African Leaders Who Have Sought Healthcare Outside Africa

According to WHO Report on the state of health financing in the African region,

the average total health expenditure in African countries stood at US$ 135 per capita in 2010, which is only a small fraction of the US$ 3,150 spent on health in an average high-income country. Insufficient investment in the health sector or in actions to tackle the environmental and social determinants of health is a serious obstacle to improving health outcomes in Africa, particularly considering that the continent bears the bulk of the global morbidity and mortality burden for maternal and infant mortality and HIV/AIDS.

In addition, the rise in noncommunicable diseases and injuries has put many countries under the pressure of a double burden of disease. The major constraint arising from funds shortage in most African countries is that the strategies and mechanisms that underpin health financing systems pose problems.

In about half of African countries, 40% or more of the total health expenditure is constituted of household out-of-pocket payments, which is the most regressive way of funding health care. The reliance on this payment mechanism creates financial barriers to access to health services and puts people at the risk of impoverishment.

Healthcare has never been a priority for most African presidents. As long as they and their families get treatments overseas, all is settled for them. There are many examples of African presidents who have sought treatment outside Africa. Some actually died in office while on treatment abroad, or at least they had received treatment abroad.

Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria is the leader of the pack. Despite criticizing politicians for seeking medical care abroad “when such can be handled in Nigeria,” He spent more than 100 days in the UK for medical treatment in 2017 and has travelled five times to the UK for treatments.

Patrice Talon, the President of the Republic of Benin, underwent surgery in France in June 2017.

Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe for the past 37 years, frequently seeks eye-related treatment in Singapore, travelled thrice in 2017.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos who has just stepped down as Angola’s leader after 38 years, also travels to Spain for treatment in may 2017.

In October 2014, President Michael Sata of Zambia died in the UK, after being taken to Israel and India for treatments.

In 2014, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria has been to France twice for treatment.

In November 2012, Guinea Bissau’s Malam Bacai Sanha died in France.

In August 2012, Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi died in Belgium after 17 years in power.

In July 2012, Ghana’s Atta Mills died in Accra after returning from a brief medical spell in the US.

In May 2010, Nigeria’s Musa Yar’Adua died in Abuja after returning from treatment in Saudi Arabia.

In June 2009, Gabon’s President Omar Bongo Ondimba died in Spain. He had ruled for 38 years.

In August 2008, Zambia’s President Levy Mwanawasa died in France.

In December 2008, Guinea’s President Lansana Conté died in Conakry after 24 years in power. He had been receiving treatment in Switzerland.

In February 2005, after 38 years in office, President Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo died on board the aircraft that was evacuating him for emergency treatment abroad.

In March 1984, President Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea passed away in the US after 26 years as President. He had been rushed to the US after being stricken in Saudi Arabia the previous day.

As presidents and Head of States, their medical expenses are paid from their country’s purse (tax payer’s money). This courtesy also extends to senior government employees.

Note: Nelson Mandela received treatment and care in his own country till he passed away.

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