June 17, 2024

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Rwanda’s Prof. Binagwaho says COVID 19 put rich countries to shame for failing to protect Community during the Pandemic

Prof. Agnes Binagwaho, Vice Chancellor, University of Global Health Equity is among the laureates of this year

By DUSABEMUNGU Ange de la Victoire

According to Prof. Agnes Binagwaho, Vice Chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity Rwanda and World renowned Public Health Expert, very few countries have also managed to be resilient enough for people not to die from other diseases than COVID 19.

Despite protecting public health during the time of the pandemic being a supreme obligation for countries and International Community irrespective color, country or the continent, during the COVID 19 pandemic, rich countries have shown that they do not care about the health of the people from poor countries, including those on the African continent.

On the other hand, some of the richest countries have faced the challenge of failing to protect their citizens when COVID 19 was so strong due to poor Health Systems of which COVID 19 spotlighted as more bureaucratic than Citizen Centered System.

Speaking at the 2nd Europe – Africa Health Summit on Skills for Health and Skilling Up the Workforce, on Wednesday, Prof. Binagwaho said that the workforce needed today is not only in the quantity but the quality that needs to be developed to create a resilient health System.

She said that “We are still in the middle of COVID-19 pandemic, which showed us that health is a pillar of human and economic development and we know that country needs resilient health sectors to be capable to respond to pandemics while continuing the prevention, diagnostic and treatment needed for illnesses faced by the people in the country.”

Prof. Binagwaho explained that all over the world, there are very few countries who have managed to be resilient enough for people not to die from other diseases than COVID 19 adding that this has shown that health sectors are not resilient.

She cited the example of some rich countries that failed to protect their population from the COVID 19 pandemic while many still think that this pandemic was a very small issue for those countries.

Prof. Binagwaho showed that the lack of a strengthened health system from the community level to national level was the cause behind the suffering of people during the COVID 19.

“Africa has a lot of expertise for the community healthcare service delivery, for example, where I’m here in Rwanda, each village has four community health workers across the country, we standardize education and skills and pay with innovative national funding.

Lack of Community Centered Health System made EU countries more vulnerable to COVID 19 pandemic./Photo: Internet

“Other countries in Africa have other expertise and experience that could serve Europe because what was missing in rich countries was really a community bond and trust.” Prof. Binagwaho noted.

“And it’s okay to say to the doctor: show how you wash your hands, but they are in their office, they are not in the community, they receive people in hospital and in offices not in the community. So Europe needs to learn how to provide community health services and on the other hand, Africa, seek assistance for much complicated health services like specialized Health workforce for clinical and non-clinical services, for research and medical product manufacturing, to ensure sustainable access to the diagnostic treatment and follow up in a self-sufficient manner.” She added.

“That’s the only way to create health system resiliency, and the sustainability and access to diagnostic and treatment. Of course, COVID has shown great solidarity and rapid innovation. However, COVID has shown also how in some of our countries in Africa, the life of people didn’t matter a lot for some leaders in the rich countries. So the lack of quality health education institutions is also a challenge for having a skilled global health workforce.” Prof. Binagwaho emphasized.

She also mentioned that the legacy of colonization despite Africa have fought to develop its health education and institution, in Africa, there is only 169 Medical Schools for the anterior Sub Saharan Africa and this is translated in low health workforce population ratio, having 18 physician for 100,000 people compared to 230 doctors, for 100,000 people in UK, and more than 300, in Spain, Switzerland, Germany, and France.

“So that’s sure clinician are missing everywhere. But there are more missing in our continent, where we have only 3% of the global health workforce and are facing 24% of all the burden of diseases.

“Because also too many clinicians educated with African money are recruited for free by rich countries, We need to create a strong legal framework for compensation and guarantee if we want our continent to be capable of investing in a qualified continental workforce. If not, it will not work.” Prof. Binagwaho warned.

According to this Public Health Expert, It is important to fight brain drain because it costs Africa 2 Billion US dollar per year that is won by the rich country on the backs of Africans.

Prof. Agnes Binagwaho speaking at White Coat ceremony recently at the UGHE in rural Butaro, Burera District in the Northern Province of Rwanda

She continued to highlight that Education also needs to change with more innovation. “We need to train doctors, nurses, and other workforce in management and in advocacy, not only in communication, they know the true problem they face every day. And they need to be good advocates enough to convince their bosses, the colleagues, what to do, and how to create an environment for them to better exercise what they do.”

While concluding her remarks, Prof. Binagwaho advised that if Africa and Europe want to collaborate as two continents, they should convince pharmaceutical partners to waive intellectual property rights, and allow technology to be transferred.

If this succeed, she adds, the current situation with COVID-19 vaccine shortage will be avoided due to the increased manufacturing sites with the respect of the people who have invested in the creation of the vaccine, and this will never be a case again on what has been a lack of access of African to life saving tools when there were a surplus in the rich world.

“So because the resilient health sector generates trust everywhere, if we manage to work together with this and respectful partnership, we will have our people trusting us more, people will wear masks when we will ask them to wear masks with scientific arguments” She concludes.

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