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It’s a shame for African politicians to seek medical help abroad

By seeking treatment abroad, Buhari broke one of his own electoral promises – to end medical tourism.

Buhari is just one of many heads of state to find help elsewhere.

Patrice Talon, the President of the Republic of Benin, underwent surgery in France a few months ago.

The cases of Buhari and Talon, however, aren’t as bad as other presidents who have had decades to fix their countries’ health care systems, but haven’t.

Robert Mugabe, leader of Zimbabwe for the past 37 years, frequently seeks eye-related treatment 8 240 kilometres away in Singapore.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos who has just stepped down as Angola’s leader after 38 years, also travels to Spain for treatment.

In the recent past, some African leaders died abroad while seeking treatment.

Zambia’s Levy Mwanawasa died in France while the country’s Michael Sata passed away in the UK.

Then there was Guinea Bissau’s Malam Bacai Sanha who died in France, Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi who died in Belgium, and Gabon’s Omar Bongo who died in Spain.

A few fortunate ones made it home, but died shortly afterwards.

They include Nigeria’s Musa Yar’Adua who died in Abuja after returning from treatment in Saudi Arabia, and Ghana’s Atta Mills who died in Accra after returning from a brief medical spell in the US

The picture painted above is shameful.

As long as Africa’s leaders keep going abroad for medical reasons, the ambition for better health infrastructure will remain an illusion.

Countries pay a heavy cost for this behaviour.

It’s estimated that in Uganda, the funds spent to treat top government officials abroad every year could build 10 hospitals.

Not only do the leaders travel with elaborate entourages, but they also travel in expensive chartered or presidential jets.

For example, the cost of parking Buhari’s plane during his three month spell in London is estimated at £360 000.

That’s equivalent to about 0.07% of Nigeria’s N304 billion budget allocation for health this year.

And there would have been many other heavier costs incurred during his stay.

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