Nairobi County in Kenya is facing a potential health crisis. Of the county’s 9,043 health facilities, just 1,079 are reportedly registered and have a licence to operate.
The discovery was made by the Nairobi County Assembly’s Health Services committee following an investigation that was partly inspired by the death of human rights activist Caroline Mwatha in February.
A post mortem examination of Mwatha revealed that she died from an unsafe abortion, while a police investigation found that the clinic she had gone to was operating illegally.
The Daily Nation reports that the investigation was spearheaded by Francis Ngesa and Joseph Wambugu, who are members of the county assembly in Nairobi. County assemblies are essentially provincial law-making organs of state.
Peter Imwatok, another member of the county assembly, told Daily Nation: “This report simply means that out of every 10 health facilities that Nairobi residents visit, eight are likely to be unlicensed, putting lives at risk.”
One of the biggest challenges facing access to quality healthcare in Kenya is fake medicine.
As far back as 2015, a report revealed that more than 30% of all medicines sold in Kenya were fake and that about 40% of all malaria treatment in the country was fake.
The issue was brought to attention in January when a man was arrested in Nairobi for selling fake HIV treatment.
Last year, the Standard reported that there was an increase in fake and poor quality treatment for chronic diseases like epilepsy, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.
However, in Nairobi county, illegal clinics seems to be a pervasive problem. In November last year, the County Public Health Department found that 800 out of 2,315 private clinics — about 35% — were operating illegally.
And while the cost on human life is yet to be counted, the World Health Organisation estimates that at least 100,000 deaths a year in Africa are linked to fake medicine.
Meanwhile, Nairobi City Hall's Health Services executive Mohamed Dagane has urged Nairobi county to prioritise inspecting health facilities and ensure that all practitioners have the necessary qualifications and practising licences.
He also said regulatory boards, which include those for doctors, nurses, dentists, clinicians, radiologists, and pharmacists, should constantly monitor healthcare services and ensure that practitioners are qualified.