Right Honorable Prime Minister,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
I’d like to begin my comments this morning by expressing my very great gratitude for the warmth with which I have been received here in Uganda, the support that the President and the Government have been offering to this new project of creating an Aga Khan University Hospital here in Kampala.
It is very clear that without this partnership between the Government and AKDN it would be impossible to realise the sorts of things, the sorts of initiatives that we have been able to implement during the last 50 years here in Uganda. These initiatives cover enormous areas, not just in health care, but in education, in economic development, in cultural activities – in other words, in all the key endeavors that governments and civil society invest in.
I am here today as the Chancellor of the Aga Khan University. And it is in this role that I can officially announce the establishment of an Aga Khan University Hospital in Kampala.
We started the Aga Khan University in Pakistan some 32 years ago and it has grown into a truly international institution, with major campuses in Africa as well as in Asia, and with programmes in many fields. But right at the centre of its mission, from the very start, has been one principle goal: to help ensure the people living in the developing world are able to access international standards of health care.
We are here today because of this common conviction. We have to bring to Africa and Asia global standards of health care. The populations of these countries cannot be isolated from the best simply because they have been born in countries outside the Western world.
It’s clearly a challenge to build institutions of global quality in environments which haven’t had those institutions before. And in order to achieve that goal the essential is human resources – men and women who are educated to perform to the highest standards of their profession. And that is why the Aga Khan Health Network has invested, and will continue to invest, in education.
It adds cost. It adds management issues. It is not entirely satisfactory, in the sense that graduates leave, they go to other parts of the world, and they don’t always return. But the fact is that we have to educate on an ongoing basis in Africa, in Asia, to global standards of medicine and nursing, and that is our goal.
Now these standards cannot be maintained without research. Therefore the Aga Khan University is investing – and will continue to invest very heavily – in research, in postgraduate studies, not undergraduate studies. It is this research which will enable the Aga Khan University and others in the area to bring new knowledge, appropriate knowledge to Africa, Asia, which we desperately need.
Now you certainly remember that at some time medical care in Sub-Saharan Africa was solid. But there have been moments of difficulty, and we now have to rebuild in a number of countries in Asia and Africa, standards of institutional performance, which will bring these institutions back to global standards. And that means harnessing the youth to our future. And I would like to emphasise to you how important it is that you should bring to bear on young men and young women a commitment to serve at home, and not to leave home in a position where the homeland does not have the benefit of the knowledge which has been imparted.
It’s important to keep in mind that disease is changing in its nature. We are more and more confronted in modern society by non-communicable disease and therefore in the decades ahead we will be concentrating through the Aga Khan Health Network and other medical institutions in dealing with non-communicable diseases. And I refer to diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, mental and neurological illness, cancer and others. These are the areas where we must concentrate properly, to serve future generations of society.
There is no doubt that developing countries need to improve health standards and the hospital will therefore seek to treat everyone who needs care. Modern medicine is expensive, but it is our responsibility to make it available to all the population, and we undertake to do that.
As I said earlier, training doctors, nurses, therapists, bio-medical engineers, laboratory technicians, and other medical professionals is a long, complex exercise, but our health institutions in Africa and Asia are committed to doing that so that our institutions have a complete educational process and we train people for all the different needs in serving health care around the world.
Let me come back to Uganda. Uganda has doctors and nurses who are successful in their professions but who are not in Uganda. It is my hope that by building the Aga Khan University Hospital here in Uganda, the wonderful doctors and nurses who are Ugandans, who are working outside Uganda, will come back and work here in an institution which not only will welcome them, but give them the best professional conditions in which they can work.
Let me spend a very short time and explain to you what it is that we are seeking to achieve in East Africa through the Aga Khan Health Network. Essentially we are trying to build a network of tertiary care hospitals, teaching hospitals, throughout Eastern Africa. We are trying to add to that network of teaching hospitals, medical units which are part of the educational system, but which will become referral institutions to our major network institutions. And our hope is that over the years we will have a system covering East Africa where an individual needing care will be able to enter the system at any point and receive the appropriate health care, whether it be in Uganda or in Kenya or in Tanzania or even further afield.
So we are working on the concept of an integrated regional health system. That will be supported by e-medicine, and that e-medicine will be supported by international relationships. So in order that we be able to educate properly, we are not depending on our own resources. We are looking to other partners to work with us from around the world to educate our students, to keep our faculty up to speed, so that in the new areas of, for example, stem cell technology, we can bring through our institutions to Africa the best of modern science.
This ceremony today marks a long engagement in healthcare in Eastern Africa and it may amuse you that it is exactly 27 years ago that the President and I had our first meeting here in Uganda. Those 27 years have resulted in multiple agreements. So we had protocols of agreement in 1989, in 1999, in 2002, and we have an agreement in place today. So we are working in a context of an ongoing partnership, and that brings to us as a network of non-governmental capacity, a great sense of comfort that we are working in a long-term structure, in a structure, which is related to the public sector here in Uganda.
When this institution is built, it is my hope that it will have brought to Uganda modern medicine in the best conditions, in intimate partnership with public sector healthcare. We see the system working as one system, building on capacity, human resources, programming, and forward thinking.
And I take this occasion to thank the President for the land that he has made available for our new institution, and to all of you I say, please join us in this exciting journey.