It takes courage and leadership to confront some of the huge health challenges confronting us. But health is complex. Its a bit like our electricity problem in Nigeria. It cannot be solved by throwing money at it. It cannot be solved by grand statements of intent. It requires in depth knowledge of the issues at stake, and not just clinical issues but expertise in management and financing mechanisms. It requires careful negotiation with stakeholders as the last leadership of our Ministry of Health attempted to do. But now Nigerians seek the innovation and courage to be translated into opportunities of real health gain.
Find below two examples of what we refer. Its no surprise the countries they come from.
Almost exactly one year ago today, Rwandan Minister of Health Richard Sezibera vaccinated the first child in Rwanda against pneumococcal disease. In so doing, he made Rwanda the first ‘GAVI-eligible’ (low-income) country to begin protecting its children against this devastating disease. Dr. Orin Levine joined GAVI Alliance CEO Julian Lob-Levyt, the World Health Organization‘s Dr. Thomas Cherian, and others at this event in rural Rwanda, and to then meet with Rwandan President Paul Kagame who reiterated his country’s commitment to improving health for all its citizens. Since that time, The Gambia has also joined the ranks of GAVI countries using pneumococcal conjugate vaccines. Last year’s program launch was based on a donation of 7-valent vaccine from Wyeth (now Pfizer). The company agreed to provide enough vaccine for these countries to vaccinate all their children for at least two years. This year they’re launching 10-valent and 13-valent vaccines through the Advance Market Commitment (AMC). This innovative approach to vaccine financing means that the world’s poorest countries will have long-term access to these vaccines at affordable prices. Basically, each dose can be purchased for about the same price as a Starbucks latte! What makes this most remarkable is that the launch of these vaccines at these prices is occurring within the same year as the launch of these vaccines in rich countries at prices of close to $100 per dose.
In what the United Nations calls the largest and fastest scaling-up of AIDS services ever endeavored by a country, South Africa plans to test 15 million people for HIV by 2011, a six-fold increase in just two years, and provide antiretroviral treatment to 1.5 million people by June 2011, up from 1 million the past year. To achieve this target, the South African government will help its 4,333 public clinics to dole out AIDS medicines. The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS lauded the new campaign, and expressed hope that it will set off a new dialogue on HIV prevention and safer sex. UNAIDS also welcomed the South African government’s move to reduce the cost of antiretroviral treatment.
….if only we could hear more of these from our country, rather than the next plan to buy MRI and CT scanners for teaching hospitals!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead