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Thursday, 07 October 2010

Africa needs basic health care, as well as clever drugs

Vertical" health funds targeting specific diseases such as AIDS, malaria or TB have achieved some success, but only at the cost of draining resources from basic "horizontal" health infrastructure such as clinics. The solution is a "diagonal approach", which shares aid between fighting specific diseases and consolidating health care systems, says a resolution voted by Parliament on Thursday.  "The report calls on the European Union to make the most of the potential offered by mutual health organisations in Africa and to support the many existing initiatives. But in order to be feasible, these initiatives need perennial infrastructures of basic health- such as hospitals, clinics and access to the medicine, as well as qualified personnel. We therefore call on the Commission to reinforce its assistance on this matter and to ensure greater coherence in external relations policies", said rapporteur Véronique De Keyser (S&D, BE).

Sustainable health care systems

The aim is to establish sustainable health care systems, providing access to treatment and medicine for everybody. "Universal access to health care and must be non-profit making and participatory", says the resolution. To this end, more support should go to so-called "mutual health organisations", which are independent, non-profit organisations based on solidarity and democratic participation, whose aim, mainly through their members’ contributions, is to improve access to quality health care for members and their families in the form of providence and mutual aid, it adds.The Commission, Member States and international financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank, should support the development and financing of mutual health insurance systems, e.g. by providing credit guarantees, (co-)funding investments in clinics and funding all or part of health workers’ salaries, urge MEPs.

"Diagonal approach"

Recent decades have seen the rise of so-called "vertical" health funds, targeting specific diseases - AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, polio, etc, but at the same time draining international aid and private initiatives, notes the report. Research, vaccination, and prevention results have been remarkable, but have had the perverse effect of weakening support for "horizontal", or basic, health systems. The resolution therefore calls for a "diagonal approach", whereby aid is allocated partly to consolidating health care systems and partly to fighting specific diseases through the "vertical" health funds.

Source: Parlement européen