Exploring Dr Richard Mihigo's plans to transform healthcare in Africa #rwanda #RwOT


With the backing of the Rwandan government, Mihigo is among the five contestants eyeing the coveted regional post in elections slated for next month.

Speaking in an exclusive interview recently on Sunny Ntayombya's podcast, the 57-year-old said that once elected, he will put in place measures to ensure that the African population lives a healthy life so that they can contribute to their own development.

'From various conversations we have had with ministers of finance and economic policymakers, people tend to perceive health as an expenditure only. They claim to always need money for health insurance, hospital bills, etc. but that's not all. Health is not only an expenditure; health a tool that can positively contribute to the development of a nation,' Dr. Mihigo stated.

He added, 'If you have a healthy population, those people can thrive and contribute more efficiently to the prosperity of their own families, their own communities, and their own nation as a whole. This is my immediate target.'

To achieve this, Mihigo has developed a robust programme on how he would put in place strategic shift to avert this.

The programme includes building resilient health systems able to withstand health crises such as disease outbreaks or pandemics like COVID-19, which have previously exposed vulnerabilities and gaps in global healthcare systems for years.

'We saw how literally everything collapsed during COVID. The responsiveness and preparedness of our systems were really very weak. I want to make sure that we help countries build very robust and resilient health systems based on a primary healthcare system that responds to the needs of the population,' he emphasized.

According to him, a functional primary healthcare system is the foundation of any well-meaning society.

He believes that if people at the grassroots level can access the basic health services needed (both curative and preventive), then Africa will be on track to build a more resilient and functional health system.

Citing instances where Africa was unfairly locked out of access to COVID-19 treatment tools, vaccines and testing equipment, Dr. Mihigo emphasized the need to promote Vaccine manufacturing in Africa.

He also expressed his intent to respond to non-communicable diseases as well as maternal and infant mortality rates.

Beyond fighting diseases, Dr. Mihigo plans to break the gender barriers that exist in the health sector.

'We need to put in place a more robust system that can address gender barriers by borrowing a leaf from Rwanda as a champion of gender equality and inclusion at the continental level,' he emphasized.

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Dr Mihigo, largely lived as a refugee but defied all odds to become a widely considered strong candidate for the WHO job due to his rich career profile and extensive education in the medical field.

He holds a Bachelor's degree in Medicine and Surgery (M.B., Ch.B.) from the Faculty of Medicine, Université de Kisangani, DRC and a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree in International Health from Boston University School of Public Health, USA, obtained in 2003.

He held numerous positions, including advisory roles at WHO, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Mihigo also served as an advisor at United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-Rwanda.

Locally, he served as the first Medical Director of Nyanza Hospital in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Today, Dr Mihigo doubles as the Senior Director of Programmatic and Strategic Engagement at the African Union/Africa CDC and advisor at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), a position he has held since March 2024.

He reminisces that the death of his mother due to cervical cancer partly shaped his future in public health, where he has been advocating for immunization to combat various diseases.

'My mother passed away from cervical cancer which is something easily preventable today,' he said, adding, 'This is what has also shaped a bit of my future in public health. I am a renowned specialist in immunization globally.'

The mother, whom he fondly refers to as his heroine, also encouraged him to pursue medicine instead of law.

His competitors for the WHO role include Dr. N'da Konan Michel Yao from Côte d'Ivoire, Dr. Boureima Hama Sambo of Niger, Senegal's Dr. Ibrahima Socé Fall and Tanzanian Doctor Faustine Engelbert Ndugulile.

The Regional Committee of the WHO African Region will vote to nominate the next Regional Director in a closed-door meeting during its 74th session from 26th to 30th August 2024 in Congo Brazzaville.

The nominee will then be submitted for appointment by the 156th session of the WHO Executive Board, set for January 2025 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The newly appointed Regional Director will take office on February 1, 2025, for a five-year term, renewable once.

At IGIHE Ltd, we wish Dr Mihigo all the best.

Wycliffe Nyamasege

Source : https://en.igihe.com/people/article/exploring-dr-richard-mihigo-s-plans-to-transform-healthcare-in-africa

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