One of the key targets in the End TB Strategy of 2017 by WHO is to ensure there are zero TB-affected families facing catastrophic costs due to TB. This is an effort that could really be appreciated by the Wachira family who have used an exorbitant amount of money and still owe a lot more in their pursuit of health for their daughter Joyce Wangechi. Joyce Wangechi is a twelve-year-old suffering from Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB).
Joyce Wangechi hooked on an oxygen concentrator
When I meet her for the first time, my eyes are drawn to the big, bulky oxygen concentrator young Joyce is hooked on and I cannot help but hurt for her. Before June of last year, Joyce was a happy, school loving girl living a blissfully unaware life. Then she contracted TB and the course of her life was altered.
In August 2017, Joyce was admitted to the Kenyatta Hospital isolation ward following tests that confirmed she had MDR-TB. She underwent treatment but during that time she got heart and lung complications that further disrupted her treatment regimen. Joyce spent about six months in the hospital and was officially discharged at the end of January 2018.
Her hospital bill came to 1.1 million shillings (USD 10,000) which they have been unable to pay. Her parents David Wachira and Martha Njoki held a fundraising and used the money to buy Joyce an Oxygen concentrator at 110,000 shillings(1,100), a generator at 6,500 shillings(USD 65) which requires petrol when the electricity is out. The generator can consume petrol worth as much as 1,000 shillings (USD 10) in a single night.
Joyce’s mother, Martha, owned a vegetable stand which she had to close to take care of Joyce. Her father David works in the mjengo/juakali (small informal) sector on short and irregular contracts. Getting work lately has been particularly hard especially in light of the care Joyce requires.
Joyce’s parents were not well off to begin with, but the incurred cost during the treatment of Joyce took quite a toll on them. They conducted two fundraisings which aided them in purchasing an oxygen concentrator and generator. They however are yet to pay the catastrophic hospital bill. Due to pressure from the hospital, they agreed to pay an installment of 1,500. Shillings (USD150) each month until the bill is fully settled.
This amount of money is still high as Mama Joyce states, “We currently have no source of income and are surviving on sheer will.” She also points out that the full care for Joyce including her heart medicines, petrol for the generator and even new diet requires a significant amount of money. “I do not like to beg, I am a hardworking woman after all. It has just become so hard to get by.” Martha concludes.
The Wachira family is one of many Kenyan families suffering financial hardship as a result of TB. Being diagnosed and treated with TB is extremely vital; it is however also important to survive this trying time without smarting financial hardship that completely upends one’s life.
By: Njango Njung’e