January 30, 2009

Prof Lectures on Role of Diaspora in Health Care in Africa

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Prof. Chinua Akukwe, global health and prevention and community health, at George Washington University, lectured yesterday at Uris Hall on the African Diaspora Health Initiative launched by the African Union in September 2008. 
Yesterday’s talk, “The Potential Role of Africans in the Diaspora in Improved Healthcare Delivery in Africa” was the first lecture of the “Issues in African Development Special Topic Seminar Series.” The series is designed “to foster awareness of African issues in the University,” according to Evangeline Ray, assistant program coordinator in C.U.’s Institute for African Development. which is sponsoring the lecture series.
The lecture explored how Africans in the diaspora — African Americans, African immigrants and Africans in Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America — could contribute to the development of Africa. [img_assist|nid=34599|title=Help Africa|desc=Dr. Chinua Akukwe, executive chairman of the Africa Diaspora Health Initiative at George Washington University, discusses the responsibilities of Africans in the diaspora yesterday in Uris Hall.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The African Union, a continental union for all Africans established in July 2002, designated the diaspora as the sixth region of the organization in 2003 to sustain “political, economic, social and cultural relationships across the Atlantic,” Akukwe said. 
According to Akukwe, Africa is in urgent need of help; the continent represents 10 percent of the global population but accounts for 25 percent of global burden of disease, 3 percent of the global workforce and 1 percent of global trade. 
Akukwe stressed that the purpose of the Africa Diaspora Health Initiative is “to link specific health expertise within the African Diaspora with specific health needs in specific geographical locations in Africa.” 
The initiative calls for African governments to take responsibility for providing basic health services to their people and external technical assistance to identified national priorities. 
“We’re looking for a sustainable approach for reversing the health care decline in Africa,” Akukwe said. 
There are three main goals in this initiative — enhance the health workforce in Africa, support the best practices in healthcare and advocate for better health in Africa. By achieving these goals, members of the initiative wish to erect “a healthy and prosperous Africa, free of the heavy burden of disease, disability and premature death,” said Akukwe. 
The African Diaspora Health Initiative is “a unique opportunity for Africans in the diaspora to support health programs in Africa,” Akukwe said. The initiative “creates a platform for mobilizing resources for health in Africa.” 
“Many African leaders understand that the Diaspora Initiative is the key to the accelerated development of Africa,” he said. 
One of the problems Akukwe has noticed over the course of his career is that there is no platform for students. 
The success of the initiative lies heavily on younger African diaspora health experts and students who can spend time in Africa, according to Akukwe. 
“If you’re a student and you’re from Africa, this is an incredible opportunity for you to make a difference,” Akukwe said.
“It’s now left to you to come out of your comfort zone … There’s nothing that you cannot do if you’re an African with a modicum of credentials and willing to work with other people,” he added.
The professor received a loud round of applause from the audience after his lecture.
Mamadou Chetima, grad, expressed personal satisfaction “to see an African who has tried to push for various policies related to health care … I’m very glad he never stopped.”
“I thought it was very refreshing to listen to a speaker who talks from experience … [on how to] fix problems that are currently affecting healthcare issues in Africa,” said David Agyeman-Budu, grad.