I worked for 18 months without pay in Health ministry – Dr Mercy Mwangangi

Chief Administrative Secretary In the Ministry Of Health Dr Mercy Mwangangi. [Photo Nation]

Chief Administrate Secretary (CAS) in the Ministry of Health Dr Mercy Mwangangi has been a darling to Kenyans since she began issuing daily Covid-19 updates in 2020.

She was unknown to many until the pandemic struck in March 2020; she quickly became an eye candy for Kenyans who were not only struck by her eloquence and deep sense of professionalism but also her charming looks.

In a recent interview with Nation, she says that beneath her professional stature, she has made huge sacrifices that many would never imagine of.

After pursuing a degree in medicine from Nairobi University, she was posted to Chuka as a district medical officer. Several years into practising, she landed a scholarship to pursue a Master’s degree in Health Economics and Policy in Australia’s University of Adelaide.

When she returned to Kenya in 2015, she was jobless and it itched her. She would apply for a position on observership in the Ministry of Health where she worked probono for 18 months.

Interestingly, she was always in office by 6 am and would leave after 8 pm. This, she holds, helped her prove that she is equal to the task.

But how did she get attention from President Uhuru Kenyatta?

After her working without pay for 18 months, she would be absorbed into Monitoring and Evaluation Unit and later move to lead the health financing division.

In 2018, she travelled to the US for a conference in Washigton DC to present a paper – funding everything from her pocket – and met the then Health CS Sicily Kariuki.

Impressed, Kariuki appointed her among her technical advisers which is how Uhuru noticed her and appointed her Health CAS.

Her advice is that you must keep improving yourself daily to become better.

Reliving difficult moments after the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Mwangangi added  that was a lot that was happening behind the scenes than the routine daily briefs that they made on live TV.

Dr Mwangangi recalls battling a lot of pressure together with other stakeholders who developed protocols for quarantine and isolation.

She noted that the pressure would see her up all through the night. It was a journey of untold fatigue but she never gave up.

“We hardly slept. The minister, Mutahi Kagwe, often joked that he was able to send texts at 2am, 3am, 4am, 5am and most times, to his surprise, we would reply back (immediately).

“Were there effects of no sleep? Of course yes, there are times we really struggled. You really feel exhausted but then the country was in a crisis and we needed to brace ourselves and fight the pandemic,” the CAS offered.

The most difficult moment for her, just like other medics and governments across the world, was dealing with a virus that there was little information about.

She had to consult her doctor friends overseas, so did Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe who also reached out to friends in the UK on the same.

Through it all, Dr Mwangangi says she has learnt important lessons especially on the disintegration of sex data whereby, the ministry communicated daily on the number of men and women who were infected with coronavirus.

This, she says, informed the ministry on several things all aimed at handling women matters better.