A coalition of African leaders on Monday launched a “scorecard for accountability and action” to track their progress in the fight against malaria, following on successes in battling the disease that claims hundreds of thousands of lives in Africa each year.
The 40-member African Leaders Malaria Alliance (Alma), which was launched two years ago, aims to bring malaria deaths to near zero across the continent by 2015 in line with United Nations Millennium Development Goals to improve health, reduce poverty and boost development in Africa.
“The evidence is becoming obvious. Malaria infection in Africa is receding,” Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete told a press conference on Monday in New York for the launch of the scorecard.
He said in recent years 11 malaria-endemic countries in Africa have been able to slash malaria cases by 50 percent.
“The Alma scorecard is a good idea, and in our view it is a powerful monitoring tool because it involves the heads of state at the highest level of leadership and brings a collective focus of governments and partners in the fight against malaria,” said Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo, regional director for Africa of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Kikwete partially attributed the successes to specific measures: distribution of bed nets, residual spraying of insecticide, rapid diagnostic tests and administration of combination drug therapy.
Since 2008, he said, 229 million long-lasting insect-treated bed nets have been distributed in Africa, which he said was sufficient to achieve 84 percent coverage of those at risk of contracting the disease. Homes covered by indoor, residual spraying of insecticide had increased from 20 million to 75 million over the past five years.
The Alma scorecard will be updated quarterly with data on key health metrics across several malaria-endemic countries to help African leaders hold themselves and each other accountable for progress in anti-malaria goals. It aims to spur decisive action among leaders and provide greater transparency in the efforts to fight malaria.
The scorecard will also track indicators for maternal, newborn and child health.
Still a Killer
Kikwete noted that malaria was Africa’s leading killer, affecting 170 million people on the continent each year. A child dies from malaria every 45 seconds, according to the WHO.
Malaria also hurts development, with two percent of Africa’s GDP lost each year because of the illness. Production of goods and services is disrupted and poor families end up spending 25 percent of their incomes for treatment, he said.
Despite successes in combating malaria, Kikwete noted that challenges remain. He said gains must be sustained, access to interventions scaled up and new sources of revenue identified. Also member countries and donor partners need to improve their compliance with commitments to fight malaria.
“We have guided our countries in making great strides in the fight against malaria and we remain committed to do whatever it takes to overcome the remaining challenges and win this war,” Kikwete said.
“Losing is not an option.”
Among the most successful countries in the malaria battle is Rwanda.
Malaria deaths dropped by 60 percent between 2005 and 2010 through a rapid scale-up of malaria interventions, according to Rwanda’s health ministry.
Rwandan Health Minister Agnes Binagwaho attributed this to an integrated approach with community health workers.
“But more than that we have focused our activities where the people were dying and where people were sick at the community level,” she told Monday’s press conference. “We have a national policy for community health. Our objective is to keep 80 percent of any burden at the community level where people are living.”
She urged other African leaders to come up with homegrown solutions for country ownership in their malaria fight. “You cannot replicate,” she said.
She urged a greater regional approach to fighting malaria, because mosquitoes cross borders, and the creation of public-private partnerships so that bed nets could be produced within Rwanda and on the continent as a whole.
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Luanda — The commemoration of the World Malaria Day this year marks the end of the UN’s roll back malaria decade and offers an opportunity for renewed commitment on the pandemic.
This was said Sunday by the World Health Organisation (WHO) regional director for Africa, Luis Gomes Sambo.
According to him, this affords us an opportunity to renew our common vision and commitment as we look forward and aim at attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
Malaria, by its complexity involving health as well as environmental and socioeconomic determinants and consequences, relates virtually to all the MDGs, the official also stated, adding that “as it is well known, our part of the world is home to an estimated 795 million people exposed to malaria. Close to 90% of deaths due to malaria worldwide occur in Africa.
