By Sola Ogundipe, Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
The high expectations of Public health advocates in African countries and other low and middle-income countries were dashed yesterday as the G7 failed to make tangible commitment on financial assistance towards improvement of their health systems. On the 2nd day of the G7 Summit which held in Schloss Elmau, Germany, the Group of Seven had discussed on the health agenda – Ebola, Antimicrobial resistance, and Neglected Tropical Diseases, NTDs, without coming up with new and sustainable sources of funding urgently needed in these areas.
Africa had expected that the meeting of the Group would see to the funding of medical research and vaccines, which are greatly needed now that some West African countries are still battling with the outbreak of Ebola.
Although the Group acknowledged the contributions and efforts of governments and other partners in the fight against the dreaded disease which has killed over 11,000 people since last year, some representatives at the meeting expressed disappointment on the outcome of the deliberation.
For instance, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel had announced a financial facility within the World Bank without any sum committed. Although the Leaders pledged to assist at least 60 countries in carrying out the World Health Organisation regulations and encourage other development partners to join the effort, Executive Director of the German Public Health Group, Renate Baehr, expressed reservations.
“This is very disappointing, as new sources of funding are urgently needed, including to equip us with the tools to successfully tackle new and deadly epidemics such as Ebola,” Baehr said. Most people had wished for more funding for research on medications and vaccines to stem the threat of diseases like Ebola.
The Group, which noted that enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, pledged to continue engagement with a specific focus on strengthening health systems through bilateral programmes and multilateral structures.
Ebola: On Ebola, the Group stated: “We commit to preventing future outbreaks from becoming epidemics by assisting countries to implement the World Health Organisation’s International Health Regulations (IHR), including through Global Health Security Agenda and its common targets and other multilateral initiatives.
In order to achieve this we will offer to assist at least 60 countries, including the countries of West Africa, over the next five years, building on countries’ expertise and existing partnerships. We encourage other development partners and countries to join this collective effort. In this framework, we will also be mindful of the healthcare needs of migrants and refugees.
The Group recognised that the Ebola crisis has shown that the world needs to improve its capacity to prevent, protect against, detect, report and respond to public health emergencies. It strongly committed to getting the Ebola cases down to zero.
On antimicrobial resistances, the Group adopted WHO Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance, adding that it will review and implement its national action plans and support other countries as they develop their own national action plans.
NTDs: On Neglected Tropical Diseases, they said research plays a vital role in the development and implementation of new means of tackling NTDs. “We will work collaboratively with key partners, including the WHO Global Observatory on Health Research and Development, and support community based response mechanisms to distribute therapies and otherwise prevent, control and ultimately eliminate these diseases. We will invest in the prevention and control of NTDs in order to achieve 2020 elimination goals.”