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

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Earlier the identical month, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who at the moment heads the Nigeria Centre for Illness Management (NCDC) was appointed to steer the World Well being Group (WHO) Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence within the German capital Berlin, WHO stated, 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,” stated Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, a former president of the Nigerian Affiliation of Resident Docs.

“They (Nkengasong and Ihekweazu) have seen higher presents and so they really feel it is higher to go away for greener pastures to additional their careers,” Okhuaihesuyi advised CNN. “Now isn’t the perfect time to go away,” he added.

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Nkengasong is a adorned Cameroonian-born virologist, who has chaired the Africa CDC since its launch in 2017, and has performed a important position in Africa’s coronavirus response, amplifying the necessity for “rapid access to vaccines.”
Nigeria’s Ihekweazu, an epidemiologist and public well being knowledgeable, is famed for strengthening his nation’s capability to deal with infectious illnesses 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 % enhance over the course of the earlier decade, one study discovered.
Current information is scarce, however a November 2020 report by the African Union (AU) stated 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 attributable to “higher working circumstances, together with renumeration and workload.”

“If not managed properly, 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 stated.

Many high-income nations have been enjoyable visa and immigration necessities for well being employees so as to meet that demand, the AU stated.

“With out the fitting insurance policies in place, tackling the mind drain from Africa will change into an much more difficult endeavour, inevitably resulting in a rise in world inequality and neglect of already insufficient well being programs.”

The medical mind drain already comes at an important value for Africa, which, based on 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 in opposition to the illness has been slow in the continent, the place solely 60 million of its greater than 1 billion folks have obtained a full course of the vaccine.

Nkengasong’s imminent exit from the Africa CDC has fueled considerations concerning the sustainability of the establishment’s Covid-19 motion plan.

Nkengasong, nevertheless, advised CNN there was nothing to fret about.

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

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

“Within the final 5 years, now we have constructed buildings, programs, and folks at NCDC with the imaginative and prescient that these will outlive any single chief,” he stated. “I’m very happy with the work now we have executed and assured that the five hundred members of employees who’ve led this journey will maintain this past my time as Director Normal,” 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 feel that my transfer to WHO strengthens Africa’s place on the earth!”

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

Ihekweazu advised 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 primary science and analysis that results in them.”

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

Different good points for Africa

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

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

“Although Covid is right here with us, there are different circumstances like HIV which have been with us for a while. So, getting an African there [at PEPFAR] will make a complete distinction to the struggle in opposition to HIV/AIDS on the continent… PEPFAR has some nice affect within the struggle in opposition to HIV/AIDS in Africa, particularly Malawi which is a significant beneficiary. It is the fitting transfer for the continent,” Mwansambo stated.

Described because the “largest dedication by any nation to handle a single illness in historical past,” PEPFAR was established in 2003 as a part of the US world AIDS response to forestall 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 and not using a chief for almost two years.

Steve Ahuka, an incident supervisor for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Covid-19 response, advised CNN that he hopes Nkengasong and Ihekweazu’s successors might be as passionate as their predecessors within the struggle in opposition to infectious illnesses.

“Although we’ll want to have them [Nkengasong and Ihekweazu] throughout this second when the African continent is going through Covid-19 disaster, the battle in opposition to infectious illnesses is finished as a workforce… I hope Nkengasong and Ihekweazu have constructed a powerful workforce in Nigeria and the Africa CDC, and their successors will proceed the work to struggle the Covid disaster,” Ahuka stated.

Dr. Githinji Gitahi, a member of the Africa CDC’s governing board, advised CNN that Nkengasong “might be troublesome to switch.”

“Nkengasong has constructed a formidable fame for the Africa CDC and attracted companions and assets which have enabled it to attain its mandate of coordination of illness surveillance and response. He might be enormously missed,” he stated.

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

Nonetheless, he stated it was necessary that Nkengasong and Ihekweazu have been transferring to establishments “which have a big impact on the well being of African folks and their well being safety.”

A spokesman for Uganda’s well being ministry, Ainebyoona Emmanuel, advised CNN Nkengasong and Ihekweazu’s exit from the continent “isn’t a mind drain, however quite African leaders advancing to world leaders.”

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