African AIDS and health activists react to conclusion of AU Heads of State Summit:Declarations don’t save lives: Show us the money for health
Health GAP: 1 August 2010
African AIDS and Health Activists React to Conclusion of AU Heads of State Summit: Declarations Don’t Save Lives—Show us the Money for Health At the close of the African Union (AU) Heads of State Summit, health experts and activists from across Africa expressed grave concern that leaders are not delivering on fundamental commitments to expand investments in maternal and child health and other life saving health services, including treatment and prevention for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. The Summit convened for the first time under the theme ‘Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa’ but security and terrorism dominated many heads of states’ formal remarks. ‘Without access to essential health services, like access to HIV treatment and prevention and access to quality antenatal care, we cannot have security if people are dying from preventable diseases and conditions,’ said Angela Asio of Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET). ‘Uganda lost almost 80 people in a tragic and senseless bomb attack two weeks ago—in the same way, we are experiencing the equivalent of countless bomb blasts every day in the form of needless deaths of mothers and children across Africa. This is unacceptable.’ AU Member States committed ten years ago to scale up their national budget allocations for health to at least 15%. Only three countries are currently meeting that goal. The majority of African countries are investing less than the World Health Organisation recommended minimum package of $40 per capita in health. 15 countries, including Uganda, the host of the AU Summit, are investing as little as $2-$10 per person on health. Although the AU Summit Declaration ‘Actions on Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health and Development in Africa by 2015’ asserted that universal access to quality healthcare is a human right, the advocates expressed disappointment at the overall outcome—particularly regarding mobilising additional resources needed to save lives and advance maternal and child health. For example, the Declaration committed AU Members to ‘enhancing domestic resources’ but not to a concrete, time bound increase in domestic investment in health. ‘It would seem that Heads of State prefer building roads to addressing maternal and child health challenges when we know that the equivalent of a mini bus full of pregnant women die every hour—not because of bad roads but as a result of HIV and pregnancy related complications and other preventable causes. Where is the political will from our leaders to provide the treatment and prevention services we need?’ said Bactrin Killingo of International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (South Africa). Activists also challenged donor governments to keep their health funding promises—including the commitment to scale up investments in order to reach universal access to HIV treatment and prevention. AIDS is the leading killer of women of reproductive age in Africa, and contributes to 61,000 maternal deaths annually. Currently, donors are not fully funding the Global Fund, and the U.S. government is flat-funding is bilateral AIDS programme. ‘Donors and African governments alike must keep their funding promises—our lives are at stake,’ said Alice Kayongo of UCOBAC. Civil society representatives available for interviews: Lillian Mworeko, International Community of Women Living with HIV East Africa (Uganda) +256 392 947 313 Bactrin Killingo, International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (South Africa) +277 339 23377 Angela Asio, UGANET (Uganda) +256 755 689 973 Linda Mafu, World AIDS Campaign (South Africa) +272 148 730 10 Dominica Mudota, SafAIDS (Zimbabwe) Titus James Twesige, East African Network of AIDS Service Organisations (EANNASO) (Tanzania) +255752941663 or +256772525487 Alice Kayongo, Uganda Community Based Association for Child Welfare (UCOBAC) (Uganda) +256 701 440 108