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African Health Officials Cautiously Welcome G8 Health Pledge

Health officials in Africa are reacting cautiously to the pledge of more aid money from G8 nations to tackle major diseases on the continent. They say managing the huge sums of money remains a problem. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's Central and West African Bureau in Dakar.

On the closing day of the G8 meeting in Germany, leaders of the world's richest countries pledged $60 billion in the coming years to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa.

Some of the money overlaps with earlier pledges by the United States and international donors.

Lusamba Pikassa, a director at the World Health Organization's regional office for Africa in Congo, says Africans need the money for life-saving drugs, decaying laboratories, and training for new health workers.

"We are losing the best human resources," he said. "They go because of the conflict and all the problems related to working conditions. They prefer to migrate."

He says staffing clinics with new medicines, equipment, and people is not enough to solve the continent's health problems.

"Part of the amount should be used to ensure that we have in place health systems that can not only manage those funds, but also ensure that the population has access to care, that there is transparency and no corruption," he added.

Another concern Pikassa has with the proposed aid is how to make it last.

"It is very good for the G8 to provide these funds, which will be very helpful. But that needs to be sustained over time and we need to ensure the states themselves are able to [raise] these kinds of resources," he explained.

Ibra Ndoye, director of the National AIDS Council of Senegal, says he hopes G8 leaders will honor the pledge for health aid.

Ndoye says without the funds, it will be difficult to fund prevention activities that he says have helped keep the rate of HIV infection relatively low in Senegal, at less than two percent for the population.

The promise to boost health care funding comes on top of an earlier G8 pledge to double aid to Africa by the year 2010. Economists have said the world's wealthiest industrial nations are not giving enough to meet their goal.

African Union president and President of Ghana John Kufuor has said he hopes the G8 leaders will honor their pledges, and that in return, Africans will work to manage the increased aid.