Kenya takes lead at global high-level meeting on NDCs in humanitarian settings

Kenya’s proactive stance in addressing Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) was highlighted at the Global High-Level Technical Meeting on NCDs in Humanitarian Settings in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Led by Principal Secretary for Medical Services Harry Kimtai, the Kenyan delegation played a pivotal role in the discussions held on February 27, 2024.

Kimtai underscored Kenya’s commitment to tackling the increasing burden of NCDs, which account for over 41pc of total deaths and 50pc of inpatient hospital admissions in the country.

Kenya’s comprehensive strategy includes implementing the 2nd National Strategic Plan (2021-2026) and developing emergency care guidelines to ensure continuity of care during crises.

Aligned with the Bottom-UP Economic Transformation Agenda, Kenya has initiated significant health financing reforms, including the enactment of the Social Health Insurance Act of 2023, aimed at achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

These reforms are designed to guarantee equitable access to healthcare, including for vulnerable groups like refugees.

Kenya is among countries that have convened in Denmark alongside the World Health Organization (WHO), the Kingdom of Denmark, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency to support integration of essential services for NCDs into emergency preparedness and humanitarian response.

The meeting provided an invaluable platform for sharing insights and best practices in addressing NCD challenges in humanitarian settings.

The number of crises impacting people’s health has been increasing. During 2023, WHO responded to 65 graded health emergencies worldwide, up from 40 a decade earlier.

In the same year, UNHCR issued 43 emergency declarations to scale up support in 29 countries – the highest number in decades. United Nations estimates show that 300 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2024 with over half (165.7 million) in need of emergency health assistance.

“People living with NCDs in humanitarian crises are more likely to see their condition worsen due to trauma, stress, or the inability to access medicines or services. The needs are enormous, but the resources are not,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We must find ways to better integrate NCD care in emergency response, to protect more lives from these avoidable tragedies and improve health security.”

Refugees often face limited access to health care, which can be compounded by poor living conditions, financial difficulties, and precarious legal status. NCDs accounted for a significant proportion of all deaths in the top countries of origin of refugees under UNHCR’s mandate: 75pc in the Syrian Arab Republic, 92pc in Ukraine, 50pc in Afghanistan and 28pc in South Sudan.

“As forced displacement grows, we must work to ensure the right to health of refugees, other forcibly displaced people and host communities. It is imperative that the policies, and resources are in place to support the inclusion of refugees in national health systems, including for access to care for noncommunicable diseases,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “We must be innovative, and work with governments and partners to respond to such challenges.”

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