29 April 2008

Africa: Allocate 15 Percent of Budget to Health, African Govts Told

Lagos — African governments have been called upon to make good their pledge to allocate fifteen per cent of their national budgets to addressing health issues in their respective countries; in a bid to help boost development all over the continent.

Above call was made over the weekend by over 140 African and global organisations, led by the African Public Health Alliance (APHA) 15% Now Campaign; on the 7th anniversary of the African Union (AU) 15% Health Commitment, made in April 26, 2001 in Abuja, Nigeria's capital city.

The health coalition, which issued a statement and communiqué in Abuja on Sunday, said African Heads of State and Government must not revise or further delay implementation of AU Abuja April 2001 15% Health Commitment.

In a campaign led Nobel Prize Winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is APHA 15% Now Campaign Chairman, African leaders and Finance Ministers were urged to restate their fifteen per cent commitment at the next AU Summit in Egypt.

The coalition, whose members met recently in a conference in Abuja, lamented that a loss of over 8 million African lives annually to preventable, treatable or manageable health conditions is equal to 43 transatlantic jets with 500 passengers each crashing every single day.

In its communiqué, the 15% Now Campaign also made a 7 point call on African Heads of State and Ministers of Finance. In a statement to mark the anniversary of the 15% pledge, Tutu stated, "the AU Abuja 15% pledge is one of the most important commitments African leaders have made to health development and financing, and our Heads of State should strive to meet this pledge without further delay".

"The continued loss of millions of African lives annually which can be prevented is unacceptable and unsustainable. Our leaders know what they have to do. They have already pledged to do it. All they have to do now is actually do it. This is all we ask of them."

The Nobel Prize Winner underlined that, "while global health is a global responsibility, African leaders also have a moral responsibility to our people. Just as we expect the international community to honour their commitments to global health, we also expect African leaders to honour African commitments".

Coordinator of the 15% Now Campaign Rotimi Sankore added that, "it is a tragedy that we have to remind African leaders of their own commitment to invest public funds in Public Health at a time when we are losing over 8 million lives a year to preventable, treatable or manageable health conditions. This is the equivalent of 21,917 lives lost daily or the equivalent of 43 transatlantic jets with 500 passengers each crashing every single day."

"While we appreciate the concerns of some of our Finance Ministers that there are many issues requiring their attention, Africa's most important resource is its human capital and sustainable social and economic development is impossible with average African healthy life expectancy falling to less than 40 years".

To Sankore, "the more we postpone public health investment, the more it will cost us in the future. For instance, the cost of not treating TB to Africa between 2006 and 2015 would be $519bn while TB can be controlled with $20bn in the same period."

He emphasised that, "nothing can or should compete with public health. Dead people don't eat, dead people don't need education, they don't live in houses and do not require transport or electricity. African's must first be alive and healthy to enjoy any other rights. The African Union Commission has delivered on the Africa Health Strategy and other health policy frameworks and its up to our Finance Ministers to fund their implementation."

The 15% Campaign Coordinator stressed that poor reproductive and sexual health is at the core of Africa's high disease burden, and that HIV is primarily a sexual and reproductive health issue, and costs Africa 1.6 million lives annually.

"Poor reproductive health systems also impact greatly on infant and child health leading to 4.8 million child deaths a year, and over half of non disease maternal deaths globally are in Africa. Considering that TB is now the biggest killer of HIV positive persons, and malaria now has an increasing impact on maternal and child mortality. It is clear that without massive investment to rebuild our public health systems Africa may die out slowly and painfully," Sankore said.

To him, "training and retention of African health workers is particularly crucial. Medicines, as important as they are, do not diagnose illness, prescribe or dispense themselves, nor care for patients, health workers do".

The 15% Now Campaign called on fellow members of African Civil Society, the health and medical community, other sectors of society and global partners to join it in building the biggest continental, sub-regional, national and community based movement possible for ensuring that health development, financing and budgeting on a needs based basis and the 15% commitment is implemented as Africa's top social and economic development priority.

The key objective of the Africa Public Health Alliance and 15% Campaign is to engage the African Union, sub-Regional Economic Communities such as the East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) etc., their institutions / member countries, and the African public.

Such engagement focuses on promoting greater awareness and understanding of African health issues; achievement of health based MDGs and universal access targets for prevention, treatment and care; adopting comprehensive health policies based on a public health rights and development philosophy; and mobilising and committing resources for sustainable implementation of health policies, including through meeting the 15% pledge.

The Alliance will also engage global stake-holders and actors including donors, the UN, EU and their institutions, World Bank, IMF, and international non-governmental Institutions and organisations especially those concerned with health, social and economic development.

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