18 July is Mandela Day and it’s once again time to take a moment to appreciate the legacy this great man left behind.
He spent his life fighting for equality and will forever be remembered as the man who led the fight to abolish apartheid, but his work in transforming global health was also truly amazing. And yes, the reason why his momentous accomplishments in the realm of health was not well known, was perhaps due to the fact that his political and human rights triumphs somehow overshadowed this side of his work.
Knowing that more than 3 million children were killed by preventable diseases was all the motivation he needed. He gathered world leaders through the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation to advocate for every child’s right to receive immunisations and secured over $800 million dollars in commitments for universal vaccination programs in Africa.
Mandela made health care accessible in rural South Africa where there is only 1 doctor available for every 5000 patients. What did he do? He built a train. The Phelophepa is a mobile hospital that brings much needed medical and educational health services to people in South Africa’s remote areas. And, 27 years later, the Phelophepa continues to treat an estimated 375 000 patients annually, bringing hope to those who need it.
His dedicated involvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS inspired scientists, activists, and other political leaders to take action. He promoted the use of condoms to prevent the disease and discouraged the stigmatization of people with AIDS. And in 2005 this fight became personal. Mandela gave arguably the most powerful declaration to the world against the stigma around HIV/AIDS when he held a press conference at his home to deliver this message: “My son has died of AIDS.”
His personal determination not to allow the anger of the past to influence future, was perhaps the biggest influence on the new South Africa. Madiba embodied his childhood lessons of Ubuntu and taught us to be compassionate and caring towards those around us.
This moment in history has come with devastating loss of life, exposed fragility of health systems and aggravated food insecurity for many communities. Let’s face it, the global pandemic has touched everyone, but the impact has been most felt in under-resourced communities. We’ve seen the world change drastically, yet our collective responsibility as one humanity has not changed.
Positive change begins with small actions. There is so much good that can be done virtually, you can volunteer safely from your home or office by using your skills to help a cause. We’re thinking coaching, mentoring, financial, or technological support. You can also purchase much needed items online and arrange to have these delivered to the cause of your choice, or simply make a sandwich for someone on the street. There is so much that can be done.
As Covid-19 sweeps across our land leaving devastation in its wake, let’s take action to help our people. Using Nelson Mandela’s own words: “It’s in your hands to make the world a better place.”
Thank you to all the angels of this country that dedicate their lives to giving to others who has so little.
Source: roche.co.za, cuime.colombia.edu, inicef.org, onlinemphdegree.net, nbcnews.com, red.org, psi.org, mandeladay.com, forgood.co.za, nelsonmandela.org
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