African leaders should seek treatment at home: Africa awaits the day when its leaders shall take pride in their own healthcare systems and facilities to the extent that they too, like the people who elect them into power, receive treatment in their own public hospitals at home.

Author:Choruma, Allen
Position:SPEAKER'S CORNER
 
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It's becoming a norm in Africa that African Presidents and top politicians seek medical treatment overseas, especially in Europe, the US and the Far East. This is a clear sign of the lack of confidence in healthcare systems they have overall charge over.

As African leaders fly away in chartered jets, gobbling millions of dollars of tax payers' money, they leave behind healthcare systems in their home countries in a depressing condition. Ordinary people have to bear the brunt of dilapidated healthcare infrastructure, poor quality services, shortages of essential drugs and exposure to falsified and sub-standard medication.

African politicians at large have little motivation and incentives to invest in healthcare in their own countries as they seldom use these facilities. Healthcare doesn't seem to be a top priority for most African leaders since, whenever they need medical treatment, they are flown overseas on taxpayers' money.

Re-elected as President of Nigeria, septuagenarian Muhammadu Buhari, has broken records during his first term in office in terms of spending prolonged periods of time abroad seeking medical treatment.

It is reported that President Buhari during his first term in office (2015-2019) spent more than 170 days (almost six months) making trips to London for medical treatment. His first trip, in February 2017, lasted 50 days and his second one lasted over 103 days, from May to August.

In 2018, Nigeria witnessed massive strikes by health staff over deplorable working conditions, the poor quality of healthcare and discontent over inadequate public spending on health. The budget allocation for health was only 4% (N340.5bn; $0.944bn) out of a total budget of N8.612tn. This is nowhere near the 15% budget figure set by the Abuja Declaration, signed by all African heads of state in 2001.

Taking the cost of medical treatment aside, the cost of parking Buhari's private jet in London during his medical tourism trips caused widespread public anger in Nigeria, with the media touting a figure of 4,000 [pounds sterling] a day, while the Presidency maintained it was 1,000 [pounds sterling] a day.

Former Zimbabwe President, Robert Mugabe, was a cut above other African Presidents. Mugabe was known for his plethora of trips to the Far East, with Singapore and Malaysia his preferred medical tourism destinations.

Leaving behind a health system in shambles, Mugabe was reported to having flown to Singapore in 2011 and 2014 for a simple eye...

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