A Global Invitation to Solidarity- Not Charity

World health leaders call for unity among nations to develop a resilient, robust health system- a purposeful, multifaceted message designed for a global stage.

Health leaders converged at the third Global Health Systems Research conference in Cape Town, South Africa, to discuss governance and health in Africa: pan-African perspectives on state stewardship for people’s health and people-centred health systems.

Leaders spoke out about Africa’s self-regulation challenges dealing with Ebola and urged for a value adoption and an adaptation of attitude to solidarity- not charity type of health stewardship.

Surely, they don’t mean they don’t want aid?! Words said to have impact often doesn’t reflect a nuanced description of its meaning, but they can be dangerous.

Perhaps citizens of the world should design their thinking to visualise their contributions as strengthening health system values for better outcomes- lose the ‘othering’ connotation the word charity brings to continent to continent, country to country and citizen to citizen stewardship and acknowledge that it’s equitable redistribution of resources rather than charitable actions and donations.

‘The degradation of health systems in Africa is a legacy of colonialism and an upward trajectory of economic growth among democratic African countries has not yielded health service delivery to all people as responsive health systems are still in construction,’ says Mahaman Tidjani Alou, Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Law, Université Abdou Moumouni, Niger.

According to Alou, ‘the Ebola crisis exposed weak and corrupt health systems in Africa characterised by inadequate infrastructure and low human resource capacity.’

‘More interdependence among African countries to embrace a wider range of stakeholders is needed to strengthen health systems,’ says Alou.

Involving and including poor people in people-centred health systems seemed the answer to health system crisis such as Ebola.

According to the media release, the consensus is ‘a critical need for community participation’ is central to developing a people-centred approach- as laid out in the 1978 Alma Ata declaration, social solidarity and social movements are still elementary catalysts for achieving the right to equitable responsive health systems.

Moreover, for a people-centred, health system people need to understand what’s being communicated. “We need data that are digestible, understandable and actionable,” says, the U.S President’s Emergency Plan For HIV/AIDS (PEPFAR), ambassador Deborah Birx.

‘Social participation-involving citizens in thinking about their role in improving health systems is the key to redressing inequalities in access to health services,’ says Belgacem Sabri from Tunisia’s Association for Defending the Right to Health,

“The African region needs to nurture a research culture, which targets young research talent across all disciplines and functions within the health system,” says SA’s Department of Health, Direct General of Health, Malebona Precious Matsoso.

To illustrate, Matsoso uses an example of ‘the South African Public Health Enhancement Fund which is a public and private health sector initiative to build capacity in health-related training and studies.’

African panelists agree: Africa needs ‘an African response to health challenges.’ For this, they call for the ‘establishment of regional research centres in the continent to focus on pan-African tropical diseases, health policy research and evidence-based implementation.’

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