Dr. Amin of Liverpool Faculty of Medicine: “Part of our mission is to roll back Malaria, which was and continues to be the major concern of the Ministry of Public Health and all people concerned with the health sector in Yemen.” [Archives:2001/11/Health]
Dr. Amin Ali Hassan is a PhD Clinic Lecturer on Health Needs and Impact Assessment at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine of the Faculty of Medicine of Liverpool in the UK. Having been formed in 1898, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine is among the oldest in this field in the world. The fact that the current Minister of Health, Dr. Abdulwali Nasher is also a graduate of the same faculty has made it possible to strengthen the relationship between the faculty and the Republic of Yemen.
To focus more on the cooperation between the Faculty of Medicine of Liverpool and the Yemeni government, and to shed light on the specific objectives of Dr. Amin’s visit, Yemen Times filed the following brief interview with Dr. Amin Ali Hassan.
Q: Could you brief us more about the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine?
A: The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine has a long history of working in the international scene. It mainly concentrates on researching tropical diseases and providing some of the most effective treatments for many deadly diseases, including Malaria. It also provides university teaching on the postgraduate level in medicine. We receive more than 500 postgraduates a year from 50 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.
Q: How did your work in Yemen start, and what is the aim of this particular visit of yours?
A: I started my work in Yemen in 1990, just after reunification. I was here as part of a team working on unifying the ministries of health of the formerly separated countries. My task then was to look at the health information systems of the two countries and come up with a standard common system for the whole country. It was then that I began to love the country and got connected to its people and environment. I worked in around 8 governorates at all levels of health services. This gave me the opportunity to go to small villages in remote rural areas and large cities as well. It enabled me to contact all sorts of people from Yemeni society.
As for my present visit, it is mainly to launch a course on health management in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health. The 4-month course aims at teaching health managers the different concepts, approaches, practices, as well as nutrition related studies, to lead to better management of the different health sectors. We have already selected the seven candidates who will be taking the course from seven different governorates. There are specialized subjects taught in the course, including nutrition, etc.
The necessity for such a course is due to the fact that the ministry is undertaking a serious initiative in health sector reform and in order to efficiently carry out the reform, we need to train the managers, so as to increase their management abilities and build their capacity.
Not to forget that the British Government, through the Department for International Development, sponsors the course along with a complementary grant from the World Health Organization. The Department for International Development and the British Council have been of great support to our joint activities over the past 10 years. We currently have a collaborative link with both the Faculties of Medicine of Sanaa and Aden Universities. Several significant achievements have been successfully conducted with the faculties, including the conclusion of a major review project on medical education, which was carried out with the help of top-experts from the UK along with their counterparts here in Yemen. All the private and public medical colleges were visited by the joint team, then assessed and provided with advice and assistance for providing better education to ensure a higher quality of doctors to meet the health needs of the Yemeni population.
Q: As you mentioned, you have been following up the health sector situation in Yemen since 1990, how do you evaluate the progress in the health sector in the last 10 years.
A: I must say that a lot of progress has been achieved in the last 4 years. Part of that is because of the readiness of the Ministry of Public Health to respond to existing and emerging needs. The Ministry of Health, just like ministries of health in many developing countries, is over stretched and is asked to do more than it could possibly cope with. This is true in terms of personnel and the funding of the ministries. However, these limitations did not hinder the efforts of the Minister of Health, Dr. Abdulwali Nasher, in the fields of academic, training, and service delivery levels. The ministry seems to be doing its best in order to stretch it’s resources. Overall, compared with the limited resources that the ministry receives, I can say that indeed, the ministry succeeded in improving the overall conditions of the health sector during the last three to four years. Knowing Yemen for the past 10 years, I am very impressed by the work done in health sector reform, which is absolutely essential so as to continue to improve the health services and meet the needs of the public. The modernization of the country during the last years had its positive as well as its negative effects on the health sector.
Q: Yemen is the fastest growing country in the world. Don’t you think the government should allocate more of its budget to the health sector because of this?
A: I couldn’t agree more. The Minister of Health and administrations of the Faculties of medicine in Yemen are well connected with international centers and were able to set up very well defined long-term and short-term plans. The only thing they lack right now is the sufficient funding to build the capacity within them to carry out their plans in a sustainable fashion. The population growth results in the need for more health services as well as training and education for health professionals. This cannot be achieved unless a sufficient budget is allocated to this vital sector.
Q: What are the prospects regarding your work and cooperation with the Yemeni government in future?
A: We have already succeeded with a health training program that lasted for two years under the sponsorship of the British Council concerning training to handle certain disease outbreaks such as the Rift Valley Fever outbreak which was controlled with the help of this program. We also worked on a sustainable Malaria control program. We had successful projects in training young medical academics and young professionals at the Ministry of Public Health in using essential certified tools to deliver health services and to continue learning and investigating health needs. The courses we give are of great importance for young medical academics who intend to strengthen their knowledge in health management and disease outbreak control. There are three courses overall, two of the courses last for three months, while the third is taught in Liverpool, in Sanaa, and again in Aden. We had all in all 44 candidates for the courses. We had an excellent rate of participation, as the attendance was around 95%. Out of these 44, eleven progressed to the higher levels of the course and got postgraduate scholarships for PhDs. Five of these eleven students actually started their scholarships in Liverpool. The idea was that at least 4 of them would come back to Yemen and carry on teaching the very same courses for Yemeni medical academics, and so on.
As for the future, we have two relatively large programs currently being developed.
The first program is going to be with the faculties of medicine in Sanaa and Aden universities and aims at establishing a faculty for postgraduate education, which includes establishing four new MA degrees and a program to be implemented in coordination with Liverpool Faculty of Medicine for PhD. This is because the two faculties don’t have enough resources to send their staff members to study overseas and neither do they have the capacity to teach them at the postgraduate level. We are all working on addressing this issue as it resembles a top priority need so as to enhance medical education and health service delivery and to arrive at a sustainable project to serve this purpose.
The other future program is concerned with the Ministry of Public Health in the field of health management training and controlling communicable diseases, mainly malaria. Our work is focused on the elimination of the three most common and dangerous communicable diseases in Yemen. It would truly be a great achievement if we could eliminate these potentially dangerous diseases. Another part of our mission is to roll back malaria, which was and continues to be the major concern of the Ministry of Public Health and all people concerned with the health sector in Yemen. We are still applying for funding, and hopefully we will be able to start once we secure the resources to start these important projects.
Q: Dr. Abdulwali Nasher is a graduate of Liverpool Faculty of Medicine. This seems to be a major factor behind the great relationship between the Ministry and Liverpool Faculty of Medicine.
A: I am indeed glad and thankful for this. During his latest visit to the School of Liverpool in July 2000, a plan was agreed upon to advance the programs in malaria and other communicable disease control, health sector reform, and medical education. The Minister also met with Yemeni students in the school and he recalled memories from his time as a Liverpool medical student in the 1960s. It is a delight to see that he has maintained his ties with the school, and he seems committed to using this relationship in favor of his country.
Q: Any final comments?
A: I just hope we can continue the current collaboration and will get the support and funding from the donors who have been very generous and supportive throughout the years. I would like to specify here once again the great support -that we hope will continue and increase- from the British Government through the Department for International Development and the British Council and other donors as well. There are a lot of things to be achieved, and I hope with efforts from all and with the support of donors, we will be able to enhance and develop the health sector in the Republic of Yemen.