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Kenyan Health Office Says Health Aid Best Channeled Through Governments

  • James Butty

James Ole Kiyiapi, former permanent secretary in health ministry says such policy would strengthen public health institutions and avoid duplication

A senior health official from Kenya said the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known commonly as PEPFAR, is perhaps the biggest investment that Americans have given to Africa in terms of resources.

But, James Ole Kiyiapi, who until late last month was Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health in Kenya, said African countries want future international health investments to be channeled through established government institutions.

He said one reason that international health funding has not yielded the desired positive results has been because of uncoordinated approaches.

“The message that we were bringing to members of Congress and U.S. government officials was to say we would like now future investments, in terms of health, to come through institutions of government so that it is mainstream, it is integrated and it also goes toward health systems strengthening,” he said.

Kiyiapi said channeling future health assistance through public institutions would leave them stronger at the end of the program than they were at the beginning.

Malaria patients

Malaria patients

He said PEPFAR’s positive impact is being felt in many African countries, including Kenya, in areas such as infant mortality reduction and maternal health and in dealing with malaria and HIV/AIDS.

Some international donors have expressed reservation about channeling development funds through government institutions apparently to bypass perceived government corruption.

But, Kiyiapi said such concern was over generalized and over simplified.

“I know that, at least, even if you wanted to track the flow of resources and if there was a problem, I would also bet that it would be much easier to know where the problem is within government than if, for example, you were sending the same resources through amorphous and not (a) very well-defined civil society organization,” Kiyiapi said.

Kiyiapi said he was not trying to put civil society organizations down because he said he used to work for national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

He said he was only trying to make a case for international aid givers to hold both NGOs and governmental institutions accountable.

Kiyiapi and several other senior health officials from Africa were in Washington recently under the sponsorship of the Global Health Progress, an initiative of socially conscious pharmaceutical companies to improve health in developing countries.