It is good news that the 2010 Report on MDGs in Africa clearly shows that there is decline in the prevalence of malaria, HIV/AIDS and malaria on the continent.
Progress is being made in a number of countries but is being constrained by two major factors.
- The need for increased financing
- Civil/ violent conflicts that continue to beset some countries.
With their declared commitment to tackling these diseases, many countries are yet to meet the pledge of allocating 15% of their annual budgets to the health sector. The key to reducing the burden of these diseases in Africa is economic growth, education, peace and security. However, conflicts in Africa cause re-direction of scarce resources to purchase of arms instead investments in human development. Thus, poverty, hunger and diseases rage in countries at war in or just recovering from conflict.
According to UNAIDS, Africa has sustained the progress made in tackling HIV/AIDS. The decrease in HIV prevalence and mortality rates reported in 2007 persists and the HIV/AIDS –related mortality rate appears to have stabilized. Although the number of people living with HIV has increased over time, access to antiretroviral therapy for HIV patients has expanded in most countries. The aggressive prevention programs combined with increased access to treatment and behaviour change appears to be the main drivers of this improvement.
There has been a reduction in Malaria mortality in a number of countries in the region. Insecticide treated net (ITN) are a proven intervention against malaria. There is an increase of households with at least one (ITN) from 17% to 31% between 2007 & 2008. In 2008, only around 24% of under-fives slept under an ITN in Africa. There has been less progress in treating malaria than in preventing it. Progress in developing a malaria vaccine is the best hope for reducing malarial incidences, but none presently exists.
Tuberculosis remains a significant health risk and major cause of death in Africa. Nine of the twenty-two countries classified by the WHO as TB high-burden countries are in Africa. Southern Africa continues to report the highest TB incidence rate and North Africa the lowest. Except in North Africa, all sub regions of the continent showed a decline in the TB prevalence rate between 2005 and 2007.
Despite this progress, a lot more still needs to be done. Conflicts must be prevented, or well-managed when they occur. Productive programs that have contributed to the decline of these infectious diseases should be strengthened, alongside the healthcare system.
Summary of the ‘Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals MDG Report 2010′ on MDG6 by Ayodele Doyinsola.