Gomes Sambo went on to say that the poor, children, pregnant women, people living with HIV/AIDS, victims of unrest and disasters and non-immune travellers are particularly vulnerable. Therefore, progress in the fight against malaria in Africa is critical to reaching the ambitious targets set in the UN Secretary General’s call for Universal Access to essential interventions, the AU Abuja Declaration and Plan of Action, Resolutions of WHO Governing Bodies and the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP).
In this regard, he added, it is encouraging to note that malaria control alliances are being strengthened throughout Africa. For example, the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) has committed to support elimination of preventable malaria deaths by 2015. The African Union and Regional Economic Communities have also kept malaria high on their health and development agenda.
Countries and partners are making commendable efforts to accelerate and sustain progress in malaria prevention and control in our Region. For example, endemic countries have reflected malaria control in their poverty reduction strategies, the official stated.
Programme reviews are ongoing and strategic plans are being updated to take into account funding and capacity gaps to reach universal access. The success rate for malaria proposals for the Global Fund (GFATM) reached 80% in Round 10. Consequently, effective interventions including protection from the mosquito vector through the use of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) and Indoor Residual Spaying (IRS), prompt treatment of malaria cases using Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT), intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnant women (IPTp) and infants (IPTi) are being adapted and scaled up, the WHO regional director also stated.
According to him, cross-border initiatives are catalyzing efforts to accelerate and sustain control and, where possible, to prepare for the transition to pre-elimination. The Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria (AMFm) has been launched in Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda to ensure access to quality ACTs in private sector facilities. Malaria vaccine trials are ongoing in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Gabon, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya.
As he went on to say, by the end of 2010, a total of 11 countries (Algeria, Botswana, Cape Verde, Eritrea, Madagascar, Namibia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania) had registered more than 50% reduction in malaria cases and deaths; the proportion of households owning at least one insecticide treated net (ITN) was 42% and 35% of children under five years of age slept under an ITN; 27 countries had reported implementation of Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) so that 73 million people accounting for about 10% of the population at risk of malaria in the Region were protected by IRS; 33 countries had adopted a policy of parasitological testing of all suspected malaria cases and 35% of malaria cases in the Region were confirmed by a diagnostic test.
In his opinion, in order to consolidate the gains achieved so far, “we need to ensure: rigorous governance to strengthen performance and accountability; mobilization of additional resources; linking disease programme development and health systems strengthening; better coordination of stakeholders and partners under national stewardship; and effective involvement of every exposed individual and community.”
Among the critical challenges that countries need to address are: weak surveillance, monitoring and evaluation capacity; inadequate operational research platforms; lack of implementation of regulatory measures such as the ban on oral Artemisinin-based monotherapies and inadequate monitoring of parasite resistance to antimalarial medications and mosquito resistance to insecticides, he stated.
Gomes Sambo pledged that WHO will continue to work with Member States and partners to mainstream malaria control in health and development policies and plans; mobilize domestic and external funding; foster public private partnerships, support alignment of stakeholders around country priorities and provide guidance and assistance to ensure efficient use of resources for performance and impact. We shall also continue to support initiatives for the removal of taxes and tariffs on malaria commodities, and a ban on the marketing of oral artemisinin monotherapies.
On the other hand, he called upon Governments, parliamentarians, Nongovernmental Organizations, the private sector, civil society groups, faith-based organizations and all exposed communities to take stock of our common achievements and mobilize financial and human resources in a decisive push to further accelerate malaria prevention and control for the socioeconomic progress of countries of the African Region.
Categories: Issues Tags: malaria, Millennium Development Goals, Pregnant Women, African Leaders Malaria Alliance, World Health Organisation, Artemisinin-based combination therapy, Indoor Residual Spaying, roll back malaria
Around 7,000 stillbirths occur globally every day, with the poorest nations worst affected, a series of papers published in The Lancet suggest.
An overwhelming 98% of the 2.6m stillbirths each year strike middle and low-income countries, they say.
Better clinical care and monitoring could halve stillbirths in poorer countries by 2020, the paper adds.
Save the Children said current opportunities to address the problem were currently being missed.
