The National Nurses Association of Kenya (NNAK) has kicked off a campaign to celebrate the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.
Speaking in Nairobi Monday, NNAK President Alfred Obengo said the campaign is in line with the World Health Organization (WHO)’s declaration of 2020 as the year of the nurse and midwife.
The celebration marks the 200th anniversary of the profession established by Englishwoman Florence Nightingale, who distinguished herself with selfless service for wounded British soldiers in the Crimean War.
In addition to recognising Ms Nightingale’s achievements, the WHO designated the year to frontline health workers in a bid to celebrate the crucial role they play.
Among the activities planned for the campaign are webinars, media interviews and direct engagements with the public.
Mr Obengo noted that nurses and midwives are critical to the health sector as they are primary caregivers.
“Nurses and midwives are a common feature in health facilities and are regarded as the primary care providers and the first points of contact between patients and healthcare systems,” he said.
“The professions of nursing and midwifery form an essential part of our healthcare systems. This year’s celebration stresses the role we play in the delivery of quality healthcare. It also focuses on our areas of specialisation, the strides we have made and the need to develop joint schemes or frameworks to enhance our work.”
Mr Obengo further noted that nurses are part of the workforce in pharmaceutical firms and institutions of higher learning, where they play a role in decision making as well as policy and curriculum development.
According to NNAK’s statistics, Kenya has 58,247 registered nurses.
Mr Obengo reminded Kenyans of the exceptional courage and competence nurses and midwives have displayed in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“They have demonstrated their competence and capacity in fighting the pandemic. The extraordinary situation has brought these health professionals’ major sacrifices as they nurse the sick and midwife expectant mothers,” he said.
Despite the recognition by the WHO, nurses in the country continue to be at risk of Covid-19 infection due to lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The situation has persisted in public health facilities despite repeated assurances by the Ministry of Health of the government’s commitment to protecting health workers.
A number of frontline health workers have been infected with Covid-19, raising concerns about the country’s ability to effectively combat the pandemic while protecting its medical personnel.
The fear of infection has resulted in lower numbers of expectant women and sick people visiting both public and private health facilities.
The trend was noted as early as April 2 briefing on the virus, when Health Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi said hospitals were recording lower numbers of patients seeking care for illnesses other than Covid-19.
Additionally, non-payment of allowances previously included in collective bargaining agreements with employers has seen nurses in counties such as Busia and Kisumu go on strike.