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Save the Children Presses G8 to Keep Promises Supporting Africa Health Care Reforms

A spokeswoman for a prominent NGO says her group is calling on the G8 leaders meeting in Heiligendamm, Germany, to “turn their words into action” and to fulfill their promises to provide Africa with aid. Alice Schmidt, a health advocacy advisor for Save The Children, said, “It was agreed that by 2010 universal access to HIV treatment would be a reality.” She said she feared that promise may be watered down. “And,” she said, “we want them to stick to [the] promise to make sure universal free health care in Africa and strengthen health care systems.“

“They’re pretty bad in some countries,” she said. Schmidt also said there are three major areas that are particularly difficult: “[The first is] the significant lack of health workers, like doctors and nurses. There are just not enough to deal with the needs of the people,” she said. “Secondly, clinics and hospitals are too far [away]. People have to walk for days to get to a clinic. And then I’ve seen a majority of clinics that don’t even have water or power. Thirdly, in many cases, drugs are not available, which means that people are dying from very simple diseases like diarrhea and malaria.”

Schmidt said another problem is that health care is often not free, and even where there are health services in Africa, children still die because they don’t have the few cents to pay for treatment.

The German government is proposing an initiative called “Providing for Health,” which promotes social health insurance. But Schmidt said it had a major weakness – rather than allowing African countries to decide what [health] system is best, it imposes the system used in Germany and France. However, Schmidt said, “Just because it works in rich countries and does provide free health care to many people, it does not mean it is workable in Africa.”

(Note: This report was broadcast at 1600 UTC on Thursday, June 7, 2007.)