Originally published on The Kigalian

Rwanda is recognised among the leading countries worldwide on Universal Health Coverage; and this has been mostly driven by strong policies on access to primary health care, where health centers and district hospitals have been empowered to offer optimised primary health care.

Despite this, the public health sector has been criticised over the past few months for ineffectiveness in public hospitals and patients overcrowding the available workforce and regression in diseases prevalence — like the case of Malaria.

On another hand, the number of retail and community pharmacies have significantly increased. This, for me, is an untapped opportunity for a public-private partnership that is much need to make leaps in primary health care indicators and access to basic health services if community pharmacists were empowered enough.

Beyond the popular belief that the role of a pharmacist is limited to selling drugs, their knowledge and skills in delivering clinical services and primary health care — on which they are trained — remains untapped. Pharmacists could easily relieve the public health sector of certain burdens.

1 — Vaccinations Program

Pharmacists are well positioned to increase public awareness and access to immunisation, including routine adult vaccines and travel vaccines.

2 — Care for Chronic Diseases

Chronic Diseases Care is principally made of provision of information and long-term support for patients, caregivers and families. These patients often renew their prescriptions and the role of pharmacists is limited to re-filling. Pharmacists are, whatsoever, able to design tools and educate caregivers or families for this purpose.

3 — Health and Medicines Information

This is already happening. There are many cases where people ask pharmacists — more than any other health professional — about different information on diseases, nutrition, and medicines. The Government could easily channel public awareness and disease prevention information through pharmacists to ensure more effective and wide reach.

THESE three aspects, among many others, have proven to be very effective in countries which champion primary health care and universal health coverage. They could be a starting point in Rwanda.

A note for the next WHO Director-General

The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to have a new leader elected in May and take office in July, these past months different actors have engaged, first the six candidates, and now the three remaining candidates, in debates and discussions over various issues in global development and international health, as well as their plans for the future of the WHO.

I have been thinking about what should be my expectations of the next WHO Director-General, as a young health professional, passionate about global health, with a keen interest to be a leader in shaping health policies and building health systems. I will allow myself to also write on behalf of other healthcare students or young health professionals with whom I share my passion and interests.

The International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federations that I lead is one of the only two organizations that represent young people -students and recent graduates- with official relations with the World Health Organization, the other being the International Federation of Medical Students’ Association (IFMSA). With our unique perspective on global health challenges, we form a particular group of non-state actors engaging with WHO.

Although we are invited every year to attend the WHO Executive Board Meeting and the World Health Assembly, We rarely receive invites for high level or technical meetings or call to provide inputs on specific initiatives’ development. Our involvement is limited to statements, that are often not considered as part of decisions making processes and we are usually disdained for partnerships and pushed down on speaking lists.

However, Together with IFMSA, we represent over 2 million of the future health workforce and leaders in global health, research, private sector acting in health. This affirms my belief in the need for a greater youth engagement in decision-making for health and ensures our opinion is equally considered as ones of experts.

There are leaders within the WHO who share this belief, demur against the existing state of affairs and reach out to us to partake in the work of certain departments. I henceforth expect the next WHO Director-General to emulate this approach which has allowed to us to comprehend, experience and increase our knowledge and capacities in certain areas. This also allows us to provide a very unique youth-focused perspective that no other actors in official relations with WHO could provide.

Our Generation of students and young professionals is living unprecedented changes in Global Health, we understand more than any other generation the need to change the narrative and transform healthcare. The state of the world has advanced to equip our generation with the capacity to drive the needed reforms if we are given a chance to play a part as actors and not always as beneficiaries. I hope for the next WHO Director-General to implement reforms in goal-directed efforts to sufficiently increase the role of organizations such as IPSF and IFMSA in decision-making processes at all levels of the WHO.

Africa needs to step up on preparedness and prevention of pandemics

Earlier this year, a new international coalition CEPI-the coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations- was launched in Davos with aim of accelerating the development of vaccines for emerging infectious diseases in order to prevent future pandemics. pandemics of infectious diseases like Ebola. an Ebola vaccine was created in 2003 and tested in 2005 and sat in a freezer until 2016 when it was proven to be 100 percent effective at preventing infections. the vaccine stalled because it is extremely expensive to develop vaccines, it usually cost up to $1 billion to test vaccines in large clinical trials and the whole manufacturing process. Pharmaceutical companies do not invest in such when it comes to diseases like Ebola, which are and tend to hit poor countries, there is simply no significant return on investment.

