Thought Leadership Series

Wishing this was happening in Nigeria

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.

Details here in the Huffington Post. 

South Africa

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.

Details here in the UN

….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

By Chikwe Ihekweazu

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

2 replies on “Wishing this was happening in Nigeria”

Yes, what’s happening in SA and Rwanda is great and it would be nice if such were to happen in Nigeria. But I am curious as to why the purchasing of MRI equipment and CT Scanners for teaching hospitals would be a bad thing? Chronic disease is a growing scourge in Nigeria and though it affects a significant portion of the populace, on a public health level, it is relatively ignored. There was a interesting article published not too long ago linking the failure to address chronic disease with failure to achieve MDGs. I mentioned this on the NigeriansTalk blog –

Lets assume for a minute that the most common chronic diseases are
Hypertension, Heart disease, Lung disease, Diabetes, Stroke, Mental illness and Cancer. Ill be intrigued to hear what proportion (and at what cost to the tax payer) of these you think can be prevented by CT scanners and MRIs. Then Ill also ask you to consider what proportion can be prevented by simple interventions like checking your blood pressure, blood sugar, and access to primary health care. Think of how many children’s lives can be saved by a functioning immunisation programme.

OK ..say we do get MRI and diagnose a lesion at the L2 level in your spinal cord – what do yo think UNTH will be able to do for you.

Health care is complex.

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