28 March 2011

Invest in Health, UNFPA Executive Director Urges African Ministers

ADDIS ABABA,  Ethiopia — Primary health care should be the focus of attention across the continent, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin told African ministers of finance, planning and economic development in a panel discussion here today. The panel, entitled “More Health for Money and More Money for Health”, was part of the 4th Joint Annual Meetings of the African Union Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance and the ECA Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development.

Integrated health interventions could save hundreds of millions of dollars for the health system, Dr. Osotimehin said, adding, “Introducing effective family planning and meeting the needs of people can cut the cost of providing health by around $2.5 billion in Africa.” He noted that providing antenatal care and immunization are other key interventions that could cut considerable costs to health systems.

Opening of the Fourth Joint Annual Ministerial Meetings.

The Executive Director also emphasized that the heath sector should be accountable and transparent in the allocation and utilization of resources and that mobilization of Parliamentarians is key to addressing the priority areas in Africa in the health sector.

In 2001, African Heads of State and Government made financial commitments towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals by pledging to allocate at least 15 per cent of their national budgets to health. These pledges remain largely unmet as only six out of 53 African States have achieved the Abuja commitments on health financing.

In remarks at the opening ceremony the Executive Director also emphasized the need to protect the health of Africa’s youth. He added that special emphasis need to be given to using the potential of Africa's  girls and women effectively. UNFPA is ready to work with governments and other partners to make this a reality, he said.

Dr. Osotimehin was in Ethiopia as part of a three-country mission to Africa, his first visit to developing countries since he became Executive Director of UNFPA in January. Last week, he met with government and civil society leaders in Nigeria, and plans to visit Kenya later this week.