Health in Africa has remained a critical element of human development and growth with governments in the region spending a critical part of the budget to uplift the health of its citizens. The urge to present a healthy continent has seen countries launch projects to roll-out health for all.
Kenya, for example, is rolling out its universal health coverage as part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big four agenda.
The new initiative is expected to herald the transformation of country’s health sector with Kisumu, Nyeri, Isiolo and Machakos counties acting as pilot schemes of the first phase of the programme that targets 3.2 million Kenyans with a full roll-out in all the 47 counties expected by 2022.
In Uganda, the country has a robust health sector development plan that seeks to, among others goals “accelerate movement towards Universal Health Coverage with Essential health and related services needed for the promotion of healthy and productive life”. This is also encapsulated in the overall targets the country’s Vision 2040.
In addition, the country has a health sector monitoring and supervision framework, and elaborate and well-spread health infrastructure at all levels of national and local government administration. The country also has an impressive tracking system for health supplies, it holds regular sector reviews and has strong partnerships extending even to the private sector.
Tanzania announced last year that the country was drafting a bill with great comparisons with similar initiatives in Ghana and Rwanda in order to ensure all Tanzanians receive comprehensive medical cover.
Gaps in the health workforce in East Africa
However, problems still stand. The number of students leaving medical colleges and universities is not as high as the market needs. According to the World Health Organization, the Tanzanian doctor-to-patient ratio stands at 1 doctor for every 20,000 patients. In Kenya, it’s 1 doctor for every 16,000. The recommended doctor-patient ratio is one to 300.
These governments have found it hard to train and retain top talent in the health sector as competing needs and growth prospects has often taken medical officers into developed countries leaving local patients in dire need.
This has called for interventions from private entities to bridge the gap.
Aga Khan work in healthcare in East africa
Aga Khan Development Network has been working in the East African region training and developing skills in medical officers and health professionals through training and induction.
Recently, the Aga Khan University organized its convocation in the three East African countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Tanzania held its 14th convocation ceremony, Kenya celebrated the 15th convocation ceremony and Uganda held its 16th convocation ceremony in celebrations that saw thousands join different professions majority being in the health sector.
AKU President Firoz Rasul attended all the three events with senior government officials in attendance. Kenya was represented by Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, Uganda was represented by State Minister for Higher Education, Dr John Muyingo while Tanzania chief guest was Hon. Anne Makinda, former Speaker of Tanzania’s National Assembly.
Convocation of the Aga Khan University in Tanzania
The Tanzania event saw total of 39 students conferred degrees: 26 received Master’s degrees in Education while 13 were awarded Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees.
Since inception in Tanzania, the Aga Khan University has graduated over 3,000 students, who have proceeded to become leaders in their professions and role models in their communities. Nurses trained at the Aga Khan University attend to more than 500,000 patients across the country. In Mwanza, the University is collaborating with government facilities and fellow agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network to improve healthcare for more than 700,000 women and children.
President Rasul added: “We have helped to reduce hospital mortality, increased the number of women giving birth in health facilities, helped write new nursing regulations, and much more. Our students are taught to be courageous, to challenge things, and always ask what the outcome would be if we did things in a different way.”
According to a recent audit by the Tanzania Commission for Universities, AKU’s programmes offer an education that enables graduates to be leaders in their chosen fields. A graduate of the Institute for Educational Development in Dar es Salaam received Kenya’s 2018 Teacher of the Year Award. Another graduate working in Kenya recently became the second AKU alumnus to be named a finalist for the $1 million Global Teacher Prize.
Convocation of the Aga Khan University in Uganda
In Uganda, a total of 31 graduands were awarded diplomas in nursing, while another 31 were conferred Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. A further 12 graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Midwifery and 20 were awarded a Master of Education degree.
The University has graduated 800 nurses and midwives to date and today’s convocation comes ahead of the University’s plans to expand its programs in Uganda and to construct a new hospital in Kampala. Both initiatives will transform the country’s healthcare system by introducing an expanded range of medical disciplines while a Patient Welfare Programme will ensure high-quality healthcare is accessible to low-income patients.
“We as the government of Uganda appreciate the continuous support from the Aga Khan University to provide quality healthcare as well,” Hon. Muyingo said, “the hospital will be an important resource in this country that will position Uganda as a destination for medical tourism in the region.”
AKU President Rasul said, “The teaching hospital will educate outstanding health professionals who will elevate the quality of care across the country and enable research that delivers new solutions to Uganda’s most important health challenges.”
President Rasul said AKU’s aspiration is to improve the quality of life in Uganda through the provision of relevant education in medical sciences and education that will prepare youth to address the country’s health and education goals.
President Rasul said: “From rural clinics to Mulago National Hospital, our alumni are providing the outstanding care people need to lead healthy and productive lives. They are elevating the quality of teaching from the pre-primary to the university level. In the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, they are formulating policies to accelerate Uganda’s development.”
Convocation of the Aga Khan University in Kenya
In Kenya, sixty-eight graduates were awarded degrees in various disciplines: 13 graduated with a Diploma in Oncology Nursing, 24 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, 18 with a Master of Medicine and 13 with a Master of Education degree.
AKU has awarded more than 1,200 degrees and diplomas in Kenya. The university’s professional development programmes have equipped another 900 Kenyan educators with new strategies for enhancing teaching and learning, thus benefiting 67,000 students.
The University and its fellow agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network are also working with government health facilities to improve the health of 135,000 women and girls in Kilifi and Kisii counties.
“We are contributing to a major international study designed to determine why more than one million women and children in Africa die from various pregnancy complications every year,” said AKU President Rasul, “at the same time that we are building capacity and generating new knowledge, our health network is growing and evolving to meet Kenya’s changing needs.”
Through the Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS), the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) and the Aga Khan University (AKU) the three agencies provide quality health care to five million people annually and work closely on planning, training and resource development.
AKHS also works with the Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) and the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) on the integration of health issues into specific projects.