Tutu urges AU to increase health care budget

Sapa | 29 Jan 2007
The African Union (AU) should allocate 15% or more of its budget to health care, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said today. In a letter written to the AU ahead of its summit to be held this week, Tutu said that over 40 million Africans had died from diseases over the past five years.

He said this was caused by the failure of African leaders to fulfill their 2001 AU summit pledge in Abuja of ensuring that at least 15% of its budget went in to health care. "This surpasses the two world wars and is roughly the equivalent of the combined population of Africa's ten least populous countries," said Tutu.

"I urge you to act speedily. Nothing can be more important to African governments than the lives of African citizens. I urge you to ensure that from the meetings of the African Union ambassadors, the ministers, to the heads of states summit that the 15% Abuja commitment is at the top of the summit agenda and a timetable is set for the re-ordering African budget priorities towards urgently meeting the 15% commitment," he said.

"Africa cannot depend indefinitely on international support regardless of any historical circumstances that have contributed to Africa's current underdevelopment," Tutu said. He said that if this was not done the continent would die before our eyes as statistics from global and African institutions indicated that an estimated eight million Africans died annually from preventable and treatable diseases.

586 911 Africans dying from TB each year
The 2006 figures showed that 586 911 Africans were dying from TB each year while 2.1 million died from Aids. At least 1 136 000 Africans died from malaria which was 89% of the world's total. Some 300 000 African women died from maternal related matters.

Tutu said that the most shocking figures were those of child mortality as they contributed the biggest percentage of annual health related deaths. An estimated 4.8 million children under the age of five years died annually with pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, measles and Aids accounting for half of these deaths.

"At the most unbelievable annual death rates, Africa could lose an estimated 120 million lives between 2000 and 2015 which is when the three health-based Millennium Development Goals of reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and reducing HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases should have been achieved," said Tutu. - Sapa