Lusaka - Many people may not like him, but Former United States President George W Bush is doing something many African leaders are failing to do: support healthcare on the continent.
Apart from the usual speeches on the importance of battling HIV and AIDS, and a few paragraphs reserved for malaria and TB, little effort – and money – has been put by many African governments into healthcare.
Which is why it is big news that George W Bush was recently in Zambia, and is visiting other African countries, to promote awareness and interventions on cancer as well as HIV and AIDS.
During his Zambia visit, Bush said cancer was claiming too many lives, especially among women, and more needed to be done to address this.
Two in every five women are estimated to die from cancer-related causes every month in Africa.
He was there to assist with funding for renovation of Ngungu Health Centre in Kabwe, which provides a wide range of health services including screening and treatment of cervical cancer.
The health centre is a joint project of the Ministry of Health and the George W Bush Institute and it was refurbished by volunteers from Zambia and the US.
Bush and his wife, Laura, are in Africa to promote a partnership between the George W Bush Institute, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), UNAIDS and Susan G Komen for the Cure that aims to fight cervical and breast cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Bush pledged to continue rendering support, through PEPFAR – which he initiated as President - to fight diseases such as HIV and AIDS and cervical cancer.
PEPFAR is the largest component of Washington’s Global Health Initiative with special focus on improving health of women, new-born babies and children.
Bush said, “Every human life is important and should be saved. We do not want to see people suffering because we need to help them to save life from diseases like HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer.”
He said he wanted to establish a cancer foundation.
The Bush family donated US$50 000 to upgrade a facility at the country’s leading health centre, the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka.
The gesture is part of Pink Ribbon and Red Ribbon Campaign, an initiative to leverage public and private investments in global health to combat cervical and breast cancer.
Washington’s Ambassador to Lusaka, Mark Storellai, said Zambian doctors, nurses and other personnel were doing a commendable job to offer quality health services to citizens in line with focus and mission of the ministry.
Welani Chilengwe, who represented the Ministry of Health, hailed the Bush family for the gesture and said the health centre would bring better service delivery to the community.