15 July 2013

Nigeria: Infectious Diseases Still Significant Threat to Africa's Development - UN

There has been a decrease in the prevalence of some diseases in Africa.

Amidst latest progress reports of improved malaria, tuberculosis and HIV treatment in Africa, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Babatunde Osotimehin, has warned that the medical conditions, alongside other infectious diseases, still pose significant threat to the wellbeing and development of Sub-Saharan Africa.

He gave the warning on Monday during the formal opening of the African Union Summit in Abuja. This year's edition beams more attention on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), malaria and other related infectious diseases.

The latest malaria scorecard on Africa indicate that 25 per cent fewer people now die of malaria worldwide compared to year 2000.

Other recent scorecards reveal that less people fall ill with TB yearly while the world is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reversing the spread of the diseases by 2015.

Recent HIV/AIDS reports also indicate progress has been made in the fight against the condition with nearly 10 million people on anti-retroviral therapy worldwide and fewer people dying or becoming infected.

However, Mr. Osotimehin, who is also the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, disclosed that the progress is not yet profound.

He said "every minute a child still dies of malaria. One in 20 adults live with HIV. Africa's TB infection rates are the highest in the world, with more than 260 cases per 100,000 people in 2011. And many Africans endure the double burden of HIV and TB".

With the MDG deadline less than 1000 days away, he reminded the African heads of state present at the occasion and other African leaders that much still needs to be done.

"The goals are in sight, but much still needs to be done. Let us heed the warnings of history. Failure to maintain momentum can halt and even reverse progress.

"My call at Abuja +12 is for renewed leadership and increased domestic and international funding- new investment in improved tests and drugs, stronger health services to deliver them," he said.

He noted that the summit could provide a tipping point in Africa's progress on health, thus, called for the placement of AIDS, TB and malaria at the centre of public health policy including humanitarian aid, peace building, conflict resolution and development.

"Let us finish the job begun at the beginning of the century so we can bring greater security, opportunity and prosperity to all the people of Africa," he concluded.

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