African governments must step up to the health plate – Machel

2010-09-10 13:08

Doctors and Aids activists today urged African governments to fulfil a decade’s-old pledge to spend more money on health if they wanted international help in fighting Aids.

Graça Machel, a longtime advocate for children in her homeland of Mozambique and around the world, told reporters that African governments needed to honour pledges made at an African Union summit in 2001 to devote at least 15% of national budgets to health.

To date, only a six countries have done so.

Machel blamed a lack of political will.

“We have to prove ourselves if we are to have the courage to look into the eyes of our children and say: We do care,” she said.

Strengthened health systems will mean more pregnant women will get prenatal care and be tested for HIV, the virus that causes Aids. Those who test positive can take drugs that will prevent mother-to-child HIV infections.

Dr Avertino Barreto, Mozambique’s deputy director of health, said foreigners could not be expected to help if Africans did not help themselves.

“I believe that donors will come,” Barreto said. “But African governments must take the first decision.”

Machel, who is married to former South African president Nelson Mandela, said she would lobby African leaders.

She lamented that children born in Africa and other poor regions did not have the opportunities their counterparts had in the rich world to lead long, healthy lives.

“We’re here to say this is unacceptable,” she said. “It’s not where you are born that should determine the kind of life you are entitled to.”

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