The UN’s Millennium Development goals set out targets for maternal and child deaths, but the authors of the Lancet reports suggest stillbirths are being neglected, and are taking what they call an “invisible toll” in poorer countries.
Sub-Sahara Africa and South Asian countries continue to suffer the most.
The report tasks poorer countries with reducing still births by 50% by the end of the decade and sets out measures which can be taken.
“Care at birth will give us the biggest return and saves mothers, newborns and children,” Dr Joy Lawn of Save the Children told the BBC.
“Another really missed opportunity is treating syphilis during pregnancy and particularly in southern Africa, syphilis still kills babies and we estimate that around 136,000 stillbirths could be averted every year and that’s at relatively low cost – it’s about making your antenatal clinic services work.
“Other critical things would be treating hypertension in pregnancy, identifying diabetes in women who are pregnant and managing that better and then identifying babies that aren’t growing well.”
Some countries are already showing the way forward, according to the report.
Middle-income countries such as Columbia, China, Mexico and Argentina, have reduced their stillbirth rates by 40% to 50% in recent years.
22 March 2011 –An estimated 51 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – or three quarters of the population – have no access to safe drinking water, even though the country holds over half of Africa’s water reserves, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a new study released today.
The country’s troubled legacy of conflict, environmental degradation, rapid urbanization and under-investment in water infrastructure has seriously affected the availability of drinking water, UNEP said in the study, unveiled to coincide with World Water Day.
UNEP was among several participants at an event in the capital, Kinshasa, staged by the National Water and Sanitation Committee, which brought together government representatives, development partners, financial institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and researchers to discuss steps to address the DRC’s water challenges.
Speaking at the forum, UNEP’s DRC Programme Manager, Hassan Partow, said the study confirmed that despite recent progress, including water sector reforms, the scale of the challenge means that the country will not be able to meet its water targets under the UN-set Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which calls for reducing by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015.
The DRC would have to supply an additional 20.3 million people with safe drinking water by 2015 even to meets its national development goals, which are significantly below the MDGs water target, according to UNEP.
“Since peace was brokered in 2003, the Government has gradually managed to reverse the negative trend in water coverage that has plagued the DRC since its period of conflict and turmoil”, said Mr. Partow. “This represents an important achievement which should be applauded.”
“However, the stark reality is that the DRC has one of the fastest urbanization growth rates in the world and this is not being matched with adequate water and sanitation service delivery,” he added.
Based on extensive fieldwork and stakeholder consultations across the country, the UNEP study found that inadequate water and sanitation delivery in the DRC’s rapidly expanding urban centres is due to insufficient, aging and overloaded networks, combined with the degradation of critical water sources and watersheds, such as the Lukunga and N’Djili catchments, which provide millions of people with drinking water in Kinshasa.
According to the study, entitled “Water Issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo – Challenges and Opportunities,” in addition to major infrastructure improvements, an investment of approximately $70 million over a five-year period is required to help strengthen the water sector.
UNEP recommends innovative strategies such as community-managed water supply systems in urban fringe areas and low-cost technical solutions, including communal tap areas and rainwater harvesting.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), meanwhile, drew attention to an estimated 37 million rural residents in DRC who risk contracting disease because they have no alternative but to draw untreated water directly from rivers or lakes that are likely to be contaminated.
“A child living in a Congolese village is four times more likely to drink contaminated water than someone in town. Yet, all children have equal right to survival and development of which drinking water is a vital component,” said Pierrette Vu Thi, the UNICEF representative in DRC in a statement to mark the World Water Day.
More than 2 million Congolese children under the age of five, or one in five in that age group, are regularly sick with diarrhoea, according to figures from the country’s department of health cited by UNICEF.
“The fact that we are unable to provide each family clean drinking water is an affront,” said Ms. Vu Thi. “Too many children die because we do not respect our responsibility, and their deaths are ignored,” she added.
