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India helps Nigeria ramp up healthcare systems

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Accra: Oil-rich Nigeria, West Africa’s biggest nation, saw its citizens spend millions of dollars on medical treatment in India due to an inadequate health delivery sector, but this is set to change as the Indian government and private healthcare providers are turning to invest locally to benefit from this huge market.

An indication of the huge numbers of Nigerians who travelled to India is reflected in the number of visas that were issued over the years.

“In 2012, about 40 percent of all visas to India from Nigeria were for medical tourism and Nigerians spent about $260 million on medical expenses in India,” KPMG Africa chairman Oluseyi Bickersteth told.

Indian involvement in Nigeria’s healthcare delivery is gradually increasing after a lull in the 1970s when most of the Indian medical officers operating in the country left, Bickersteth said. Nigeria’s new interest has been also bolstered by the Indian government’s announcement last January to set up two specialist units for eye and cancer care.

Noting that last year, the United Nations Development Index ranked Nigeria 152 out of 187 countries in healthcare delivery, Bickersteth said: “This low ranking indicates not only the problems with infrastructure and healthcare facilities, which are poor, but also high infant mortality rates and relatively low life expectancy.”

He said current gaps in the Nigerian healthcare system, like low doctor-population ratio, inadequate infrastructure, low health insurance cover, absence of internationally recognized certifications and high brain drain have forced Nigerian patients to seek medical services abroad.

“In the last few years, India has become a destination of choice for large numbers of Nigerian patients owing to its low cost, quality of healthcare, expertise in complex surgeries and no waiting time,” Bickersteth said.

“Taking cue from the gaps in healthcare delivery in Nigeria, Indian healthcare players have started increasing their presence in Nigeria,” he said, adding: “India has a strong trade connection with Nigeria. More than 100 Indian companies are present in Nigeria, which have made significant investment in the country. India has also been a privileged partner in Nigeria’s healthcare sector.”

Bickersteth said, “India is a leading country to fulfill the medical needs of Nigeria, with Indian pharmaceutical companies playing a major role in the country’s health delivery. Among the companies that are working to bring about an improvement in the sector include Chi Pharmaceuticals and Cipla-Evans Pharmaceuticals, as well as several exporting companies that are not involved locally.”

In addition, he said, “there are also hospitals and diagnostic centres from India that are currently operating in Nigeria, including Mecure Diagnostic Centers and Vedic Hospitals (established in Nigeria in 2013 with support from India’s Manipal Health Enterprises), both in the commercial capital Lagos and Primus International Super Specialty Hospital in the capital, Abuja.”

Following the success of some of the Indian companies already in Nigeria, Bickersteth said, “other Indian players are planning to establish their footprint in Nigeria. This has been partly due to the efforts of the Nigerian ministry of tourism and the Indian High Commission which have organised healthcare events to strengthen the partnership in the healthcare sector between the two countries.”

“Few Indian hospital chains also provide training to Nigerian doctors on specialist medical procedures, thereby improving patient care in Nigeria. For example, around 100 doctors of Abuja University Teaching Hospital were recently trained by medical experts from the Apollo Hospitals in India,” Bickersteth added.

He said, “a number of healthcare organizations are also planning to establish hospitals in the country. For instance, First Rivers Hospital had teamed up with two Indian facilities – Ruby Hall Clinic and Trans-Medical Healthcare Limited – to provide collaborative medical services.”

In addition, a group of professionals in Anambra state are planning to partner with some Indian medical specialists to establish a 200-bedded world-class hospital in Awka city.

Bickersteth said, “under construction is a charitable eye hospital in Lagos in collaboration with India’s Indo Eye-Care Foundation and Rotary Club of Lagos-Palmgrove Estate with an investment of $2.7 million that will facilitate surgery of eye related ailments.”

“The Apollo Hospital group has opened telemedicine centres in Nigeria and recently it partnered with Airtel Nigeria to provide video consultation with doctors to Airtel Nigeria’s premier customers,” Bickersteth said, adding the Apollo group has partnered with Sanofi for diabetes management and is planning to replicate its Apollo Sugar Clinics concept in Nigeria.

He said, “Fortis Malar Hospital is planning to launch telemedicine centres in Nigeria,while the Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital is also planning to establish multi-specialty facility in Nigeria in its efforts to expand its overseas market.”

(Francis Kokutse IANS)

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)