Delegates at Tokyo Conference Discuss Ways To Address Health Issues, Including HIV/AIDS, in Africa
About 2,500 delegates from 52 African countries, United Nations agencies and aid groups met Wednesday in Yokohama, Japan, for the fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development to discuss strategies aimed at solving health issues, including HIV/AIDS, and other challenges on the continent, the Kyodo News reports (Tang, Kyodo News, 5/27). Delegates at the three-day meeting, themed "Toward a Vibrant Africa: A Continent of Hope and Opportunity," plan to discuss how to increase efforts to meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, as well as ways to boost economic growth and address climate change.
According to Xinhuanet, although African nations have made some progress in economic development and maintaining peace and stability in recent years, HIV/AIDS and other diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria, as well as poverty and food shortages, are hindering efforts to increase progress (Lin/Xiao, Xinhuanet, 5/27). The U.N. Population Fund at the conference urged delegates to increase action to help Africa meet the MDGs. UNPFA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid urged delegates to "commit to swifter action" to promote women's rights on the continent, saying, "Only when women are healthy, educated and empowered can they lift their families and their nations from the depths of poverty to prosperity" (Kyodo News, 5/27).
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda at the conference pledged to double aid to Africa by 2012 in an effort to increase infrastructure and attract private investors, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports. As part of the plan, Japan will provide $4 billion in flexible, low-interest "soft loans" to Africa over five years to build infrastructure. In addition, Japan will train 100,000 health care workers over the next five years to help address Africa's shortage of health care workers (AP/International Herald Tribune, 5/28).
Obaid praised Japan's commitment to double aid to Africa over five years but urged the government to allocate a larger percentage of funds to health and education programs. Takumo Yamada, advocacy manager at Oxfam Japan, added, "Without the doctors and nurses, no amount of Japanese-funded hospitals can help save the lives of millions of mothers and children or ensure universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care."
Awa Marie Coll-Seck of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership called on the delegates to make a long-term "global political commitment" to fighting HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria on the continent. UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said the international community needs to "work on many different fronts at the same time" to address the challenges in Africa, adding, "If one piece is missing, the rest will not work." Piot added that in addition to fighting specific diseases such as HIV/AIDS, development aid should focus on strengthening health systems and improving capacity (Kyodo News, 5/27).
According to Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura, conference delegates are expected to adopt the "Yokohama Declaration," which outlines principles and approaches to African development among conference stakeholders. Delegates also are expected to adopt the "Yokohama Action Plan and the Yokohama Follow-Up Mechanism," which lists action-oriented initiatives and metrics targeted at African development, Koumura said. In addition, the results of the conference are expected to be discussed during the Group of Eight industrialized nations summit, which is scheduled for July 7 to July 9 in Hokkaido, Japan. The conference was co-organized by the Japanese government, the U.N. Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, the U.N. Development Program and the World Bank (Xinhuanet, 5/27).