This piece in the Rwandan Sunday Times gave me much food for thought. The article quotes the previous Minister of Health, Babatunde Osotimehin, currently with the WHO’s Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, complimenting the Rwandan government for achieving the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).
During his tenure as Minister of Health, Nigeria was off-track in attaining its MDGs.
What an irony.
The reasons for Nigeria being off-track may be myriad including policy, infrastructural, religious as well as cultural but this is an area where I believe physicians as well as other healthcare practitioners in the diaspora can contribute in a meaningful and sustainable way.
The beauty about goals is that they can be measured and so progress can be ascertained, and strategies can be adjusted until the goals have been met. While there have been many well meaning efforts to address the health care deficits either through medical missions, donations of learning materials and equipment, a central forum may be the best way to ensure that these resources, both human and material, are directed to the areas of greatest need or of measurable impact.
One of the biggest issues that impacts policy decisions is that whenever there is a change in the government or cabinet, policies of the outgoing government or minister are altered or scrapped even if certain elements are exemplary. It may be better for us to work closer with the technocrats in the ministries i.e. Directors or Director Generals within these ministries – they tend to have longer tenures – and unless the Ministers come from within the ranks, these Directors or DG’s have a greater understanding of the issues and also can provide information on the policies that have failed or succeeded in the past.
Nigeria has never lacked for competent individuals; we hope we can influence the government to engage experts like they have done in the other areas such as Finance, Power etc so that finally charity can begin at home.