African Leaders & United Nations Secretary-General Highlight Importance of Health for Development

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Addis Ababa, 5 April  2014 (WIC) -  African leaders and Heads of State, gathered for the 4th EU-Africa Summit in Brussels just days before World Health Day (7 April), highlighted the importance of health for  Africa’s  development.

According to the press release RBM External Relations Officer sent to WIC, at a side-event hosted by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM). Speakers, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, and several African Heads of State, called for health to remain prominent  on the development agenda to meet the  2015 deadline of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and for the foreseeable future .

Addressing approximately 150 leaders from developing and donor countries, United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said, “Now is a critical time. […] We can achieve great results by drawing on the valuable lessons we have learned – including the critical importance of keeping investments in health high on the international development agenda.

I call on all partners to contribute to health interventions now that will save costs and lives in the future.” Ban also noted, “Healthy communities create more vibrant, inclusive societies that allow people and economies to thrive. Malaria clearly illustrates this. Since the Millennium Development Goals were launched, we have seen proof that fighting malaria is a good investment that saves lives and speeds up economic progress.”

Speakers also highlighted the importance of health investments to drive development progress more generally, encouraging political leadership, domestic ownership and partnership to save lives and create more stable environments that allow greater development for all.

Speaking on the Common African Position on the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda, H.E. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia noted: “[…] Africa stands at a major crossroads as we leave behind death and despair and rally ourselves and our resources to improve the quality of lives for our communities.

” She continued, “We are all on this journey together and while we have overcome tremendous obstacles, more lie ahead in the work to improve the lives of people across Africa and the world. We must take up the unfinished business of ridding Africa of malaria, HIV and TB. If we redouble our efforts to the end of 2015 and commit to a shared post-2015 agenda, we will succeed.”

“My Government holds the firm beliefs that we must always put people first and also that healthy people make a healthy and prosperous nation. This is why a significant portion of our national budget is dedicated to health, but more funding is needed in this area,”

H.E. President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana went on to say. “We need to dedicate more strategic funding towards the overall health of our people, and specifically towards the elimination of malaria.”

Investments in health have consistently been associated with development impact. In Rwanda, for example, World Bank figures show that an increase in health expenditure by just 15% has resulted in drastic advances against leading indicators of poverty and disease, including a decrease in malaria incidence by more than half since 2006 and a reduction in maternal mortality.

These advances helped spark economic development that resulted in a nearly US $5.5 billion increase in GDP in the last decade.

“Africa is the fastest developing continent in the world today. […] This is because we as African leaders, together with our people and development partners, are committed to turning the tables on scourges like malaria,” said H.E. President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique.

“This century, we shall be reaping not only a demographic dividend, but a disease-free dividend; as our children’s lives are saved, their learning potential increases, labor market productivity levels rise, and both governments and households spend less on health, releasing more resources for development with the defeat of malaria.”

Drawing on malaria control as an area of exemplary health investment, many noted the impressive gains made against the killer disease in recent years – particularly in Africa, where the disease is estimated to cost a minimum of US $12 billion in lost productivity each year – and the associated advancements against development targets more broadly. Recent data currently under review indicates that every US $1 invested in malaria in Africa yields US $40 GDP.

“Malaria has shown us the strong return possible when we come together, within and between sectors, to strengthen systems and increase access to prevention and treatment services,” said Dr. Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership.

“Time and time again, malaria has proven to be one of the most cost-effective global health investments, serving as an entry point to other development targets and giving way to safer pregnancies, fuller classrooms and healthier economies. When we invest in health, we not only save lives, we enhance quality of life for entire communities. Continued progress will require a strong multisectoral approach, leveraging the unique skillsets of all to maximize impact.”

Increased attention to health has allowed tremendous progress against other development targets in recent years, particularly in Africa. As a result, global poverty has declined, with at least 500 million fewer people now living below the poverty line, child mortality has fallen by nearly 50% and malaria death rates have fallen by 45% worldwide and 49% in Africa alone.

More children than ever recorded are now attending primary school, access to safe drinking water has improved and programs to prevent and treat HIV, malaria and TB have saved millions of lives.

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