By Peter Clottey
Dr. Bruno Kilunga Kubata, coordinator of NEPAD’s African Research for Health Initiative, said NEPAD has also been tasked to create an enabling environment by using international cooperation to build health research systems to ensure health equity on the continent.
“We are working with Tanzania, Senegal and Mozambique and we are trying to strengthen systems there so that they have the governance tools – so that research for health can really be used to economically develop these countries,” said Kubata.
He said experiences: successes or failures learned from the trial countries will then be used to widen the scope of the health systems on the continent.
Kubata said NEPAD is also working closely with the three countries as well as sub-regional blocs to best improve health systems. He said the initiative has a four year implementation phase, which ends in 2014.
“From this initiative, we have brought in the WAHO [West African Health Organization], which is trying to support post-conflict countries in West Africa. This means that in addition to the three countries, we [also] have Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali and Guinea Bissau,” said Kubata.
“We are also working with other development partners to try to fill the gaps especially in Central Africa. So if it works, we will be moving into countries where there is dire need of building capacity like in post-conflict countries of Central Africa.”
Experts have expressed concern that African governments do not see health as a priority. They says this attitude accounts for the rather poor funding the health sector as well as for health research.
“This is the main challenge for African countries. Indeed, what we are trying to do is first of all make sure that the countries own the entire process. By owning the entire process, hopefully, we think, they will have to invest in it,” said Kubata.
He cited instances where a forestry school was funded with $ 5 million by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in the Congo Basin. Kubata said the trials were done in three countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Cameroon. The project, he said, was so successful that all the countries of the Central African region wanted to be part of it.
“The good news is those countries in terms of forestry are well organized, and they have a sub-regional organization which was brought on board with specific request to raise funds so that the Africans can take ownership,” continued Kubata.
“It has mobilized close to $ 40 million from the African development bank. So, this is a model that could be replicated. You start with a trigger coming from the donor, you own the process through regional economic communities, which take ownership and then raise funds for the entire region instead of fund raising only for one country.”
He said with such examples Africa can resolve a lot of its health initiative challenges.
Kubata underscored the importance of health research to improve the lives and well-being of Africans.
“You will not be independent as a father in a house if your neighbor is in charge of feeding your wife and your children. Until you understand that you take full responsibility in charge of your own family, I don’t see how you will be respected as a father,” he said.
Kubata said NEPAD is working with Council on Health Research and Development Group (COHRED) to build health systems of governance to improve the health conditions of Africans. His comments came at the end of the recent COHRED 2012 forum in Cape Town.
It was identified during the conference that innovation is a key factor in compensating for the lack of infrastructure and resources, especially in the form of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) to reach rural areas by using, for example, virtual collaboration and the sharing of data and mobile health technology.