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Focus on


health


SADC Special Report


Whether care is foreign, as here with a nurse from a Chinese hospital ship dispensing free help to a youth with bronchitis, or home-grown, as pictured opposite, parts of Africa are currently in severe need of extra health provision


Dr Simiyu believes that African


governments should not just look at healthcare as a social service provision, but as a way of helping to build their economies. “They should link health to socio-economic development, like they have done in India, where the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare system are now receiving patients from foreign countries, and hence contributing to the country’s economic wellbeing and economic growth. He adds: “African countries need to


invest in innovative ways of providing healthcare. For example, it is about time Africa took full advantage of the world’s mobile technology to improve primary healthcare and the delivery of its healthcare policies.”


Enter the NGOs There are hundreds of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) operating in Africa, providing a plethora of services including in the health sector and in 2002, the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, even


68 | March 2011 New African


“African governments should look at India, where


the medical system is receiving patients from other countries, contributing to national economic growth.”


described the NGOs as “the conscience of humanity”. Where healthcare is concerned, NGOs have played a critical role during conflict times and in countries where health structures are insufficient or non-existent, they work with authorities such as the Ministries of Health to provide assistance. One such NGO is Médecins Sans


Frontières (MSF) – Doctors Without Borders – which provides emergency medical assistance and has 32 projects in 26 African countries. A total of 42.1% of its global programmes are carried out in Africa and this includes being health providers in conflict zones, like North and South Kivu in DR Congo, where it has carried out 530,000 medical consultations. MSF has also worked closely on immunisation campaigns with the Niger and Nigerian government, where an estimated 8 million people were


vaccinated against meningitis in 2009. The fight against HIV⁄Aids and


tuberculosis continues to be an integral part of MSF’s work as well, and in countries like Kenya, MSF played a key role alongside other national and international NGOs in lobbying the government to declare the disease a natural disaster in the 1990s, paving the way for access to affordable generic drugs against TB. Dr Unni Karunakara is the International


President of MSF. He says: “As a medical humanitarian organisation working mainly in emergencies, MSF does not replace national governments and their respective Ministries of Health in healthcare delivery. In fact, we always seek to work closely with the Ministry of Health, by keeping them informed and involved in the activities we do, as they are ultimately responsible for


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