On behalf of KI, I wish you all a happy anniversary! You are now celebrating your first 100 years. For 20 of these years, you have been one of our most important and most cherished collaborative partners.
You are celebrating your first centennial close to what I hope will be the end of the current pandemic. One hundred years back in time the world had just emerged from the devastating Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, also called the Spanish flu. Since then, research and education have made great strides and significantly advanced health on the global scale.
Long way to go
But still, we have a long way to go. Pandemics tragically kill but they also dramatically unveil. They reveal and deepen prevailing inequities, between nations and within. After Dr Martin Luther King Jr received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 he gave a speech in Chicago famously saying that “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” His words still ring true. Had he been among us today he would have been shocked by the fact that Africa still has to import more than 98% of the vaccines that the continent needs. He would have gasped in astonishment and dismay if confronted with the grave technology and knowledge divides that we see in today´s world. We – as academics must rise to the challenge. We must shape a more equitable world, implement knowledge into new policies, help bridge the technology gap, and we must do this with due attention to the principles of reciprocal innovation and respect. I am proud to say that this is very much on the agenda of the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health that we have established with you – our colleagues at Makerere University. We regard this Centre as a flagship project and an essential follow-up of our Strategy 2030 that says that KI must strive for a better health “for all”. Please read an earlier blog post about this: Welcome to the launch of the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health
The word “all” is small but hugely inspirational. It tells us that we as academics should promote health by working across geographical borders, across socioeconomic strata, but also across generations. We have an obligation and responsibility not only for those who inhabit our planet today, but also for those who will inhabit our planet tomorrow. This is the thinking that is embodied in our term “sustainable health” – we must realize that the health of the individual is inextricably intertwined with the health of our planet. This interdependence is epitomized by the climate change, but extends far beyond that. Among other things we are talking about pollution, biodiversity, and undue exploitation of natural resources.
Richness of perspectives
Meeting the challenges ahead requires a richness of perspectives. A richness of perspectives, in turn, requires global collaboration. For almost 20 years we have seen how the collaboration with you – our colleagues at Makerere University – has enriched our perspectives. We do hope that you share our experience in this regard. And we do hope that we can continue to develop long-term collaborative projects that not only will generate new knowledge but also translate into new policies for a better health for all. Knowledge is important, but knowledge implementation – responding to current needs – is key to progress. I am happy to note that this is clearly reflected in your vision:
Makerere University is committed to providing transformative and innovative teaching, learning, research and services responsive to dynamic national and global needs
Working together, celebrating together: we will have joint events in Kampala in the beginning of May. Please look out for more information on this.
There is also a recently published interview at KI website with two medical students from Makerere, Allan Bakesiga and Linda Atulinda, currently studying here at KI.