13 MPs Among Scores of Kenyan Patients Seeking Cancer Treatment in India

Around 10,000 Kenyans travel overseas every year to seek medical treatment, according to figures from the country's ministry of health.


Among hundreds of Kenyans seeking cancer treatment in Indian hospitals are 13 members of parliament of Kenya. Nine of them are members of the National Assembly while four are Kenyan senators, said Juja MP Francis Munyua Waititu who returned home after successful treatment of brain cancer in India on March 16.

Most of the Kenyan MPs are being treated at the Apollo Hospital outlets in New Delhi and other cities in India, reported the Star.

Waititu, also known as Wakapee, stayed in India for seven weeks before he returned to Kenya. He said that he was surprised to meet hundreds of Kenyans in India, some of whom are, in fact, his colleagues in the parliament.

The figures from the Kenyan ministry of health show that around 10,000 Kenyans travel overseas every year to seek treatment and spend at least Sh10 billion in the same period, the report added.

“So many people are suffering in silence from cancer. Nobody wants to talk about it because of the stigma behind it. In India, I met hundreds of cancer patients from Kenya alone. Among them were nine of my fellow MPs and four Senators. The cancer scourge is enormous and we can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand. We must get out and talk about it,” Waititu was quoted as saying by

Waititu added that many Kenyans who visit India for treatment, and their caregivers, have to live in sad conditions due to paucity of funds. He also met several of them as there is an existing network of sick Kenyans in India.

“Those people you have been helping in fundraising to go for further treatment in India cannot find anywhere to lay down their heads, they are sleeping in trenches because they cannot afford renting the expensive houses in India. I personally spent Sh1.8 million on housing alone for the period I was there. How many Kenyans can afford that?,” he said.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, more than 40,000 Kenyans are diagnosed with cancer annually. Cancer claims the lives of 15,000 people per year in the country, the Star said.

In 2017, a total of 116 patients suffering from non-communicable diseases visited India between January and March seeking treatment, according to data from the Kenyan health ministry. Cancer patients made up 57.8 per cent of the total number, while 16.8 per cent sought treatment for renal diseases. Those seeking medical treatment for cardiovascular disease and skeletal disorders accounted for 7.8 per cent and 3.4 per cent of total patients, respectively. The data revealed that more number of men traveled overseas for treatment (54 per cent) as compared to women (46 per cent).

Waititu stressed on  the need for prominent Kenyans to come out in the open about their cancer status to fight the stigma around the disease. “If they could have come out openly like myself, a solution would have been realized so far,” he said.

David Makumi, the chairman of Kenyan Network of Cancer Organisations, pointed out that 75 per cent of cancer patients travelling for treatment in India could be treated in Kenya for less money. “The remaining 25 per cent would be patients needing specialized surgery or bone-marrow transplants,” Makumi said.

In January last year, new guidelines made by health cabinet secretary Cleopa Mailu and the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB) stipulated that patients will only be referred to foreign hospitals if there is proof that the referral would be the most cost-effective option for him or her, Daily Nation reported.

“A medical or dental practitioner may refer a patient for medical or dental management abroad where the patient has opted to seek medical intervention or management abroad where public resources are not used,” the guideline said.

More than 2 lakh foreigners availed medical facilities in India in 2016, according to the Indian ministry of home affairs. As many as 1,678 Pakistani citizens and 296 Americans were among the foreigners who visited India to seek medical care in 2016. A total of 99,799 Bangladeshi citizens were issued medical visas in 2016, making up the highest number from a country. Medical tourism in India is worth around $3 billion and is estimated to grow to $7-8 billion by 2020.

India is also becoming a preferred destination for Chinese nationals seeking treatments for various medical conditions. As many as 483,000 people traveled outside from China for medical care in 2015, and the figures are estimated to cross 800,000 by 2020, according to Global Growth Market. A sizeable number of the patients going abroad from the country for treatment come to India.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *