Show us the money for health

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BY PASCALINE KANG\’ETHE

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) offer a great opportunity to address human welfare in Kenya and the whole world, especially in developing countries.

The adoption of the Millennium Declaration and the MDGs by the United Nations Assembly in September 2000 was a laudable initiative by the international community to fight poverty, accelerate human development, and facilitate the integration of the developing world, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, into the global economy.

The re-affirmation of the MDGs in the Abuja meeting by the African heads of states was an additional indication of the commitment of the African community to attack poverty and inequality, and to end the marginalization and exclusion of the poor and disadvantaged.
 
In the Abuja declaration, African heads of states committed to increase budget allocation to health to 15pc of their national budgets by 2015. Up to date only six countries in Africa have been able to meet the mark while the rest are still struggling with Kenya at 10pc.

Donors like the Global Fund have largely complimented what the governments are doing.

However the rising tension between HIV and AIDS, Child and Maternal health has seen a shift of resources from HIV and AIDS to Child and Maternal health. MDGs however cannot be achieved in isolation and the claim that HIV and AIDS is over-funded is a slap in the face.

The truth is that Health is underfunded! Many child and maternal deaths are as a result of HIV related illnesses. We cannot separate issues that concern health and we need to fund health now.

Although current trends show that African countries are seriously off track with regards to Child and Maternal mortality goals, HIV and AIDS is still deepening and spreading poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa which houses 22pc of the world\’s disease burden and 68pc of people living with HIV.

Kenya\’s HIV and AIDS prevalence is at 7.1pc and these could go higher if the international community and our own government do not meet their commitments.

Countries that put funding into the Global Fund basket which has gone a long way in the past decade to prevent many new HIV infections, put hundreds of people living with HIV on treatment, provided treatment and management of TB and availed millions of treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria is now facing a crisis as these countries backtrack on their commitments.
 
In October 2010, governments from around the world will meet to make their pledges to support the replenishment of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which requires a minimum of US$ 20 billion over the next three years. Current indications are that this minimum target will not be met.

As such there has been increasing antagonism towards continued scale-up of HIV treatment, based on the premise that it detracts from efforts to address other diseases, and is unaffordable over the long term. Advocacy groups around the African region have mobilized around several major events including the AU summit, the International AIDS Conference, the World Cup and the World Economic Forum to call for an end to this tension and Fund health.

African civil society is currently involved in advocacy emphasising the need for wave of activism to lead-up to the replenishment meeting on 4-5 October.

Kenya has been identified as the optimal focal point to partner with Kenyan CSOs and networks of people living with HIV on activism and will be hosting a 1,000 people march on Tuesday September 28, 2010 that will reverberate regionally and internationally. The civil society will present a memorandum to the ministries of Public Health and Sanitation, Medical Services and Finance and Planning, national development and Vision 2030, development partners appealing to them to keep their promises to fund health. The key messages during the march are that:

o    HIV is not over-funded, health is under-funded (focusing on need for sustained scale-up to Universal Access, GF replenishment and general expenditure on health)
o    Health is Wealth (focusing on the need for increased investment in health as a pre-requisite for sustainable socio-economic development); and
o     Show Us The Money for Health (focusing on better prioritisation of African governments with regards to expenditure, calling for governments to meet the Abuja target)

It is critical for both the international community and our own governments to honour their pledges to the Global Fund and Health or else we will be in a serious crisis. There is serious lack of priorities as government continues to spend on unnecessary luxuries with monies that can; prevent new HIV infections, put people living with HIV on treatment, put more TB patients on treatment, and avail more treated mosquito nets for children and mothers to prevent malaria.

Priorities in this country continue to be wrong and yet Kenya\’s just  promulgated constitution affirms the Right to Health for All. It is time that this is honoured, this must happen now!

(The writer is the National Coordinator, Right to Health – HIV and AIDS at ActionAid International Kenya)

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