Japan will use its G8 presidency next year to spearhead a health drive aiming to get the world back on track in meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals, the foreign minister said Sunday.
The goals declared at a UN summit in 2000 seek progress in eight areas by 2015 including cutting child mortality rates and halting the spread of AIDS, but studies have shown some targets are set to be badly missed.
Japan next year takes over from Germany as head of the Group of Eight major industrial nations and will host its summit in July. Japan has also invited African leaders in May for the fourth summit of its Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) initiative.
"At TICAD IV, Japan intends to take up the issue of health in Africa, and at the G8 Summit, the wider issue of global health," Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura told a World Health Organisation conference in Tokyo.
"The objective will be to develop a common framework for action shared by the international community," he said.
He noted that the summits will come at the halfway point in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
"In sub-Saharan Africa, 166 out of 1,000 children die before their 5th birthday; that is 20 times the number than in the developed world," Komura said.
"At this rate, I must say we are likely to miss the Millennium Development Goals," he said.
Komura said Japan could share its own experience after World War II, in which it launched nationwide health check-ups through schools and hospitals to build a country that now has the world's longest longevity.
"Until now, international efforts in the health sector has largely centered on supporting measures against infectious diseases as a pressing issue," he said.
"From now on, it is essential to promote a comprehensive approach to strike at the root of the problem including through the promotion of research and development and strengthening of health systems."
Japan has also said it will continue international efforts to fight climate change through its G8 presidency.