Kenya’s striking medical workers are using all means at their disposal to get the attention of both the government and the public.
Social media has been shown to be an especially useful tool in uniting people for a cause and so it is not a surprise that Kenya’s striking medical workers have turned to it as their demands continue.
Prior to starting their strike, the doctors had outed the hashtag #LipaKamaTender which means pay it like tender. The phrase is gaining more popularity as it is being employed far and wide to criticize the current government.
Kenya’s striking medical workers who are asking for a certain percentage of increased wages which had been promised by the government in 2013, were allegedly aggrieved by a recent report involving the Ministry of Health on how 5 billion Kenyan shillings had been “lost”.
The unions organizing Kenya’s striking medical workers accuse the government of breaching the 2013 agreement by passing over the healthcare workers payroll onto county governments without establishing the relevant legal framework for the devolution of health. It also does not help that healthcare funding across Kenya has been cut from a recommended 15% of the government’s budget to 2.7%.
Whereas labor dissents of this nature are often undermined by the government who use state machinery as well as the media to shape the narrative, social media is helping the doctors to rise above all that. Kenya’s striking medical workers are telling the people about their own experiences and in that way challenging the assumptions that the public has held concerning their strike action.
For instance, the President had last week asked the doctors to get back to work referring to the death of an alleged fourteen patients since they began their strike action. It was an argument that would easily have turned the people against the doctors and did indeed lead to some people questioning the ethics of the doctors.
When, however, the citizenry hear the story told by one doctor of how a baby died in her arms because there was no blood for a transfusion, and the equipment to do blood cross-matching with the parents was out of order, they are more inclined to understand just what the doctors are fighting for.
Another doctor shared in a Twitter thread about working in northern Kenya on the Somalia and Ethiopia borders. He had been the only qualified doctor in the area, single-handedly managing a huge disadvantaged population. The government had slashed his salary on the supposition that his cost of living would be low. Eventually, he had been involved in a road accident and was disabled with the Ministry of Health refusing to transfer him.
Stories like these humanize the plight of the doctors and remind the public that despite the casualties, their message is simple; their demands are not misplaced and if the nation can afford to ‘lose’ huge chunks of money to corruption, they can afford to pay doctors to continue their work of saving lives.