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Healthcare in Ghana and the Powerful Legacy of Bacteriologist Hideyo Noguchi

PM Kishida reaffirmed his commitment to Japan's ongoing medical assistance to Ghana, which was made possible through the legacy of Dr Hideyo Noguchi.

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PM Fumio Kishida with Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo in Accra, Ghana on May 1. (© Prime Minister’s Office of Japan)

ACCRA, Ghana — At the Japan-Ghana summit on May 1, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo confirmed their intentions for further cooperation in health and medical care.

One of the key agendas of the G7 Hiroshima Summit, which begins on May 19, will be medical support for emerging and developing nations, including those in Africa. Efforts to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC), which aims to provide sufficient medical care for all, will also be discussed. 

Kishida hopes that providing aid to Ghana will push this discussion forward.

At the May 1 dinner banquet hosted by Akufo-Addo, Kishida remarked that Dr Hideyo Noguchi's legacy had strengthened cooperation between the two countries in the health sector. 

He also stated his intention to continue assisting in the fight against malaria and other infectious diseases that are endemic to Ghana.

Africa
PM Fumio Kishida and Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo make a joint press announcement in Accra, Ghana on May 1. (© Prime Minister’s Office of Japan)

Medical Pioneer Hideyo Noguchi

Dr Hideyo Noguchi was a renowned bacteriologist who established a connection between Japan and Ghana through medical care. He moved to Ghana in 1927 to study yellow fever but died from the disease the following year.

Since then, Japan has continued to provide Ghana with medical assistance. The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra, Ghana's capital, was built in his name with Japanese aid. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the institute provided medical care not only to Ghana but also to West African nations by providing PCR testing and other services. Kishida visited the Noguchi Institute before meeting Akufo-Addo.

Kishida considers the summit in Ghana to be pivotal in promoting UHC. At the Global Conference of Parliamentarians in Population and Development (GCPPD) held in April, he said that addressing global health and achieving UHC were among the most critical global concerns confronting the international community.

The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra, Ghana, in memory of Dr Hideyo Noguchi. Microscopes used by Dr Noguchi, letters from his mother, and other items are on display. (© JICA by Takeshi Kuno)

A Global Leader in UHC

Japan's established universal health insurance system makes it a global leader in UHC. During his meeting with Akufo-Addo, Kishida confirmed that Japan would continue to provide medical assistance to Ghana, which hopes to achieve UHC.

However, China and Russia are also expanding their presence in Africa. During the pandemic, China attempted to boost its influence in Africa through "vaccine diplomacy." But Chinese-made vaccinations are deemed to have quality issues.

On the other hand, Japan has a track record of providing high-quality medical assistance through organizations such as the Noguchi Institute. Consistent efforts tailored to local needs will prove vital in strengthening ties with Africa and maintaining the international order.

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(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Shingo Nagahara