Transparency International (TI) says corruption in the health sector is causing many Africans to die. This conclusion is contained in TI’s 2006 recently published annual report.
Chantal Uwimana is the head of Sub-Saharan Africa in the Africa and Middle East Department at TI’s head office in Germany. English to Africa reporter Angel Tabe asked her about the focus for Africa this year. “Every year we take a special theme. This year, on Health, it shows that when we say corruption kills, it’s really in health sector that it takes the full meaning. Its impact is more crucial in developing countries because people are already poor.”
Uwimana blames fraudulent pharmaceutical companies in the western world for the negative impact their corrupt practices have in Africa. “Take the case of Nigeria for example. Around 2000, 80% of drugs in the market were from non-authorized sources. Those drugs, even if they don’t kill, make people resistant to the real drugs.”
Uwimana appreciates that Nigeria took measures to combat this danger, and agrees corruption also occurs in politics. “In political corruption, it has an impact but maybe on the long-term. All they see is people coming with money and food, in some cases they haven’t eaten for months. The pharmaceutical companies bribe health ministers or doctors to buy the most expensive drugs, then the cost is higher than it should be.”
Uwimana says African countries have made some significant strides to fight corruption in the health and other sectors. “I heard that in Cameroon, the health minister launched ‘Hospitals without Corruption,’ and it’s really just to tell people how much they should pay for what services.”
She says TI works to explain that corruption is a public concern. “We are satisfied that corruption is no longer taboo. People talk about it; even leaders recognize that corruption and poverty go together, but we need to increase education of the people to realize that corruption has an impact on their daily lives.”
What remains baffling though, Uwimana admits, is that one country can be very successful in beating corruption, while another, despite significant efforts, will fail. “ We also need to understand why in Botswana the leadership has almost succeeded, while in Nigeria, where the leadership has taken so many initiatives, corruption is still there.”
She says in the future TI will in adopt a multi-dimensional approach that focuses on the causes of corruption, how to deal with it and how the organization can contribute to finding solutions.
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