According to a report by BBC Africa, the presidents of Nigeria, Angola, Zimbabwe, Benin and Algeria all have something in common; an apparent lack of faith in the health systems back in their respective home countries.
In terms of time spent abroad getting medical help, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, 74, is the first among equals, but in the past year, all these heads of state have travelled overseas for health reasons. In many cases, they are leaving behind poorly funded health services, which most of their citizens have to rely on.
In 2010, the average amount spent on health in African countries per person was $135 (£100) compared to $3,150 in high-income countries, the UN’s World Health Organization said. In Zimbabwe, for example, state-run hospitals and clinics often run out of basic medicines like painkillers and antibiotics, according to health watchdog Citizens Health Watch. It says that the public health care system “continues to deteriorate at alarming levels”
In Zimbabwe, for example, state-run hospitals and clinics often run out of basic medicines like painkillers and antibiotics, according to health watchdog Citizens Health Watch. It says that the public health care system “continues to deteriorate at alarming levels” with lack of money being the main problem.
Buhari’s unhealthy start to 2017
19 January: Leaves for UK on “medical vacation”
5 February: Asks parliament to extend medical leave
10 March: Returns home but does not resume work immediately
7 May: Travels to UK for further treatment
6 June: Aisha Buhari says his is “recuperating fast”
The report continues to say, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, in power since 1980, has also been criticised by his political opponents for running the country “from his hospital bed” after his third medical trip to Singapore this year. ‘As for Nigeria, the public health system is “terrible” because of poor funding’.
The Nigerian president has spent more than four months in London this year getting treatment for an undisclosed illness, causing considerable disquiet at home.
The issue with these trips abroad is not only the implied criticism of the medics back home but that they also serve to undermine the health system, leading Nigerian doctor Osahon Enabulele argues. He calls the phenomenon “medical tourism” and says that the example set by political leaders costs countries millions of dollars.
In 2013 he estimated that Nigerians were spending $1bn (£770m) abroad on medical treatment and reckons that figure could have doubled by now.
By comparison, the federal government’s health budget for 2016 came to $800m.
Dr Enabulele, who is vice-president of the Commonwealth Medical Association, says that the money taken out of Nigeria could be invested in the health system.
“The whole ambition to have state-of-the-art facilities will remain a mirage if people keep going abroad for medical reasons.”
Source: BBC Africa
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