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Originally published on The Kigalian

The danger of a single story. You will recall Chimamanda’s fabulous TED talk on when complex human beings and situations are reduced to a single narrative. It is often that we are very quick to bash all those non-Africans saying to be travelling to Africa, we want them to mention the specific country or region. We don’t like a narrative applied to Africa as a whole. There must be a specificity to one or some of the 54 African countries. Because if we are reduced to one, it’s our humanity being taken away, we say.

Africa is rising. The African emancipation. LOL. We are not. It is more of a reaction, a response to globalisation. I mean the global evolution is imposing us to adopt new measures and build infrastructure just to adapt.

Anyway, that’s not my point. I want to point out how we approach our emancipation. We now identify as one. We are 54 identical children of mother Africa.

I see the danger of the single story within us and that’s exactly what we reflect to the world, being one. Before being elected President of the International Pharmaceutical Students Federation (IPSF), I was fortunate enough to hold several other positions within the African region. It gave me an opportunity to engage with many other Africans — from, I can confidently say, 45 of the 54 countries. As I discussed and asked questions about society, lifestyle and history, the fact is our differences in culture, principles and history is quite striking. We grow up being taught that before colonisation we had monarchs and everything was similar everywhere, well, except for Egyptians and the Ethiopians who made it to the bible.

I don’t like to use this example, but you can easily distinguish a German from a Portuguese when you talk to them. They will always reflect their unique values. They — at least those I have had a chance to interact with — rarely identify themselves as “proud Europeans.” I have also come to believe that the strength of the European Union is in what each country contributes, its uniqueness and how to leverage that for the best of all.

The danger of a single story within our “emancipation” won’t allow us to identify what is unique about each of us and to a maximum advantage, acknowledge and build on each society’s uniqueness and strength. Pan-Africanism initiatives, African Leadership Academy or, say, the Young African Leaders Initiative and other school of thought that are supposed to be driving our emancipation tend to make us think that we are similar and we need a one-size-fits-all solution to our problems.

We think we all (or want to) share the same values and cultural principles, and want to call them ‘African roots’, and it is okay. Is it okay? I wonder.

Have something to say about this blog? Share it in the comments.

A Note to mentors in Kigali

Originally published on The Kigalian

In the past year or so, I have tweeted a number of times to complain on the fact that I don’t get appropriate mentorship from my seniors whether at university or even from outside; trying to understand why.

I would attribute this to mainly two causes. First, I haven’t met a senior who really understands my passion and career goals. Second, seniors tend to not be that open to mentorship principles.

It is also evident that the job market is getting too competitive, where skills and competencies can be considered over a degree and experience. This, to a point where a person who is twenty to thirty years older will tend to look at you as a competitor, hence reduce their interest to open doors and show you the way, give you proper guidance.

On another note, look at most of our Twitter inter-generational conflicts, where some are more open on certain topics and vehement criticism while others prefer to gossip about it in a bar with a close circle of friends and keep a “clean” Twitter timeline.

We need to stop thinking and looking at this as an “us versus them” conversation, but instead strive to close the knowledge gap between generations.

When you’re in your forties and fifties, you realise that you’re not in touch with the present and the future the same way young twenty-something’s are. We are more open-minded and instantly linked to the technology of our future.

Mentorship, in our case, has to be redefined in a way where each individual should be acting in the capacity of a mentor as well as a mentee, and express a genuine need to learn from, and share with, the other. In fact, if you are ten years to retirement, you better get to make allies below you. They young co-worker that you promote is more likely to move past you in the ranks over the next ten years and have a say on how long you can stay in the organisation.

In a win-win situation, the younger colleague would benefit from your experience and you would benefit from his competencies and learn something new. As long as each one is open to pushing themselves outside their comfort zone and try new ways of thinking—open to seeing situations from different angles—and have the will to overcome indifferences in the styles of communication. After all, we all communicate differently.

