Today, the delegates joined MSH/South Africa staff on a tour of Johannesburg and Soweto to learn about the history of South Africa before embarking on a week dedicated to learning abut health in one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
The group’s first stop was the Apartheid Museum. While most people know the official
government system of the separation of people by race ended just over 20 yeas ago, the impact of the system is still evident today – especially in the health system. The old system was set up to take care of 10-20% of the population and now it must help the entire population. The current government is focused on not only addressing chronic health issues, like HIV/AIDS, but also creating a national health insurance system over the next fifteen years to help address the long term issues of health service access. It feels like a tall order, but this country has done a lot of things others didn’t expect, who knows what’s in store.
After a tour of various areas of Johannesburg, one can see the diversity of the city: big shopping malls, new housing developments, and shanty houses are all common. After a local South African lunch, the group went to the home of the Father of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, in Orlando West in Soweto. The home is now encased in a building acting as a local museum for visitors from around the world. The building is a permanent reminder of the past and present of the country, a juxtaposition of the way things were and the way they are now.
One thing is clear: South Africa and Nelson Mandela are linked forever and one hopes the resilience and patience of Mandela will show as the South African democracy continues to grow.