Week 10: To Give Aid or Not To Give Aid? That is the Question

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How does aid relate to me?

A little bit about me: I am planning on going into the health care field after graduation. I want to be a physician assistant and work with patients and help the sick get better and help them become healthy. I know that by simply living in America and working in a hospital in the United States, the resources that will be available to me are extremely different than the resources in other countries across the world. That is why when I hear about aid going to countries in Africa, one of my first questions is how that aid will help increase the health of that particular country.

When I first visited the Grameen Foundation website, I was immediately drawn to their work in Ghana. According to their website, the Grameen Foundation “has been working with the Ghana Health Service since 2008 to improve the maternal and neonatal care in rural communities through the Mobile Technology for Community Health (MOTECH) initiative”.  MOTECH was designed with the purpose of providing increased neonatal care in Ghana and especially in rural areas.

Under MOTECH Ghana, two mobile applications were developed to improve access to maternal health education. The Mobile Midwife Application enables pregnant women, new mothers and their families to receive SMS and/or voice messages that provide time-specific information about their pregnancies and childcare each week. Community nurses use the Nurses Application to collect patient data and upload records to a centralized database, enabling them to track the care of their patients and identify those who are due for care.

Another Sub-Sahara African location where the Grameen Foundation was working that interested me was Nigeria. Like Ghana, a lot of the focus was on increasing health outcomes. Part of a group of organizations that make up Africa Health Markets for Equity (AHME), the Grameen Foundation works with other organizations such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to “improve health outcomes through the provision of quality private sector health care targeted at the poor in Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana”.  According to the website,

The African Health Markets for Equity (AHME) initiative is a five-year, multi-country program co-funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The program is designed to increase the coverage of quality care within private provider systems and to address priority health issues that most affect the poor. The program will operate in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria and will focus on a broad range of health issues, including reproductive health, infectious diseases and nutrition.

In Ghana, it is clear that mobile technology is imperative in reaching the desired goals of increasing neonatal health and care. In Nigeria, although not directly mentioned, I assume that technology will also be very important and be used for keeping track of medical records and organizing the private health care systems.

In the TED Talk by Andrew Mwenda, he argues that Africa (and the aid it receives) is not covered accurately by the media. He says, “Africa has 53 nations. We have civil wars only in six countries, which means that the media are covering only six countries”.  It seems to me that a majority of the time I hear or read about Africa in the news, it is always something negative which does not accurately represent what is actually happening across the Atlantic Ocean. Mwenda says that because Westerners have such a skewed view of what is going on in Africa because of the media, we are asking ourselves “What should we do with it? We should give food to the hungry. We should deliver medicines to those who are ill. We should send peacekeeping troops to serve those who are facing a civil war” and we have caused Africa to lose self-initiative.

In his presentation, Mwenda says,

But what is the international aid community doing with Africa today? They are throwing large sums of money for primary health, for primary education, for food relief. The entire continent has been turned intoa place of despair, in need of charity. Ladies and gentlemen, can any one of you tell me a neighbor, a friend, a relative that you know, who became rich by receiving charity? By holding the begging bowl and receiving alms? Does any one of you in the audience have that person? Does any one of you know a country that developed because of the generosity and kindness of another? Well, since I’m not seeing the hand, it appears that what I’m stating is true.

After hearing him argue this point, aid in Africa has never seemed so unproductive. Of course, we all dream that one day we will win millions of dollars from winning the lottery but in reality, that will likely never happen just like how if we continue to provide aid to Africa the way we have been in the past Africa will never be able to grow on its own economically or democratically.

Sources: Grameen Foundation, Grameen Ghana, MOTECH, AHME, Mwenda TED Talk

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One response »

  1. Pingback: Week 9: Sachs on Aid | Digital Global Studies

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