G8 Leaders Set Five-year Deadline for Health Package to Africa

by VR Sreeraman on  July 9, 2008 at 11:57 AM General Health News
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The Group of Eight leaders on Tuesday set a five-year deadline to provide 60 billion dollars to fight disease in Africa, but activists said the pledge meant little to the continent's poor.
 G8 Leaders Set Five-year Deadline for Health Package to Africa
G8 Leaders Set Five-year Deadline for Health Package to Africa

The leaders, holding a summit in Japan, pledged as part of their package to provide 100 million insecticide-treated nets to Africa by 2010, saying the plan had the potential to save thousands of deaths caused by malaria.

But rock singer-turned-activist Bob Geldof voiced disappointment with the summit outcome, saying that for the most part, the leaders of the world's richest nations had "simply reiterated a lot of things they said last year."

"I think the G8 have a different view of commitment to what I have," Geldof told AFP in an interview. "I'm disappointed although I must say we didn't expect much from this G8."

Geldof, founder of the Live Aid concert for Africa in 1985, said that aid pledges were meaningless unless individual governments put the money in their budgets.

"The bad boys here are France and Italy," said Geldof, faulting both countries for being far behind in meeting aid pledges.

He however praised Britain, Germany and the United States for taking the lead in stepping up aid to Africa.

Japan invited eight African leaders to a special session on Monday with the G8 -- which comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

The leaders reconfirmed a promise made three years ago in Gleneagles, Scotland for the G8 to double aid to Africa by 25 billion dollars by 2010.

The Toyako summit also looked to the future, saying that aid from "the G8 and other donors to Africa should be reassessed and may need to be increased for the period after 2010, beyond our current commitments."

But Charles Abani, Southern Africa regional director for Oxfam International, said the statement was not good enough.

"Only when they come through with the 25 billion dollars for Africa will we have cause to celebrate," he said.

"The money is a pittance for the G8, but for poor Africans it could mean a future with lifesaving medicines and the chance to learn to read and write."

Delegates said that there was dispute during the talks as well on setting a timeframe for the health spending promised at last year's G8 summit.

Britain had pushed for the most ambitious commitment of spending all 60 billion dollars within a few years, while on the opposite end Canada had initially hesitated at setting any timeframe, sources said.

Japan had called for this year's summit to focus on health and development as it comes halfway through the UN-backed Millennium Development Goals, which set the target of eradicating the world's worst poverty by 2015.

"We reiterate our support to our African partners' commitment to ensure that by 2015 all children have access to basic health care," the G8 leaders said in their joint statement.

The G8 nations also said that they would take "concrete steps" to fight HIV/AIDS including through "sexual and reproductive health and voluntary family planning programmes."

Japan is the only G8 nation to have already met its pledge to double aid to Africa, but Geldof and other activists charged that the sum was paltry to begin with.

Japan has pledged to double aid to the continent over the next five years in a separate summit held in May with 40 African heads of state.

Source: AFP

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