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African Governments Must Commit More Funds To Health To Meet Previous Commitments, WHO, UNFPA Say

Ten years “since heads of state of African Union countries met in Abuja, Nigeria, and pledged to set a target of allocating ‘at least 15%’ of their annual budget to improve the health sector, only Rwanda and South Africa have reached the objective,” according to a recent WHO report, BMJ News reports (Zarocostas, 3/30).

Since 2001, 27 countries in the region have increased the proportion of government spending that goes toward health, while seven countries have reduced that proportion, the report (.pdf) states. No obvious change occurred in the other 12 countries of the AU, the report adds (3/28).

According to the WHO analysis, “per capita government spending from domestic resources on health” rose from $10 to $14, BMJ News reports. “WHO says that 32 African Union governments currently spend less than $33 per capita on health – or about half of the expected health expenditure needed to meet the United Nations’ health-related millennium development goals in poor countries,” the publication adds (3/30).

The report notes, “Only eight countries are on track with respect to the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Most countries are achieving less than 50% of the gains that would be required to reach the goals by 2015, with progress on MDG 5 (maternal health) being particularly slow.”

The report concludes, “While it is important to reiterate the need for governments to be committed to improving the health of their populations, something that is increasingly becoming a political issue in countries, it is also important to look for additional ways of moving more rapidly towards the MDGs. The World Health Report 2010 provides some ideas in terms of ways of raising new global and domestic funds for health, ways of increasing financial risk protection relating to health, and ways of becoming more efficient in the use of external and domestic resources used for health” (3/28).

UNFPA Calls For Greater Investments In African Health Sector

In related news, PANA/Afrique en ligne reports on a recent appeal for greater investments in the health sector made by Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the U.N. Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).

“Investing in health should be a priority for the next decade in Africa,” Osotimehin said, during the fourth annual meeting of the Ministers of Economy and Finance of the AU and ECA, that began Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. During the address, he highlighted the need for investments in “sexual and reproductive health,” according to the news service.

“These investments save lives, advance productivity and slow population growth, as couples plan and space the birth of their children,” Osotimehin said, stressing that healthy populations drive economic growth and spur poverty reduction, according to the news service. “To unlock the potential of Africa, further enhance its heritage and take advantage of the global strategy, health, including reproductive health, must be given priority in national plans and budgets, using their role to promote health and women and girls’ rights, as well as increasing investment in education, health and knowledge of adolescents and youths,” he noted (3/30).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.