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The Government of Kenya and United Nations Partnership to Achieve Universal Health Care Inspires Many in Silicon Valley and the Stanford, U.C. Berkeley Communities

Paulina muthoni with her baby, Stephen attending post-natal and well-baby clinic at the Lodwar Referral hospital, Turkana county. With more mothers having access to pre/postnatal health care due to increased sensitization on the importance of seeking professional medical care, maternal/newborn mortality rates have considerably reduced in most of the areas considered high-risk. Credit: UN Kenya/Ngele Ali

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 9 2018 (IPS) - Recently, some of us from the Stanford University and U.C. Berkeley community had the privilege of hosting Siddharth Chatterjee, the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Kenya and his team at the Silicon Valley, where he spoke at the 2018 African Diaspora Investment Symposium. The Kenya team also met with academics, Directors of Centers and students as well as some of brilliant technology leaders in Silicon Valley at Facebook and Google.

From the presentations, we learned how the United Nations Country Team in Kenya was supporting the Government of Kenya on Universal Health Care and the delivery of Kenya’s Vision 2030 through multi-sectoral partnerships; bringing to bear the power of cutting edge technology innovation. This was indeed an opportune gathering to brainstorm on ways of partnering towards this vision. We also learnt that the Kenyan leadership recently announced the Big 4 Action Plan and a commitment to dedicating energy, time and resource over the next 5 years to 1). Food Security 2). Affordable Housing 3). Manufacturing 4). Affordable HealthCare for all.

As someone who grew up in the Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram in India, and a strong believer in the Gandhian philosophy of Respecting and standing for the Dignity of All, I am double excited by how that philosophy is enshrined within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda of leaving no one behind. It was therefore uplifting and inspiring to hear how Kenya is invested in leapfrogging access to health care for all her citizens, in view of the central role of health in national development.

The United Nations and Government of Kenya partnership is spot on: without cultivating synergies and pooling strengths, attempts at delivering the SDGs – which now are the global normative framework for solving monumental social and environmental problems – will be greatly compromised. Transformative multi-sectoral collaborations are the true spirit of SDG Goal No. 17 on partnerships.

I learned that Kenya has demonstrated global leadership in the adoption and mainstreaming of the SDGs including co-chairing the Open Working group. Additionally, the agenda to drive SDG3 on health is a substantive priority for Kenya. As a result, considerable steps have been taken to bring more hands-on deck, to unlock alternative means for financing the Countries development agenda, and include genuine innovative and homegrown approaches as well as adaptation of innovative approaches from various parts of the world.

Especially motivating is the bold vision for Kenya to leverage technology innovation as it seeks to achieve Universal Health Care. A critical objective of the Big 4 agenda as outlined by Kenya’s President, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta.

Towards this, the African Diaspora Investment Symposium is already creating pathways; Professor Banny Banerjee of ChangeLabs at Stanford University is now exploring with the United Nations Kenya office the potential of launching an SDG Innovation Lab in Kenya, while the Stanford School of Medicine has expressed keenness in considering partnerships to advance the vision of achieving UCH in Kenya.

Having engaged in the dialogue, I look forward to seeing strong collaborations emerge in the future, with all partners working closely with the Kenyan Government and UN Kenya office to advance Universal Health Care. This will truly exemplify the spirit of “One-UN” joint UN Development Assistance Framework and SDG Partnership Platform.

Attending The Africa Diaspora Investment Symposium. Left to Right: Ashit Patel-SalesForce, Siddharth Chatterjee-UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya, Heather Grady-Vice President, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Radhika Shah- Co-President, Stanford Angels and Entrepreneurs, and Karolina Mzyk, The Sustainable Development Goals Philanthropy Platform

Another lesson from the presentation was on leadership by the Kenyan Government and support of the UN with private sector, philanthropy and civil society partners to co-create transformative solutions to locally-identified challenges. This initiative seeks to catalyze private capital to support these solutions where the investment case allows.

This approach will prepare Kenya for alternate SDG funding as Overseas Development Aid shrinks and financing transactions for the long term emerge within the private sector as the country climbs up the middle-income ladder.

It is clear “Business Unusual will Drive Africa’s Quest to achieve Health Care for All” The power of partnerships, and harnessing technology and innovation might be a game-changer for Kenya and Africa in achieving Universal Health Care for all and achieving the vision of leaving on one behind.

This spirit of collaboration and visionary leadership demonstrated by the UN system in Kenya is what is required in the world today if we are to achieve the SDGs. Multi-sectoral collaboration and leveraging the power of technology innovation could help advance one of the most fundamental of human rights – access to basic primary health for all Kenyans and Africa at large.

Perhaps Kenya may be leading the way and could inspire the rest of Africa to focus on UHC as the most basic of human right for all citizens. This is indeed a moment for us all to work hand in hand to reach the furthest behind first and leave no one behind.

Radhika Shah, is Co-President Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs, Silicon Valley, USA

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