UN News Center
It is hard not to be inspired by the widely-recognized economic growth story of Africa: more than a decade of robust growth for a region that has become a credible destination for investment and has
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: HIV/AIDS, sub-saharan africa, Millennium Development Goals, african woman, African governments, International Women’s Day, African girls and women, International Finance Corporation, World Development Report
Here, we discuss some of the tasks the African Union (AU) can pursue in the area of Science and Technology (S&T) to bring prosperity to the African continent. The AU was formed from the Organization of African Unity in 2002, with a new vision of “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.” In other words, the current African Union (AU) has the mandate to facilitate the search for solutions to the existing and emerging problems of African countries so as to quicken the pace of development. But then, what is going to be the method for development? Is it going to be by orthodox economic methods or by innovation through science and technology?
Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action makes it clear that, the African Union (AU) acknowledges Science and Technology (S&T) as prerequisites for the rapid transformation of African economies, and to a level that positively impacts the standards of living of the majority of Africans. However, despite the series of meetings, which have occurred over the years to generate ideas to use S&T for Africa’s development, little has been achieved in terms of the general improvement of the standards of living of the African people. That is to say, if the AU only makes recommendations for individual countries to carry them out without taking the responsibility of accomplishing some of the tasks itself, it may be difficult for Africa to meet the millennium development goals (MDGs). Here, I suggest that that the AU also assumes an active role of promoting or establishing Research and Development (R&D) in the area of Science and Technology (S&T). In the ensuing discussion, we shall look at ways the AU can accomplish that for the benefit of the people of Africa.
Almost all countries in Africa are saddled with the common problems of underdevelopment, which we are all aware of, but the information that is not readily available is how efficient different countries in Africa are attempting to solve these problems. So, one of the tasks for the AU will be to compile statistics that identifies countries within Africa, which are able to use S&T to solve the problems of underdevelopment effectively. The R&D facilities in these countries are then assisted by the AU to do intensive and more sophisticated work to increase knowledge in that area of their expertise for the benefit of all Africans. For instance, in Africa, malaria is generally a serious problem, but the capacity to research on malaria to come up with effective solutions may not be available in all countries. This means, it will be prudent for the AU to identify African countries with the infrastructure and research expertise in malaria and assign them the task (with the appropriate resources) to do R&D in malaria for the whole of Africa. In other words Africa will be practicing division of labor with its limited resources to solve some of its key problems.
On the other hand, some of these key problems facing Africa can be solved in the shortest possible time when they are pursued by research and development (R&D) facilities set up by the AU, because these centers of excellence will have the state of the art equipment and highly skilled human resources drawn from across Africa and the developed countries. Currently, some of the key problems pertinent to the development of Africa and the well-being of Africans are in the area of Food Security, Primary Health Care and Energy. Interestingly, these problems can be tackled head-on with Science and Technology. We shall attempt to explain why it will be beneficial to the African people if the AU tackles these problems directly.
Food security means the continuous availability and accessibility of adequate, safe and nourishing food to the people of a country (adapted from WHO). From this definition, we can infer that food security may be a world-wide problem. But for the purposes of this article, we shall limit the discussion to Africa. Currently, Africa has a significant number of undernourished people simply because Africa is not producing enough to feed its people. The reasons for the low production are many, but the main one being the low usage of S&T to transform Agricultural production. We are still depending on rain-fed agriculture, planting crops and rearing animals, which have little resistance to diseases and using outmoded equipment for farming. These prevailing conditions are huge problems which may be difficult to overcome by anyone country and so the AU can step in by establishing facilities (R&D) to develop or adapt to technologies which will dramatically improve yields of food. Such technologies are then passed on/disseminated to individual countries to use. The AU must as well set up policies, which will ensure that these technologies are applied in member countries to increase food production and improve food security.