Tok Tok

He gently taps on her door.
“The canoe ride is ready…” He softly whispers.
She springs up from the chair, clears her throat covering her mouth with a cushion, “Coming…” She says.
Final mirror check, she has changed her outfit 5 times in an attempt to get the colours right, “A dab of blush on my cheeks, maybe the blue shorts would have been better, oh gosh where’s my waterproof mascara…..”

It might be a canoe ride but after endless eye glances at the dinner last night this might be more than a canoe.

Final check
Hair tied nicely, check!
Colgate smile, check!

I might need a relaxant at this rate, she thinks to herself. How complicated it has become to dress up for a ride in the water…
Heart racing she runs to the door. “slow down…, it’s just a canoe ride, nothing hectic” she assures herself

Unbeknown to her, he has had his fair share of panic attacks.

His knuckles are swollen because he spent the whole night practising how to knock on her door
Not too loud not too soft…
The 2-metre walk to her room has felt like a walk from Cape to Cairo.
Heart thumping. He hears her footsteps. He stands boldly like a soldier. “not too firm not too relaxed, calm down…” he scolds himself.

She opens the door, their eyes meet.

There is a deafening silence.
“I hope my mascara is on point…” she thinks
“I hope I shaved properly…” he thinks
“Who should say hi first?” she thinks
“will she hug me today?” He ponders
“Should I hug him, I wonder?” She questions herself
“I hope she can’t hear my beating…” he thinks
“those dimples… Oh my gosh” she thinks

In one split second their thoughts have raced to mars and back

It feels like a pinch of eternity, gazing at each other for one second…

The day has only but begun…

The Patient

It’s in the morning, a sunny good morning, it has been raining for a quite a few days. A young man entered the pharmacy and asked if we had electronic cigarettes, we didn’t have them and they were nowhere to be found in Kigali. He then asked what I can advise for smoking cessation.

It was my third day in the pharmacy doing my first ever internship. I have been, for those days, struggling to memorize all medicines, quickly locate them in shelves and being able to offer proper medicine information and patient counselling, the latter is a practice we rarely do or learn in class.

All other workers in the pharmacy were women. Being the only male, the gentleman felt more comfortable to discuss with me about ways to stop smoking. He must never had taken a look at my badge to see that I’m just an intern, it was so much confidence for me to deal with. Continue reading

This is Zimbabwe

Waking up to the cold weather and the breeze from forests as we drive from our lodge to the symposium venue, we often stopped to let buffalos, baboons and warthog to cross the road. The symposium venue along the Zambezi River and its majestic Victoria falls, named Mosi oa Tunya – the smoke which thunders, offering a gentle wind on sunny days. While us, young men and women from all over Africa armed with the super-pharmacist i-cubed factor, defined as a nature of being Innovators, Inventors and Initiators of things, we learn and discuss about Integrating Emerging Technologies in Pharmacy for the Improvement of Public Health Delivery in Africa.

I arrived at Harare international airport at 1:20am with my next flight to the western city of Victoria Falls at 9am. My plane was the last for the night and the airport was empty, I had in mind what is always in the media about Zimbabwe and I refused the offer from a taxi driver to get for me a room to sleep for the night. Harare was described, as I read before travelling, the world’s least livable city on earth, the 4th worst on the list.

I then preferred to buy a coca in a café for the server to leave the TV on while he is asleep, I watched the rebroadcast of all that day world cup games that I missed while on planes and transits. It was 6 to 10 degrees that night. Continue reading

Jyewe uko mbyumva

Mugenzi wanjye yagize ati “buri umwe yaba umu polisi aha, bituri mu maraso kwivanga mu buzima bw’abandi no kwiha kumenya uko bakitwaye mu buzima bwabo bwite”.

Mpita nibuka uko twitereye aha,uziko wicara mu bantu mwavuga umuntu hakabura n’umwe umuvuga neza, umwe akerura ukwe ati : “uriya amafaranga se… ntiwamenya uwo baziranye!”, undi ati “erega ubujura iki gihe bukorwa nabicecekeye nka bariya”,ngo “aratuburisha”, “ajya ikuzimu”. Yaba ari inkumi ngo “n’umukinnyi uriya”, umusore ngo “arapfubura”… Undi ngo byabaye kata. n’andi magambo mwene ayo asebanya ku bantu bimereye neza cyangwa bateye imbere.  Continue reading