Taking charge of our health

PEPFAR did well under these two, what about the other guy?

In 2003, President George Bush used the state of the union address to launch the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Through this program, HIV drugs have been available to millions of Africans since then.


Kenyans rely heavily on PEPFAR for HIV drugs

Kenya relies heavily on PEPFAR for ARV’s
President Obama let the program continue.

Soon, there will be a new, highly unpredictable man in the white house. It is not clear what will happen in January when he steps into the white house.

The problem with PEPFAR – providing us HIV drugs, GAVI- providing us money to buy our vaccines – is that a terribly important aspect of our health is in someone else’s control.

Trump could destroy the impact of PEPFAR if he chose to – simply refusing to sign up to providing more HIV drugs to us – then what shall we do?

Africa can no longer rely on foreign countries to help us with basic health issues. The very countries that have in the past helped us are now feeling burdened by a populace that are not doing very well themselves. People are questioning why money is going abroad when it should be spent locally, among those in need.

Tribalism that the West labels nationalism has seeped into their mainstream and people want to help only their own. Trump has made it clear that he wants to help his people – his white tribe. Powerful politicians in Europe are stroking those sentiments: Marine le Pen in France, Alternative for Germany, Freedom Party in Netherlands etc.

This is a call for Africa to take control of its destiny. This is not the time for politicians to talk about tribe this or the other. It’s not time for people to be negative at every turn in order not to sound pro-government. It’s time to join together within countries and with other countries and make stronger economic ties and build a strong Africa.

I attended an international conference in 2013 on vaccines and I was greatly embarrassed. Then, Africa was the only continent then that did not have a single company manufacturing human vaccines. I think South Africa was about to start and I am not sure how far they have gotten.

Vaccines are manufactured in Senegal by an international company and distributed through GAVI (Just been corrected by my good friend Moira)

Vaccine production in Senegal

However, Africa should be providing more leadership as many of the vaccine preventable diseases occur on this continent. It’s particularly ridiculous in Kenya since the know-how is very much present and we have a highly educated population. The Kenya Veterinary Vaccine Production Initiative (KEVEVAPI) has been producing livestock vaccinations for decades, there is no reason why there has not been a locally driven attempt to produce human vaccines.

Kenya Veterinary Vaccines Production Initiative

The initial cost will be high but it is about time we choose to invest in manufacturing our own vaccines and drugs within the African continent and not be so reliant on foreign aid.

India started in their slow way in the 1970’s while Africa continued to import, now we are buying from India.

In this age, the black outstretched hand seeking help from the North will get a slap. And it’s about time. We are capable of taking care of ourselves. Our politicians need to step away from focusing on stuffing their already massive bellies and see their country and wish to leave a legacy. In Kenya, we currently have a Minister of Education who is dong his work and we can’t praise him enough. We still remember the late minister, Michuki, who transformed our road culture and Nairobi river. We have individual stories of politicians who chose to serve the country make a massive difference in their space. Imagine if every politician had the same spirit. Imagine a continent with presidents that take pride in restoring the dignity of their people.

We can be self reliant in the things that matter most to us and what more than our health.