Written by Obinna Onuoha, ONE Champion, Nigeria.
My joy was inexplicable when I got my visa to travel to France as a ONE Champion representing Nigeria! I was invited to participate in ONE’s advocacy and policy campaign for the sixth replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
I started volunteering for ONE in Nigeria during its advocacy campaign to urge the Nigerian government to allocate at least 1% of its Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) to the national budget, for the implementation of the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF). After that, I felt motivated to push for more investments within the Nigerian health systems, and I felt the Global Fund was another way of steering the country towards achieving universal health coverage.
I was thrilled to be traveling with ONE to the Global Fund replenishment. My trip to Lyon began on 5 October when I got the call to pick up my visa by 9 AM before my 11 PM flight. As I frantically packed and prepared for the trip, I couldn’t have known what the next few days had in store — and that we’d reach the historical goal of US$14B in pledges to help end AIDS, TB and malaria.
My journey to Lyon
It had been a while since I traveled to Europe and the international wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja looked very posh and modern. Soon enough, I was on board a Turkish Airlines flight to Paris, via Istanbul. I was very impressed with the airline – they had swapped plastics for the meals with recyclable and reusable utensils in a drive to help make our seas clean, blue and habitable for future generations.
Nine full hours later we touched down at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris on 6 October. I took an Uber to my hotel in the very heart of Paris in the 3rd Arrondissement. From what I gather, Paris is like a spiral of streets, starting at the centre with the 1st Arrondissement. Oh, my driver was Algerian and loves football!
Welcome to the cold
Coming from a tropical country, Paris was cold. Not Scandinavian cold, but still cold! The next morning, I met up with my ONE Champion counterpart from Mali, Ms. Hawa Semega, and we walked to the ONE office in Paris. The team in Paris was so excited to meet us and we felt so welcome! We got debriefed on our activities in Lyon and did a few questions and answers for an Instagram video.
By 4pm, together with members of the Paris team, I boarded a two-hour train for Lyon. Day 3 started with ONE business – taking walks for strategic photoshoots with ONE messages and street murals. Lyon is indeed a beautiful city! Parks, bridges, waterways, buildings and every kind of transportation – and I mean skateboards, scooters, bicycles, motorbikes, cars, the whole lot!
There’s something for everyone, even babies. But I digress.
On 9 October — the day before the replenishment — I took more photos with the awesome #paintRED street art by artist _faith47. Then I met with (RED) Ambassador, Connie Mudenda, who shared an inspirational story as an HIV-positive person.
Wondering if the @GlobalFund actually works? Meet Mrs. Constance Mudenda from Zambia! She is a @RED Ambassador & has been receiving antiretroviral treatment #ART for 15 years. Thanks to funding from donors, she was able to conceive her daughter who is HIV -ve. #StepUpTheFight pic.twitter.com/On2rwxBkRg
— Dr. Obinna M. Onuoha (@obiprime7) October 10, 2019
The day progressed and I got ready for an official dinner hosted by the Mayor of Lyon in the majestic City Hall of Lyon. My most memorable moment was the handshakes and selfies with French President Emmanuel Macron (he actually took it himself, can you believe it?), ONE’s co-founder, Bono, Bill Gates, ONE’s CEO, Gayle Smith, and my very own Nigerian, Dr. Muhammad Pate of the World Bank.
We did it
And then 10 October arrived – governments and private sector companies made unprecedented history by hitting the Global Fund’s goal of attaining US$14B in pledges to end AIDS, TB and malaria!
And guess what? Nigeria increased its contributions to the replenishment by pledging US$12 million to the fund. That was another proud moment for me.
For me, it was time to take stock of the good work we did. By 6 PM, I was on a train back to Paris. But there was something missing — I had to see the Eiffel Tower, considering its popular belief as the holy grail of Paris. It was magnificent in all its splendour especially in the night sky with all the lights. I quickly took a cab to the Hotel Campanile Roissy and took a well-deserved rest. The next morning, I said au revoir to France and boarded my flight back home to Nigeria.
Thank you ONE for the wonderful moments in France! I definitely won’t be forgetting this anytime soon.
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