Health Advocates Praise U.K. Commission for Africa Report, Urge More Attention to Health Issues, Including HIV/AIDS
International health advocates "welcomed" British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Commission for Africa report, which was released on Friday, but said the report should have stressed the "crucial" need for improved health to aid the continent in "emerg[ing] from poverty," the Associated Press reports (Ross, Associated Press, 3/11). The 460-page report calls for a doubling of international aid to Africa to $50 billion annually, the removal of trade barriers, debt forgiveness, and increased efforts to address poor governance, corruption and war throughout the continent. The report also calls for funding for HIV/AIDS to be increased to $10 billion annually within the next five years. Blair established the 17-member commission, which has nine African members, in February 2004. The commission, which examined challenges facing the continent and ways to resolve those issues, includes politicians, economists and advocates from Africa and developed nations. The report aims to put Africa in the forefront of the international agenda during the United Kingdom's year as chair of the G8 and during its presidency of the European Union (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/11). Advocates praised the report's "bold recommendation" of providing HIV/AIDS treatment to everyone who requires it by 2010 but "expressed frustration" that its impact is "dampened" by the warning that "excessive medicalization" of the disease could harm prevention efforts, according to the Associated Press. "There's about a 95% gap between the number of people in Africa needing HIV treatment and the number getting it," Nathan Ford, spokesperson for Medecins Sans Frontieres, said, adding, "We are many, many years away from considering medicalization a problem. It really doesn't deserve to be considered" (Associated Press, 3/11).
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday "hailed" the report as "an important addition to the ongoing search for solutions" to challenges in Africa, Xinhuanet reports (Xinhuanet, 3/11). "The commission's hard-headed approach to solving Africa's toughest challenges is a breath of fresh air and an aggressive call to action," Jamie Drummond -- executive director of the debt, trade and AIDS advocacy group DATA -- said, adding, "The Commission for Africa's recommendations are a great match with [the Bush] administration's development strategy for Africa, combining elements of the compassion that you see in Bush's AIDS and debt-cancellation policies with elements of the tough-love approach you see in his [Millennium Challenge Corporation] initiative" (DATA release, 3/10). Canada's leading development advocates on Friday "herald[ed]" the commission's report as a significant advance in helping Africa, the Montreal Gazette reports. "It's a remarkable report. It's a moment in time," Gerry Barr, president of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, said, adding, "It's a terribly important report, maybe even a watershed" (Blanchfield, Montreal Gazette, 3/11).
NPR's "News & Notes with Ed Gordon" on Friday included an interview with William Kalema, chair of the Board of the Uganda Investment Authority and a commissioner on the Commission for Africa, and Emira Woods, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus (Gordon, "News & Notes with Ed Gordon," NPR, 3/11). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.