Europe must push for a healthy Africa

European Parliament The World Cup is over and life in Africa is returning to normal, but it is anything but “fair play” with life expectancy for some 30 to 40 years less than for Europeans. There are many reasons, from bad governance, the financial crisis and climate change to natural disasters, extreme poverty, wars and greed. Nevertheless and despite Europe’s focus on the financial crisis, MEPs insist that aid is essential.

“It’s not a question of ideology but of saving human lives,” Belgian Socialist Veronique De Keyser said during a discussion of her report on health care systems in Sub-Saharan Africa in the Development Committee on 13 July.

The financial crisis “does not encourage European countries to keep their promises…to give at least 0.7% of GDP in development assistance by 2010,” the report says.

Health not a priority

In addition, traditionally health is not a priority and gets half the amount given to education. Targeting remains a problem as funding for specific diseases including AIDS, TB and malaria mean money is diverted away from basic healthcare.

Ms De Keyser, who nursed in Africa, said that often hospitals are too far away from the people who need them. Health workers often lack experience. Slovak EPP member Anna Záborská said the EU should support training programs, while Luxembourg Liberal Charles Goerens suggested temporary visas for African health workers would allow them to gain experience. He also underlined the problem of doctors leaving to get better pay.

Failing on Millennium Development Goals

Parliament criticised the failure to meet the Millennium Development Goals on health and particularly on cutting maternal mortality during the June Plenary. The report by British Socialist Michael Cashman said the EU is €20 million short on its spending commitments.

The aim is to establish sustainable health care systems, providing access to treatment and medicine for everybody.

British Conservative Nirj Deva said that in his country of origin, Sri Lanka, mortality rates shot up to Western standards after the establishment of free health care and preventive measures. Between 1948 and 2010 life expectancy rose 30 years, he said.

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