In the affluent part of Lagos Island, watching the bankers as they drive in to the 5-star Hospital – yes, that is how it is referred to- I looked at my surroundings. I had to cross an open gutter to get in. Walking into the reception, the nurses in their off-white uniforms asked me to clean my hands with the sanitizer. I hesitated; the top of the pump looked as if it had snot on it.
Ok, it is Africa, I oblige.
As I waited for my friend to see the doctor, I heard a distraught cry from somewhere inside.
What’s the gossip???
Nurse says casually, ‘a child has died of malaria’…in the hospital for the rich.
I was saddened for the family, but dismayed at the whole set up. I had forgotten that in all the noise about Ebola, and the fact that Ebola laid bare the failings and lack of investment in our health infrastructure, we still had not sorted out the basics.
So, why am I moaning?
While the world’s attention has been focused on reducing Ebola cases to zero, a pernicious health emergency has silently prevailed in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA). The diversion of resources and interest away from general healthcare means more people are dying of preventable conditions than they ever were from Ebola.
It is widely reported that malaria, measles and typhoid fever claim more lives everyday in SSA than Ebola ever will. Not to mention the stubbornly high mortality rates at childbirth and of children under 5.
My point is that outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles and polio as well as infectious diseases like cholera facilitated by poor drainage, unsanitary hospitals and ignorance means that the economic renaissance that we are promoting for Africa is threatened before it has truly taken off.
Why do I write this? For every negative there lies an opportunity to make a difference. The professionals in the diaspora should get involved at the foundation level of development by investing in structural platforms such as health, sanitation and education.
And what could have probably prevented that child’s death? Not necessarily a mosquito net, but a clean drainage to kill off the habitat of mosquitoes. Clean water for good sanitation, even if it is a hand pump. Genuine affordable medicine so that cheaper counterfeits are no longer available. These targets are achievable. We only need to work with local SMEs to bring them to life.
Join us on
Afro Biz Expo 2015
in September in Reading, Berkshire to learn how SMEs can make a difference in Africa.