My Campaign, Our Campaign: Health for All in Africa

My Campaign, Our Campaign: Health for All in Africa

{Photo credit: Anteneh Tesfaye Lemma/MSH.}Photo credit: Anteneh Tesfaye Lemma/MSH.

Meeting my predecessor

There he was: Kenaw! I was seeing him in person for the first time. Kenaw is a friendly guy; we greeted like we’d known each other awhile. I hear from my Health for All: Campaign for Universal Health Coverage in Africa (Health for All) colleagues that he was wonderful to work with and got along with almost everyone in the office within a few weeks of arriving. Although I hadn't had the opportunity to work with him, I sprinted from the foundation he laid to further the campaign’s activities as I joined MSH and Health for All in January 2013.

I had a chance to chat with Kenaw before the Health for All Campaign closeout event began. He had shown up right on time, seemingly eager to see what we've done after he left the campaign two and half years ago. He got excited to see some of our campaign activity pictures posted around the entrance. We tried to showcase some of our achievements in an exhibition and Kenaw seemed surprised how far we moved this along after he left the campaign. He was my predecessor as the Health for All campaign’s Communication Specialist and, despite his short stay with the campaign, he did an incredible job putting everything together, launching the plans, and fighting the first battles.

It was a pleasure to see Kenaw and other people who contributed to the campaign’s success at the event, January 22, 2015. Every one of them reminded me of the work we did, the challenges we faced, and the successes we achieved in the last few years.

Partners gather

I glanced at the people gathered in the hall: Celebrities, journalists, government officials, representatives of NGOs, civil servants and other campaign partners gathered together to mark the end of a journey that aspired to contribute to the move towards UHC and make a meaningful difference in three African countries (Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Kenya).

As the event unfolded with a presentation of the campaign’s major achievements by the Campaign Director, Hiwot Emishaw, I was trying to capture the emotive looks of participants with my camera. Everyone seemed to connect to what was being said on the stage.

I took a beautiful shot of Artist Genet Nigatu with her colorful traditional dress. She has been the face of the Ethiopian Health Insurance Agency and part of our celebrity engagement initiative.

As Hiwot explains about the media engagements we had and the successes we achieved in that regard, my focus was on the victorious look of Melaku Berhanu, Senior Editor of the weekly Addis Guday magazine, who ranked first in the media competition we initiated to promote the health insurance scheme in Ethiopia.

At the front row sat the entire production crew of Luche multimedia production who "rolled" the cameras, spent days on the editing computers, and made the final health insurance PSAs for the Ethiopian Health Insurance Agency.

Dr Mengistu Bekelle, Acting Director General of Ethiopian Health Insurance Agency, and Dr. Negussu Mekonnen, Country Representative: MSH Ethiopia, were at the front row showcasing the government and civil society partnership we created in the last two years.  

Kenaw was also listening to the presentation attentively as my camera flash bursts on his face. He smiled and gave me "thumbs up".


"The horse" that brought stakeholders together to fight for UHC

Looking at the multitude of partners, I realized what we have done so far is indeed a result of the partnerships we created with stakeholders. It also reminded me of the Ethiopian Proverb:

“A horse can only take one to the battlefield but won’t fight the battle itself” -- a loose translation for “&;&;&; &;&;&;&;&; &;&;&; &;&;&;&;&;”.

The campaign has been the horse that brought multiple stakeholders together to fight the battle for UHC. We fought the battles and are still marching to win the final war: the war to "free" citizens from unaffordable medical expenses and make sure UHC prevails across nations.

As Dr. Bekelle reaffirmed the government’s commitment to continue the initiatives of the campaign, I recited a line from our campaign brochure: “Bringing UHC to the top of the political agenda”. I recalled the day when I was interviewed for my current position two years ago. The panel seemed to be skeptical about my limited experience in working with partners. When I looked at the people in the hall, I realized everyone at the event had a role not only in making the Health for All Campaign a success, but also in helping a young man realize the importance of strong partnerships in achieving the noble mission of saving lives. That man is me. And it was my campaign… Our campaign! ... A campaign of partners working together toward UHC.

The Health for All Campaign, funded by Rockefeller Foundation, and led by MSH in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Kenya, ended January 30, 2015. The work of ensuring health for all in Africa continues!