Dr. Akin Abayomi discusses multifaceted challenges in global health

January 25, 2018
by Margaux Fontaine

On January 22, 2018, the Science, Technology and International Affairs (STIA) program of the School of Foreign Service hosted the annual Maloy Distinguished Lecture On Global Health featuring Dr. Akin Abayomi, Professor of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa. Abayomi drew from his experience working on the Ebola outbreak to demonstrate how global health issues can be examined not only from a medical perspective, but also a political and historical one.

Abayomi is also the Principal Investigator for Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium (GET), formed at the height of the Ebola outbreak in 2014 in order to help combat and control the spread of the disease. GET aims at addressing ongoing and emerging biosecurity threats through research and by strengthening states’ technical capacities.

“According to the models, [the Ebola epidemic] was going to escalate completely out of control, and we just didn’t have the infrastructure or the capacity to manage it,” Abayomi said.

West Africa’s weak ability to handle biosecurity threats was a major factor in the spread of the disease, which Dr. Abayomi asserted has its roots in the historical exploitation of Africa.

“So the question is, is Africa’s underdevelopment rooted in slavery, colonialism and neocolonialism?” Dr. Abayomi speculated. “And was that the reason–or one of the reasons–why Ebola devastated West Africa and the continent?”

In light of the challenges facing the continent and the role played by western powers in their inception, Dr. Abayomi argued for a proposal similar to Europe’s post-World War II Marshall Plan that would help African countries recover and rebuild.

“After such a history of plunder, it is virtually impossible for us to do it alone,” Dr. Abayomi said. “Aid, in the form that we’re getting now, is simply just not enough.”

The annual Maloy Distinguished Lecture On Global Health is made possible by Paul (SFS’68) and Catherine (NHS’68) Maloy, who endowed the Maloy Family Fund in 1999 to support health-related projects in the STIA program. Since 2000, the STIA program has invited a guest speaker to discuss issues concerning the multidisciplinary field of global health. Past speakers have included Helene D. Gayle, CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, and Ambassador Mark R. Dybul, former executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.