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Artist Shows Effect of Doctors’ Strike in Kenya


Health care workers in Kenya have been on strike for nearly two months.

The strike has affected all 47 counties across the country. Only private hospitals are operating.

The strike has paralyzed Kenya’s public health system. Tens of thousands of people are unable to see their doctor or receive reasonably priced medical care.

Doctors are refusing to work until the government increases their wages -- as it agreed to do in 2013. The doctors also say the government must keep its promise to provide better equipment.

The doctors want the pay raise promised to them in a June 2013 agreement. Under the plan, the monthly pay of the lowest-paid doctor would rise to $3,420. The highest-paid doctors would receive about $9,400 a month. Now, the highest-paid doctors receive $5,000 a month. The lowest-paid get $400.

One Kenyan man is using his artwork to show the effect of the strike on the average person.

Artist Joseph Mbatia is better known as “Bertiers.”

“Let me say, I’m just creating awareness. I’m not favoring any side -- I’m just neutral. But I take my art -- you know, art is a very powerful tool -- I’m taking it as a tool to facilitate to the ongoing strike so that people can know their positions. And then they can be able to come together first and solve the issue.”

Bertiers has started working on a new piece that represents his thinking about the strike. This is not the first time he has worked on such art.

In 2014, the Ebola virus hit West Africa. The disease killed many people. Medical experts feared the virus might move east. So Bertiers imagined Kenyan doctors going on strike at a time when Ebola was infecting people across the country.

The resulting artwork is just one of many pieces he has created at his art studio near Nairobi.

Bertiers says there is a reason he creates his art.

“With me, when I, when I draw it like that, it gives more impact to people out there, to see that the matter is becoming even more serious. When you go to the hospital and find that there are some dead people in the bed, and there are others who are coming to, to see their loved, their loved ones, whether they are being given drugs, it is, it is really not too good.”

And as he continues to work, Bertiers says he hopes the doctors will go back to work soon.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

VOA Correspondent Jill Craig reported this story from Nairobi. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

paralyze – v. to make (someone or something) unable to function, act or move

awareness – n. the act of knowing and understanding a lot about what is happening in the world or around you

facilitate – v. to help (something) run more smoothly and effectively; to make (something) easier; to help cause (something)

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