Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) - U.S. Health Investments in Kenya
October 13, 2009
Keith Ellison, Smart Global Health commissioner and representative of Minnesota’s fifth district, came to CSIS Thursday morning to provide reflections on the Commission’s trip to Kenya. While covering issues from governance to maternal health to the state of the Dadaab refugee camps, Ellison called Kenya a great case study for smart global health policy as an arrow in the quiver to reach out to the rest of the world.
Ellison praised the tremendous U.S. effort in Kenya and called for a move from the idea of a world power donor and its patron to the idea of an equal partnership. He highlighted the very productive cooperation between the Centers for Disease Control and the Kenyan government on malaria, as well as the positive impact of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
The sharpest challenge going forward is governance for a country in which the two major political parties, who have ruled in uneasy compromise since the 2007 election, duplicate state functions. Progress is difficult with one minister for hospitals and another for public health, said Ellison, describing the irrational portfolios that result from political stalemate.
Parliamentary politics are also interfering with the passage of appropriate gender-based violence legislation, Ellison said.
He reported great progress in reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV but then told of a town of AIDS orphans and the women struggling to care for them.
Ellison visited the Ifo refugee camp at Dadaab, which is filled far past capacity by Somalis and others from Kenya’s north. He found many incredible people in Dadaab, working to reduce HIV transmission, improve nutrition, and train midwives.
Ellison repeatedly emphasized the need for sound global health policy. “It spreads good will,” he said. “It builds communities. It provides opportunities for partnership. It’s the right thing to do.”
Special Thanks to Seth Gannon for authoring this summary.