By Joel Mzanta
Lamu Gubernatorial Candidate Umra Omar has termed healthcare as most critical issue and is therefore promising implement universal access incase she wins on August 9.
She said majority of people in the County especially the poor had been suffering a great deal and even dying from preventable conditions.
“I am the Universal Health Care candidate,” the Safina Party gubernatorial candidate said in a speech during a campaign rally in Mkunumbi Ward, Lamu West Constituency.
Her declaration comes in the wake of increasing concerns over the current UHC policy’s capacity to effectively provide healthcare service delivery for the 20,000 Lamu households that it is supposed to cover.
The current UHC policy implemented by incumbent Lamu governor Fahim Twaha provides for 20,000 households having a National Health Insurance Fund Card for which each household is entitled to a Kshs 8,000 coverage.
In total the Lamu County government spends at least Kshs 120 million annually to provide healthcare for 20,000 households.
She however stated that the initiative has fallen short of expectations noting that the county spends less than 30 percent of the NHIF Universal Healthcare coverage.
“The UHC policy is not working effectively to serve the healthcare concerns of Lamu residents,”she said, adding that most healthcare facilities despite being “relatively free” due to the NHIF card periodically lack medicine or even vital diagnostic equipment.
She said that the bulk of NHIF resources meant to benefit Lamu residents as well as its healthcare facilities normally outflows to other counties namely Mombasa due to the frequency of referrals to Coast General Hospital that is better equipped.
She stated that her experiences as a not for profit healthcare service provider in Lamu since 2014 played a key role in informing her decision to run for elective office.
Umra Omar is the founder of Safari Doctors, an organization that delivers primary medical care and health education by boat to marginalized communities across Lamu County.
“The medical camps sponsored by the Safari Doctors initiative opened my eyes to the shortcomings of the former and current governors’ efforts to address proper healthcare service delivery in Lamu,” Omar said.
She further illustrated how her quest to run for the gubernatorial seat was partly inspired by the neglect of the health sector especially in marginalized areas.
“Addressing healthcare concerns is key among the reasons why I am running for the gubernatorial seat, but I would also like to address land management issues, joblessness among our youths as well as improve education standards in Lamu,” she said.
Omar noted that presently there is a lot of wastage of resources by the current county government leading to poor public service delivery in key areas such as cleanliness of the Lamu Old Town as well as the non-completion of socioeconomic amenities such as markets in Amu Old town and Mpeketoni.
She also said that part of her manifesto is to improve the social cohesiveness of communities living within Lamu regardless of ethnicity or religion.
Sentiments echoed by former Lamu West MP and her deputy governor nominee Julius Kariuki Ndegwa who stated that a win for Umrah would be a win for the county.
“The county is in need of a political jolt and not a recycling of the two former governors who have proved time and again that they are not up to the task of addressing Lamu’s concerns,” he said.
He said that the decision to support Umra’s candidature came easily based on her track record as a civil society operative have helped hundreds across Lamu especially within the healthcare sector
Ndegwa insisted an Umra governorship would be uniquely prepared to address key concerns within Lamu chief among them education, jobs as well as healthcare which he added would be a break from the “weak and ineffective” leadership that she added has slowed the county’s socioeconomic progress.
“There is a sense that with the two previous administrations, Lamu residents have been shortchanged despite there being enough resources and political goodwill from the national government to address their concerns,” he added.