Health Plans for Africa Remain Vague as G8 Agrees to Meet 10% of the Need. (News)

Article excerpt

Last June the G8 leaders promised an additional US$ 6 billion in aid to Africa by 2006. Since then, organizations involved with crucial health programmes on the continent have been busy determining what their share should be, but it is a relatively small pie to divide up.

The G8 leaders described their Africa Action Plan as an "initial response" to the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), a revitalization strategy first championed by South Africa's President Mbeki alongside the Presidents of Nigeria, Senegal, Egypt and Nigeria. NEPAD aims to put Africa onto "a path of sustainable growth and development."

The leaders of the 15 African countries endorsing NEPAD estimate that US$ 64 billion of investment is needed annually--10 times the G8 pledge-- for projects to improve health, trade, infrastructure and education. At the same time, NEPAD recognizes Africa's own responsibility to create the conditions for development by ending conflicts, improving economic and political stability and strengthening regional integration.

Health is a key component of both plans. NEPAD acknowledges that unless HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are brought under control "real gains in human development will remain an impossible hope." The G8 countries for their part cite the persistence of malaria and tuberculosis as a "severe obstacle", while emphasizing that "HIV/AIDS affects all aspects of Africa's future development and should therefore be a factor in all aspects of our support." The G8 statement also gives special attention to polio, supporting the plan for its eradication in Africa by 2005. This is consistent with the WHO programme for eliminating the disease worldwide within the same time frame.

However, critics argue that both NEPAD and the G8 plan lack detail on how they will tackle the continent's massive health issues. For example, the HIV/AIDS epidemic ravaging Africa "is the major hindrance to development in Africa right now," says Chinua Akukwe, an adjunct professor of public health at George Washington University. "Yet, I didn't see a lot of specificity in the G8 action plan in regard to HIV/AIDS. And I blame that on a lack of specificity, or priority attention, in the NEPAD document. …


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