Obama pledges $63 billion for health care in Africa

Emmanuel Dogbevi | 11 Jul 2009
Ghana Business News
President Barack Obama has pledged $63 billion for health care in Africa during his visit to Ghana. He said the amount will go to strengthen public health.

Making his policy speech on Africa in Ghana's Parliament in Accra Saturday July 11, 2009, he said even though enormous progress has been made on the continent in health care and many more people with HIV/AIDS still live productive lives and are getting the drugs they need, "too many still die from diseases that shouldn't kill them, when children are being killed because of mosquito bites and mothers are dying in child birth, then we know that more progress must be made."

President Obama touched on the fact that African doctors and nurses leave the continent to go abroad or work for progammes that treat a single disease because of the incentive that donor nations provide. The exodus of health care workers he says "has provided gaps in primary health care and basic prevention."

He also called on Africans to make responsible choices to prevent diseases by promoting public health in their communities and cities, and cited examples in Nigeria where interfaith cooperation between Christians and Moslems is confronting malaria.

President Obama acknowledged innovative efforts in Ghana and other parts of Africa where programmes are being pursued to fill the gaps in health care. He said interventions in e-Health initiatives for instance are enabling doctors in big cities to assist their colleagues in small towns.

"America will support these efforts through a comprehensive global health strategy, because in the 21st Century we are called to act by our conscience, but also by our common interest, because when a child dies of a preventable disease in Accra, that diminishes us everywhere."

"And when disease goes unchecked in any corner of the world, we know that it can spread across oceans and continents and that's why my administration has committed $63 billion to meet this challenge," he added.

President Obama promised to carry on the fight against HIV/AIDS, fight to end deaths from tuberculosis and malaria and eradicate polio.

"We will fight neglected tropical disease, and we won't confront illnesses in isolation, we will invest in public health systems that promote and focus on the health of mothers and children," he said.

Malaria is a major public health challenge in Africa. Malaria contributes substantially to the poor health situation in Africa. According to available records Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 90% of the world's 300 - 500 million cases and 1.5 - 2.7 million deaths annually. About 90% of all these deaths in Africa occur in young children.

Between 20 and 40 percent of outpatient visits and between 10 and 15 percent of hospital admissions in Africa are attributed to malaria (WHO, 1999). This burdens the health system. In general, it is estimated that malaria accounts for an average of 3% of the total global disease burden as a single disease in 1990. In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), 10.8% of all Disability - Adjusted live years (DALYs) were lost to malaria in 1990. Again, among the ten leading causes of DALYS in the world in 1998, malaria ranked eighth with a share of 2.8% of the global disease burden.

In SSA however, Malaria is ranked second after HIV/AIDS accounting for 10.6% of the disease burden.

According to the World Bank, Malaria accounted for an estimated 35 million DALYs lost
in Africa in 1990 due to ill health and premature deaths. This loss according to the WHO was estimated at 39 million DALYs in 1998 and 36 million DALYs in 1999.

In the year 2000, malaria contributed 2.05% to total global deaths, it was responsible for 9.0% of all deaths in Africa according to the WHO.

The World Health Organisation also estimated that the total cost of malaria to Africa was US$ 1.8 billion in 1995 and US$ 2 billion in 1997.

In Ghana, malaria is the number one cause of death accounting for 40-60% of out patient cases. It is also the leading cause of mortality in children under five years, a significant cause of adult morbidity, and the leading cause of workdays lost due to illness.

And according to Ghana's Health Minister, the country spent $760 million last year to treat malaria and its related illnesses.