic.
By Clinton Nyamumbo and Jane Naitore