Southern African News Features                                           SANF 10 No 28, July 2010
Africa strives to improve access to health

Health is the issue as African leaders gather in Kampala, Uganda for the 15th Summit of the African Union.

Other issues on the agenda for Africa are food security, peace, climate change and the global financial crisis.

The theme for the annual Summit is "Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa" and leaders will discuss ways to make child-bearing safer for women and improve healthcare.

Maternal and child healthcare are two of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that the global community has agreed to implement by 2015 through the United Nations to encourage international development and improve access to health for women and children.

While significant progress has been made in reducing the number of women that die giving birth and children who die at birth, most African countries are still not on track to meet the desired target by 2015.

This calls for renewed and intensified efforts by African governments and their development partners to scale up interventions and get the programmes back on track.

The AU Summit set for 25-27 July, is expected to lead this process and come up with possible solutions to the challenges that are hindering the implementation process. These challenges include poverty, climate change, and the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

Leaders are also expected to review the general socio-economic and political situation in the continent.

According to a draft agenda of the executive council, which meets prior to the leaders Summit, discussions would include the food security situation in the continent as well as progress reports on various resolutions made at the last meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In Ethiopia, leaders agreed on a number of resolutions to promote integration and development in Africa.

With regard to climate change, the leaders said the continent should continue to speak with a single voice ahead of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference scheduled late this year.

Leaders attending the AU Summit are expected to maintain their stance and also take stock of various developments made since the last climate change summit held in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Copenhagen Summit agreed to mobilize US$100 billion a year by 2020 and an additional US$30 billion for the period 2010-12, for adaptation and mitigation in vulnerable countries, eventhough this fell far short of Africa’s expectations.

Africa favoured an approach in which developing countries will be beneficiaries of technology transfer, capacity building and funding to the tune of US$200 billion a year by 2020.

On food security, leaders are expected to review the implementation of programmes adopted at the last meeting to boost production.

These interventions include the allocating of substantial budgets to agriculture and investing in technology such as irrigation and improved seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.

With regard to economic development, the Summit would assess how the continent has managed to minimize the effects of the global financial and economic crisis that hit the whole world last year.

Tourism, agriculture and mining - major economic sectors in most African countries were the worst affected.

On the political situation, leaders are expected to address the unrest in some countries such as Somalia, Madagascar, Guinea Bissau and Niger.

These countries are experiencing instability due to various reasons, including a new spate of military coups d'etat.

Leaders are also expected to further deliberate on whether the AU Commission - the technical arm of the union - can be transformed into a more powerful authority with executive powers and act independently.

Under the new arrangement, the commission would have a president and vice president as well as secretariats holding several portfolios.

Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, as chair of the AU is expected to lead the discussions at the Summit. Mutharika took over the rotating AU chair from his Libyan counterpart Muammar Gaddafi at the last Summit.

The AU Summit, which was rescheduled from its traditional slot of June-July to accommodate the 2010 Soccer World Cup finals in South Africa, is expected to be attended by other world leaders from South America and the Caribbean.

Their participation at the Summit would go a long way in strengthening relations. The AU Summit is held twice a year.

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SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985

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