A high percentage of the health care budget of many African countries deals with preventable diseases. In other words, the Primary Health Care of African countries are more concerned with preventable diseases – mainly communicable diseases. This is not an acceptable situation, because scarce resources which should have been invested in other areas of the health care delivery (for example R&D, training and treatment of non-communicable diseases like cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes and the like) are devoted to otherwise preventable causes. If we assume that, to a large extent, the governments of Africa are doing their part in educating the public on preventable diseases, then the problem of high expenditures on preventable diseases will more likely be due to the lack of enough or quality medicines to treat the diseases. Incidentally, both of these conditions potentially result in resistance strains of the causative micro-organisms, which further compound the situation, so this is where the AU comes in. It can tackle the problem in two ways, namely, the development of generic drugs in Africa and/or the development of our local medicinal plants. The AU has already taken a bold step in pushing for the idea of development of generic drugs in Africa and a couple or so of African countries like Cameroon have started pursing the idea. The hard fact is that, even in the long-term, only a handful of African countries may be able to pursue this initiative, so what I think has to be done is for the AU to have a regional research and production centers, which will look into developing appropriate technologies for the generic drugs and local medicinal plants, for use by African countries and for export.
Many African countries have not been able to meet their energy needs and that still appears a formidable task for the individual countries to handle. Most of them depend on hydropower for their energy sources, but this source in itself has contributed to the unstable energy supply in African countries. This is because, during droughts volumes of water decrease, and as a result, the amounts of energy being generated from such sources also reduce – sometimes to about 50% or more of the maximum capacity. This means that, alternative renewable energy sources must be explored, for example wind, solar and biomass. But, because it is a heavy task for many individual African countries to pursue, the AU must play a role in it. It can set up an R&D to research into alternative ways of developing clean and renewable energy for Africa as well as for export. Currently, alternative forms of clean and renewable energy development are attractive areas of investment for many countries around the world and the AU can bring a lot of business to Africa if it takes part in that business.
As we are aware, Africa is endowed with a lot of natural resources, that include oil and minerals, which are largely untapped or exported as raw materials. Governments are aware that if they export processed natural resources they stand to gain in terms of more foreign exchange and creation of jobs for the people of the country. However, the situation of exporting unprocessed natural resources has not changed much since the 20th century, and future prospects are not well defined. And so, what can be done to improve this situation is to have the AU set up R&D facilities and huge industries across Africa, which will seek to research and process our raw materials before exporting them. Such activities are likely to bring huge foreign exchange to the continent and create jobs for many Africans.
All these initiatives suggested here, and to be carried out by the AU, will enhance the S&T capability and capacity of Africa. Consequently, they will attract heavy foreign investment, significantly improve the quality of our exported commodities, create more jobs and improve the well-being of people in Africa. The AU will be able to better accomplish these tasks, if it is well resourced, and so the members must consider setting up and contributing to a fund, which will catalyze the projects the AU will undertake for the benefit of the people of Africa. Please look out for the next article.
Categories: Science and Technology Tags: Millennium Development Goals, research and development, african economies, science and technology, food security, development of africa, Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action, generic drugs
9 February 2011 – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has teamed up with a group of artists from the United States and Tanzania to raise awareness, through music, on the need to have better maternal health services in the East African nation, where deaths related to childbearing remain a serious challenge.
The collaboration, made possible with the help of the global network of artists known as MDGFive.com, just concluded a three-day music workshop with the production of a song calling for increased attention to maternal health in the country.
Goal number 5 of the eight globally agreed anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) calls for the reduction of maternal mortality deaths by three quarters, and the attainment of universal access to reproductive health services by the target date of 2015.
The music workshop featured MDGFive.com co-founders Emmy-winning filmmaker Lisa Russell and Grammy-winning singer Maya Azucena, and New York’s famous MC Okai, along with a group of Tanzanian stars, including Lady Jay Dee, Mzungu Kichaa, Mrisho Mpoto, FidQ, Sauda and Mama C.
The song produced at the end of the Arts and Advocacy workshop calls on world leaders to pay greater attention to the rights of women and girls, and urges the people of Tanzania to further empower, engage and encourage women as partners in development.
A short documentary film will also be produced featuring interviews with participating artists and maternal health representatives and highlighting the importance of uniting artists and activists around maternal health.
“UNFPA believes that artists have an important role in shaping opinions, informing the public and advocating for positive change,” said Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, UNFPA’s representative in Tanzania.
