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Health

The Ravaging Alcohol Menace: The Devil’s in the detail!

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When I heard that President Uhuru Kenyatta summoned Central Kenya MPs to State House to address the alcohol menace ravaging that region, my first reaction was that it was an act of political populism.

This is why.

When County governments assumed the responsibilities attached to them under the Schedule IV of the (new) Constitution (2010) serious doubts were raised as to whether they were prepared for that enormous responsibilities. Teachers were categorical they didn’t want the entire education sector devolved, so Counties only got Early Childhood Education handed over to them. Of the most worry was the devolved Health functions. Only the national policy making role and the taking care of National referral Hospitals were left to Afya House, the rest were taken down to your Governor. To demonstrate how enormous the Health role is, consider the fact that last month, there was a Malaria outbreak in Kakamega County and all those cases found their way to the main County Referral Hospital in Kakamega town.

Now, strictly speaking, a County Referral Hospital should only be handling ‘referral’ functions from the lower tiers. Malaria prophylaxis, for example, should never be administered at a Level 5 Hospital. A dispensary, or at most, a Health Centre, in any County, should be better equipped to handle communicable diseases endemic to such catchment areas. It is an admission of failure by county governments when you find children sharing beds, some lying on the floor, in a Level 5 health facility, queuing for dosages they should have received at the village level. Trekking with a sick child from Mulwanda, in Khwisero, to access Malaria treatment in Kakamega town is not why Health was devolved.

That is why the first thing Counties should have done is to conduct an elaborate Capacity and Needs Assessment Study to map out their immediate areas of concern in the health sector, and allocate resources commensurate with their findings.

When I heard President Uhuru Kenyatta summoned Central Kenya MPs on the alcohol menace in their region, I asked myself whether he is aware that all Central Kenya Counties have a specific Act that deals with the Alcohol menace. I am currently going over the Kiambu County Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, 2013 and I can assure this thing is the best document since sliced bread.

In the Act, Kiambu County proposes the establishment of an Alcoholic Drinks Control Directorate that will deal with, among other things;

(b) carry out public education on Alcoholic Drinks control in the county directly and in collaboration with other public or private bodies or institutions;

(c) Ensure that the treatment and rehabilitation services are designed in a manner that is accessible and affordable to persons dependent on alcoholic drinks;

(f) adopt and implement effective measures to eliminate illicit trade in alcohol including smuggling, illicit manufacturing and counterfeiting;

You see, Governor William Kabogo and his County Assembly really knew where the problem is and even made recommendations on how monitoring of this Directorate will be done. In section (h) the Act says;

(h) in collaboration with other relevant county departments, prepare and submit an Alcoholic Drinks status Report bi-annually in the prescribed manner to the Executive Member (in this case the relevant CEC) which shall be transmitted to the County Executive Committee, County Assembly and the Authority (for action).

Alcohol menace. That document is right on the buzzer.

But you know what? We have these headless MCAs running around the world sampling beautiful scenery in the name of benchmarking while all the while chewing up travel allowances and per-diems yet when their main role of providing oversight is called upon, they chicken out and stand fumbling with iPads they don’t even know where the power button is.

If the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for these Bills were so robust and water-tight, as they should be, then Kiambu would have had such a success story in rehabilitating alcohol addicts President Uhuru Kenyatta would have been summoning the Governor, and his Health Committee, to State House to give them an Award of Excellence in Service Delivery. But you see, our MPs are very idle they just want to be called to State House to have a chance of affirming their loyalty to the President and drinking some addictive tea that is still choking our Media Houses since 2014.

I submit to you that if only our County Governments took very seriously their devolved functions, and acted as if they are keen to reverse the dwindling trends in the health sector, the Alcohol problem in Kiambu, or any other County for that matter, would never have made it to this scale.

Make no mistake, State House will never solve the alcohol menace. All you need are MCAs who understand their oversight roles, and a County Government that is open to ideas and scrutiny. That is why I still insist the position of the Governor should never have been subjected to a political process. William Kabogo, for example, is too much interested in fending off Ferdinand Waititu’s barbaric political challenge he has little time to settle down and do his Executive duty of running the County. Dr. Evans Kidero is too obsessed with who peddles counterfeit Panadol he forgets the Social Hall in Muthurwa is about to be grabbed by someone somewhere in a high place.

The President of Kenya must be advised to summon the right people when it comes to issues related to devolved functions. Why did he prevail upon Governors, for example, to sign an agreement with the National Government relating to the Medical Equipment for County Hospitals yet summon MPs when it is clear the Alcohol issue is still in the Governor’s purview?

We need sobriety here.

This was first published here on Facebook

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