The New Year has dawned on Africa with political crises in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I traveled back home from the Recife, Brazil 3rd Global Forum on Human Resources for Health last November in the company of the Director for Human Resources for Health in the government of South Sudan and other colleagues and we had time to discuss the African situation during transit time between flights. I have been thinking of him and the possible impact on his work of the political crisis in his country. From my own experience in Uganda’s troubled past, war and civil strife result in conditions where people die more from the social impact of the strife than from bullets and bombs.
Here is our discussion topic for November and December
We have discussed in the past about the new hopeful
Africa in which we are reclaiming the optimism that was so palpable during the
pre-independence and immediate post-independence period but got lost along the
way. In the recent past my organization, the African Center for Global Health
and Social Transformation (ACHEST) has
been engaged with the African Academies of Science in discussing how African
Scientists can contribute to the Post 2015 Development Agenda.
Some years ago, the Parliament of Uganda debated a motion to reduce retirement age for public servants from age 55 to age 50 and the Prime Minister who moved this motion was himself aged 68 years. In the end parliament decided not to reduce but to raise the retirement age in Uganda from 55 to 60 years. Right now, the Chief Justice of Uganda reached a mandatory retirement age of 70 years however, the President wants him reappointed and the person has also stated publicly that he is still strong and ready to continue in the service but there is an outcry against his reappointment.
There is a story that once upon a time, an African was a candidate for a senior United Nations job. His opponents de-campaigned his candidature by arguing that while Africans in general are knowledgeable and very good at talking; they were also very poor at writing, yet the job needed individuals who are both good speakers as well as good writers. In conversation among African professional leaders, we have shared and laughed over this joke/story many times. Indeed we have agreed among ourselves that in fact we know a lot about what happens in Africa but write little about it. We have consoled ourselves that very often it is foreigners who get excited about issues that we live with normally and rush to tell our stories with less depth and many distortions. So what do we need to do to cultivate the writing culture and tell our own stories with depth and accuracy?
The 66th World Health Assembly (WHA), organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), will be taking place in Geneva 20 - 28 May 2013. African delegations must now be busy preparing to participate in this important annual conference on the health of the people of the world. WHO and the WHA remain the most important health institutions in global health despite the challenges WHO faces at the present time. In all the sub-Saharan African countries, there is a senior public health specialist who is resident as the WHO Country Representative with supporting staff and available at all times to provide technical advice as well as technical assistance to the governments and countries. I found this WHO office to be of immense value during my time as Director General of Health Services in the Ministry of Health in Uganda.