Kenya staring at a mess amid plans to overhaul Kemri

Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri). [Photo Star]

Plans by the government to set up Kenya Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) has thrown the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) into further limbo.

According to communication by PS Ministry of Health Susan Mochache, the Kenyan government in collaboration with the World Bank has embarked on an ambitious project to set up the facility which threatens Kemri’s existence.

“The Ministry of Health in conjunction with the World Bank has embarked on the establishment and construction of the Kenya Centers for Disease Control (KCDC),” Mochache wrote to Kemri’s section heads on July 7, reports the Standard.

About Ksh300 million has been allocated towards this project which is said to take over Kemri’s key roles.

The Ksh300 million is part of Ksh138 billion load advanced to Kenya by the World Bank for the Kenya Covid-19 Emergency Response Project.

Even as this development progresses, Kemri, which is at the centre of handling Kenya’s coronavirus pandemic is yet to receive any funding from the government.

A few weeks ago, the National Assembly Health Committee directed the ministry to release Kemri’s funding as key functions in the handling of coronavirus threatened to grind to a halt.

Kemri accounts for 70 percent of daily coronavirus tests in the country.
As if this is not enough, US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) has withdrawn its support for Kemri. It was the institution’s biggest supporter.

“Some of the CDC Kenya programmes will move to the US Embassy in 2021 or 2022,” a CDC Kenya spokesperson told The Standard.

However, the spokesperson added that “The transition is an important step for Kemri as it moves on the pathway to self-reliance. This move has been planned for a few years and is unrelated to our relationship with Kemri. CDC will continue to have a presence at its own offices co-located at Kemri headquarters for the foreseeable future.”

In light of the new developments, Mochache indicated that there will be no more recruitment of experts in Kemri even as CDC said that it has been a challenge for the institution to absorb experts whose contracts expire in September.

Kemri Director-General Yeri Kombe has remained tight-lipped on the matter asking journalists to get clarity from the Ministry of Health.

The bone of contention remains the absorption of the experts who are staring at unemployment in the next two weeks.

A senior official from the National Influenza Centre said that failure to absorb the experts could result in a crisis in COVID-19 testing.

“Whatever the motive, with an ongoing pandemic it is not the time to divert funds and attention to new adventures,” the senior official said.