When my boss told me I was gonna be attending the Pan African Health Summit, I was thrilled. Not because I thought it would be highly entertaining because it wasn’t that long ago that I had missed my favorite sitcoms cos NTA insisted on showing boring summits… primary school really wasn’t that long ago. Neither was I thrilled because I was gonna be on TV, nah! Been there, done that, got the T-shirt after all Maltina had conspired with parents to have us kids on TV making requests and sending greetings every christmas growing up. I was actually excited cos I felt I was gonna be doing something different from my boring routine and I would be networking with the high and mighty of the health industry. I spent ages picking what to wear. The summit was held at the Lagos-Osun Conference hall of the Transcorp Hilton hotel from the 9th to 11th of August. The theme was “Enhancing Mobile Healthcare using Information and Communication Technologies to Deliver a Healthier Tomorrow for Africa.”
Summits, villages and the good food between…
It was the first of its kind in Africa and in attendance were Ministers of health from Nigeria and neighboring African countries like Kenya and Ghana as well as delegates from India, US and the UK, also in attendance were the Honorable Minister of Communication technology and representatives of the Intel Corporation and Ewave MD. It was so cool sitting with all this famous people and I wore my badge quite proudly.
The Pan African Health Summit provided a forum for showcasing the mobile integrated primary healthcare program, ‘Mailafiya’ which in plain English, was a project that not only sent doctors to remote villages where phones didn’t work and electricity hadn’t been invented but also ironically, gave them cute, already-charged laptops with internet access to record patient data so it could be added to a database. Pretty tech stuff huh?
It aimed at achievement of MDGs 4, 5 & 6. MDGs are the Millenium Development Goals and there’s been such a buzz about them cos the world’s leaders figure if they achieve all those goals, the inhabitants of planet earth will have a realistic shot at a better life. This summit aimed at achieving MDG 4 (reduce child mortality), 5 (improve maternal health) & 6 (combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases) using a scalable Information communication technology solution.
The Honorable Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs Bola Johnson, who by the way, looks young and incredibly hot and is one of the top people in Accenture had a few things to say. Gosh, that woman can’t be 40 yet and like Beyonce sang, ‘she totally rules this muthaf**king world’. I hope I have that much greatness in my future oh! Anyway she pointed out that affordability was one of the biggest challenges of communication technology in Nigeria. (stale gist actually, affordability affects everything in Nigeria, we aren’t a developing country for no reason).
Mrs Purnima Mane, the Deputy Exercutive Director UNFPA, a petite indian woman, pointed out the need to scale up pilot programs. That was such a valid point cos one thing we Nigerians are good at and probably all of the developing world, is starting up pilot programs. Pilot sites, pilot hospitals, pilot schools….Pilot projects should give way to other projects but the people in charge usually are just concerned with fattening their pockets and soon the project becomes a pilot that crash landed into oblivion…
One of the speakers stated that we had no right to ask for quality when a product was free, that wasn’t a novelty for me cause we Nigerians are believe that awoof dey run bele anyway. He pointed out the need for quality assurance. Interestingly he stated that if 1kobo/minute was deducted for health per phone call and there were 88million lines in Nigeria, we would be more than able to far exceed the stated budget and achieve the MDGs. Good idea huh? Who knows how many one kobos MTN and GLO have been collecting from us? I really wish they were all for a good cause but I doubt that… 🙂
Robert Higgs, the president Global Care International USA told us a touching story about his wife and how she’d fueled his passion. He stated some of the challenges facing these erstwhile project and they were quite a mouthful. What struck me the most about him was the fact that he turned his tragedy into a channel to help the world. We should learn from him.
The cuisine was exquisite, Transcorp hilton classic-all-you-can-eat buffet and I even saw one of my old lecturers Dr Alero Roberts, another woman running the world. She remembered me and that was cool too cos I don’t remember ever interacting with her though we did jam at Silverbird cinemas once. We went to watch Hancock. Guess women of all ages were drawn to Will Smith’s buffness in that movie. 🙂
On the last day of the summit, we visited Kuje village. That village was in the middle of nowhere-land and one of the sites of the Mailafyia project. I watched in horror as my EDGE became GSM and then NO SERVICE. No blackberry messenger for 6 hours? Ridiculous! The villagers looked at the white people like they were re-making the hit film ‘The gods must be crazy’. One of the health workers said that a 60 year old man in the village had exclaimed that he was seeing a doctor for the first time in his life. These people were barely civilized but there must have been a method to their madness cos even with the poverty, they looked happy and unperturbed. We had a barbecue to attend so we didn’t stay too long. On our way out, one of the buses got stuck in muddy, quick sand and the natives jumped in and lifted the bus out. Native heroes! Thankfully I was in an SUV. 😉
And so the summit came to an end. A lot of issues were raised and recommendations made. Intel was looking for partnerships and Nigerians were more than eager. I do hope in a year or two, I will be able to look back and say with pride that the summit made an impact on the health care sector but hey even if it doesn’t, the food was delicious!
I can’t but wonder if there was a child somewhere who got quite annoyed when NTA cut off his exciting TV program to show my summit 🙂
Have a lovely evening peeps, one day we shall change the world…xoxoxo 😉