Nkengasong and Ihekweazu are leaving the continent. Is this a brain drain or gain for Africa?

Earlier the identical month, Chikwe Ihekweazu, who at present heads the Nigeria Centre for Illness Management (NCDC) was appointed to guide the World Well being Group (WHO) Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence within the German capital Berlin, WHO mentioned, with the Nigerian doctor heading in the right direction to assume his new place on November 1.

Some consultants assert that this coincidental flip of occasions underscores the well being sector mind drain from Africa.

“That is mind drain,” mentioned Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, a former president of the Nigerian Affiliation of Resident Docs.

“They (Nkengasong and Ihekweazu) have seen higher gives they usually really feel it is higher to go away for greener pastures to additional their careers,” Okhuaihesuyi instructed CNN. “Now will not be the perfect time to go away,” he added.

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Nkengasong is a embellished Cameroonian-born virologist, who has chaired the Africa CDC since its launch in 2017, and has performed a essential position in Africa’s coronavirus response, amplifying the necessity for “rapid access to vaccines.”
Nigeria’s Ihekweazu, an epidemiologist and public well being professional, is famed for strengthening his nation’s capability to sort out infectious ailments and has helped it contain the third wave of Covid-19 infections with monitoring and testing efforts.
Ihekweazu’s strides on the NCDC had been commended by WHO.

Medical mind drain persists

The emigration of African physicians has continued to rise. In 2015, over 13,000 emigrated to the US alone, representing a 27 % improve over the course of the earlier decade, one study discovered.
Current knowledge is scarce, however a November 2020 report by the African Union (AU) mentioned that regardless of the dangers of frontline work in the course of the pandemic — migration to high-income nations stays engaging to well being employees from Africa on account of “higher working situations, together with renumeration and workload.”

“If not managed effectively, elevated demand for well being employees, particularly in specialities like anaesthesiology, will depart appreciable gaps in Africa’s already weak well being programs,” the report mentioned.

Many high-income nations had been enjoyable visa and immigration necessities for well being employees with a purpose to meet that demand, the AU mentioned.

“With out the proper insurance policies in place, tackling the mind drain from Africa will grow to be an much more difficult endeavour, inevitably resulting in a rise in international inequality and neglect of already insufficient well being programs.”

The medical mind drain already comes at an excellent value for Africa, which, in accordance with pre-pandemic WHO figures, solely has entry to three % of the world’s well being employees regardless of struggling “greater than 22 % of the worldwide burden of illness.”

“Nothing to fret about”

Africa is preventing off new strains of the coronavirus, and vaccination towards the illness has been slow in the continent, the place solely 60 million of its greater than 1 billion individuals have obtained a full course of the vaccine.

Nkengasong’s imminent exit from the Africa CDC has fueled issues in regards to the sustainability of the establishment’s Covid-19 motion plan.

Nkengasong, nonetheless, instructed CNN there was nothing to fret about.

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“Africa CDC has a really sturdy management in place,” he mentioned. “So, I’m not in any respect nervous. The group is rock stable.”

On his half, Nigeria’s Ihekweazu instructed CNN he had constructed the NCDC to “outlive any single chief.”

“Within the final 5 years, we’ve got constructed buildings, programs, and other people at NCDC with the imaginative and prescient that these will outlive any single chief,” he mentioned. “I’m very happy with the work we’ve got executed and assured that the five hundred members of employees who’ve led this journey will maintain this past my time as Director Basic,” Ihekweazu added.

Reacting to feedback that his transfer to the WHO’s $100 million Pandemic Hub worsens Africa’s medical mind drain, Ihekweazu argued: “I believe that my transfer to WHO strengthens Africa’s place on this planet!”

In accordance with WHO, the hub, which is funded by the German authorities, was established “to higher put together and defend the world from international illness threats,” and can play key roles in serving to “to detect new occasions with pandemic potential and to observe illness management measures on a real-time foundation.”

Ihekweazu instructed CNN that past his work in Nigeria, he’s” strongly dedicated to seeing African nations develop from being simply members within the consumption of vaccines and different applied sciences to members within the fundamental science and analysis that results in them.”

He added: “I imagine that my new position on the WHO Pandemic Hub supplies a possibility to contribute to this development course of for Nigeria and the African area — working intently with different colleagues.”

Different positive factors for Africa

Malawi’s secretary for well being, Charles Mwansambo, instructed CNN that Nkengasong and Ihekweazu’s transfer to “strategic positions” will probably be useful to Africa.

“We have to begin these actions positively as a result of they’re good for the continent. The extra Africans are in strategic positions, the higher Africa will probably be served,” he mentioned, including that Nkengasong’s new position at PEPFAR could be essential to Africa’s HIV/AIDS response.

“Although Covid is right here with us, there are different situations like HIV which were with us for a while. So, getting an African there [at PEPFAR] will make a complete distinction to the battle towards HIV/AIDS on the continent… PEPFAR has some nice affect within the battle towards HIV/AIDS in Africa, particularly Malawi which is a serious beneficiary. It is the proper transfer for the continent,” Mwansambo mentioned.

Described because the “largest dedication by any nation to deal with a single illness in historical past,” PEPFAR was established in 2003 as a part of the US international AIDS response to stop thousands and thousands of HIV infections and nip the epidemic within the bud. Greater than $85 billion has been invested by the US authorities in tackling HIV/AIDS around the world.

Nkengasong would probably fill the management vacuum at PEPFAR, which has been with no chief for practically two years.

Steve Ahuka, an incident supervisor for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Covid-19 response, instructed CNN that he hopes Nkengasong and Ihekweazu’s successors will probably be as passionate as their predecessors within the battle towards infectious ailments.

“Although we’ll favor to have them [Nkengasong and Ihekweazu] throughout this second when the African continent is dealing with Covid-19 disaster, the battle towards infectious ailments is completed as a group… I hope Nkengasong and Ihekweazu have constructed a powerful group in Nigeria and the Africa CDC, and their successors will proceed the work to battle the Covid disaster,” Ahuka mentioned.

Githinji Gitahi, a member of the Africa CDC’s governing board, instructed CNN that Nkengasong “will probably be troublesome to interchange.”

“Nkengasong has constructed a formidable status for the Africa CDC and attracted companions and sources which have enabled it to realize its mandate of coordination of illness surveillance and response. He will probably be significantly missed,” he mentioned.

Gitahi needs regional facilities of the Africa CDC to be strengthened in order that the ability of the father or mother group is devolved.

Nevertheless, he mentioned it was essential that Nkengasong and Ihekweazu had been shifting to establishments “which have a huge effect on the well being of African individuals and their well being safety.”

A spokesman for Uganda’s well being ministry, Ainebyoona Emmanuel, instructed CNN Nkengasong and Ihekweazu’s exit from the continent “will not be a mind drain, however somewhat African leaders advancing to international leaders.”

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