“While the voices of the marginalized are often not heard, the voices of artists break boundaries and are heard by all, the young and old, community leaders and policy makers, opinion shapers and development practitioners,” she added
For 17 years Peter worked as a machine operator in a South African textile plant. It was not high-paying work, but it paid the bills and kept his family above the poverty line. When he lost his job because foreign imports were cheaper, he told University of KwaZulu-Natal researcher Claire Ichou, he was plunged into poverty — and despair. “Peter explains very painfully how he has lost his dignity,” she wrote in an academic paper. “He declares that his wife does not respect him. He tells us that his children are starving.” In Peter’s eyes, she continued, “a man without a job is not a man and there is nothing he can do. He has no status.”
As the world enters the final phase of the drive to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), ambitious targets for slashing poverty, improving health and education, empowering women and protecting the environment by 2015, African leaders are starting to focus on the economic underpinnings of sustainable progress. Lifting the most destitute out of poverty, they note, will require greater investments in agricultural and industrial production, greater job creation and policies that favour economic growth.
Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika, who also serves as chair of the African Union (AU) this year, told world leaders gathered in New York last September for the UN MDGs Summit, “For Africa as a whole, we strongly appeal to the United Nations to review the supply side [of development] to improve access of ordinary people, especially women and children, to the services envisaged under the MDGs. Most MDGs depend on the availability of more schools, more hospitals, more rural infrastructures, more boreholes, dams and wells, more trained teachers, doctors, nurses, agronomists, scientists.… Let us pay attention to the supply side if we are to meet these goals.”
Tanzanian Prime Minister Mizengo K. Peter Pinda told the audience that creating jobs and opportunities in the countryside is critical to Tanzania’s progress on the goals, since the majority of his citizens make their living from the land, and farm incomes are well below the poverty line.
Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank, received the loudest applause at a meeting when he observed that when donors first began aid programmes in Africa, “they brought us fish, but we told them we had fish. Then they came to teach us how to fish, and we told them we already knew how to fish.” What Africa needs today, Mr. Kaberuka said with a smile, is for its partners to “help us build a fishing industry” that supports processing and packing industries, generates steady jobs, links up with other parts of the domestic economy and improves African competitiveness in the global marketplace.
‘Assume effective leadership’
Such a focus on employment and economic development has grown more important in the wake of the global economic crisis and the failure of Africa’s traditional donors to honour pledges to double development aid to the region.
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda told the MDG Summit that “the MDGs must remain the international priority.” But he underscored the importance of Africa’s charting its own path: “The debate on the MDG agenda has, at times, been dominated by a few voices, primarily from the developed nations and affiliated non-governmental organizations. Despite their good intentions, their perspective is often predicated on paternalism not partnership, on charity not self-reliance, and on promises unfulfilled rather than real change.”
President Kagame continued, “We can no longer rely on the goodwill of other nations — we neither need to, nor should want to. We must assume effective leadership, take full ownership of the development of our countries and truly deliver for our citizens.”
Supachai Panitchpakdi, the secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), cautioned that expanded social services, while important, are not sustainable without a firm economic base. Excessive emphasis on social services, along with widening social and economic inequality, Mr. Panitchpakdi continued, require “repositioning the MDGs within a broader development framework.
Such a framework emphasizes investment, especially in productive capacity, an equitable distribution of resources, policy space, and sustainable employment generation as the main drivers of poverty reduction.” He concluded, “One reason we risk missing many MDG targets is that the economic model that underpinned them has, I believe, been indifferent to the kind of values behind a ‘sufficiency economy’” that provides a decent living for all.Michael Fleshman has been a writer and consultant for the UN Department of Public Information in New York since 2000, working primarily for the UN’s Africa Renewal Magazine and Africa Renewal Online programme. Prior to joining the UN he spent 20 years at the anti-apartheid American Committee On Africa and The Africa Fund, working to build US solidarity with the African liberation struggles in South and southern Africa, and with the Nigerian pro-democracy and environmental movements