Last week’s three day summit of the African Union heads of state ended with a commitment to pay greater attention to maternal, newborn and child health. African leaders said Africa will not be able to meet the Millennium Development Goal on infant and maternal health if more resources are not made available. They reaffirmed their own commitments to spend 15 percent of national budgets on health, which were made in Abuja, Nigeria in 2001.
The AU also appealed to donors who will meet for an October 2010 meeting of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to extend the Fund’s support to child and maternal health. As many RESULTS activists will know from our recent May and July actions on this issue, the October meeting is a ‘replenishment conference’ at which donors will announce how much money they will give to the Global Fund for the 2011-13 period. The Global Fund is facing a crisis in funding and needs $20 billion for this period just to maintain current funding for programmes and scale up those programmes that are performing particularly well.
Although the Global Fund does much amazing work to support maternal and child health such as supporting community health workers in Ethiopia – see the recent report of a RESULTS Canada parliamentary delegation for more details – its current remit is technically narrower, focusing only on the three major infectious killer diseases AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. There have been many calls for the Global Fund to expand its remit to become a ‘Global Fund for Health’ which would be better able to support broader investments in health systems, including more work on maternal and child health. Jeffrey Sachs, the renowned economist, argued for this in an article in the Guardian in March.
However, despite the obvious attraction of scaling up such an effective, transparent organisation to do more work across different areas of health, some campaigners worry that because of limited funding available it would stretch the Fund too far. See our previous blog post for more details.
It’s certainly good news that the African Union supports the Global Fund doing more and is calling on donors to ensure it receives the funds it needs to be able to. Such a ringing endorsement from developing country governments is a clear message to donors that the Global Fund works and deserves more donor funding.
For more details of the summit outcomes, including statements on the personnel crisis for health care systems and NGO reactions, see this excellent IPS news article.