This blog is a culmination of several conversations, educational and personal experiences, and thoughts on Global Health and International Development. Growing up in Kenya was a very real experience of interacting with what has now become the nebulous ‘health system’ that is so often talked about but that has often not been experienced by many of the ‘experts’.
Through my undergraduate years in Canada, I was not only fatigued by what was offered by Professors regarding ‘what it takes’ to resolve – often Africa’s – problems. If at all issues concerning development in Africa were discussed, the response was often that it would take too much to understand what is necessary to transform the current situation, so let’s just do nothing because corrupt governments will waste the money anyway.
This was juxtaposed with the overly simplistic and seemingly altruistic student perspective, which some of us nicknamed ‘save-the-worlds’: they felt that since nothing was working, anything was something. And so they went on service learning experiences in developing countries – which I highly encourage, but then ended up ‘teaching’ about HIV/AIDS – something they knew nothing about and/or eventually run programs despite the countless competent people who were not only capable, but were willing and needed to be doing that very work.
And then came grad school: in our Global Health program, I finally found a solace, a place where we could genuinely discuss and share ideas and discourse on Global Health. A colleague came up with the term ‘development pornography’ the perfect way to describe the misuse of images of young starving children mostly from somewhere in ‘Africa’ with the goal of fundraising or justifying the spending of billions of dollars, that often rarely reach said children.
I’ve noticed that the ‘anything goes’ rhetoric seems to pervade some of the Global Health approaches currently employed. And somehow the ‘development pornography’ seems to justify it. Yet doing this right is part of making sure that the problems that we address have a long lasting effect rather than a band-aid approach.
As my interest in Global Health has since grown, my ideas and approaches have also matured.
And in this blog, I offer my thoughts, my critiques and my suggested solutions to some of the challenges we are currently facing in Global Health, mostly from a Health Systems Strengthening perspective.
I realize that there are no perfect solutions or perfect answers.
But in doing what we are doing, we at the very least owe it to those whose lives we seek to change to ensure that the change is positive and not worse than their current situation.