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Quartz: The Africa CDC Chief Had Trouble Getting into Germany for the World Health Summit

October 17, 2022 | Annalisa Merelli

Nadia Sam-Agudu, MD

Attendees from Poor Countries Often Struggle to Get Visas to Attend the Conferences that Discuss their Future

The World Health Summit, a World Health Organization (WHO)-backed global health conference, is underway in Berlin, Germany.

The event, held from Oct. 16 to Oct. 18, is large and high profile. Around 400 speakers are listed on the official website, and among them are some of the world’s most prominent figures in global health. WHO’s head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, UN secretary-general António Guterres, and UNAIDS lead Winnie Byanyimia are expected to be in attendance. So are Bill Gates, Ayoade Alakija, who works on COVID-19 access for the WHO, and Ahmed Ogwell Ouma (who goes by Ahmed Ogwell), the Acting Director of Africa’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

Except Ogwell almost didn’t make it to Berlin. At Frankfurt airport, he noted on Twitter, he was “mistreated.. by immigration personnel who imagine I want to stay back illegally.” His attendance at the summit—which is supposed to advance global health, with a specific focus of low-income countries—was in doubt. “I’m happier & safer back home in Africa. They invite you then mistreat you,” he wrote. Visas, he reflected, are like health emergencies and vaccinations: They leave Africa behind.


Although many of the issues they focus on target countries in the so-called global south, international health conferences are overwhelmingly held in high-income countries, where delegates from Africa or Asia often face significant attendance barriers, both practical and psychological. “Visa issuance does not protect you from further subjection to indignity when you get to immigration. You may have a visa, but get there and just the way you are interrogated is dehumanizing and demeaning and undignified,” says Nadia Sam-Agudu, a Professor of Pediatrics in the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Read the full story


Vanessa McMains
Director, Media & Public Affairs
Institute of Human Virology
University of Maryland School of Medicine

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