Kampala- Uganda (PANA) -- Citing malaria as one of the greatest challenges facing Africa, Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania said Monday that the continent needs strategic leadership to clear government ob structions and ensure the prosperity and development of its people.
In a joint statement issued on the sidelines of the African Union summit underwa y here, the two presidents called for an end to taxing the fight against malaria and said that removal of tariffs could benefit African health care and entrepreneurs as w ell.
''More than ever before, Africa needs strategic leadership, vision and courage t o address the challenges we face.
We must harness Africa's enormous potential, opportunities and resources, for the development, prosperity and well-being of i ts people,'' they said.
Malaria causes productivity loss for close to 200 million people in Africa every year, besides claiming over 800,000 lives, mostly babies and mothers.
Museveni and Kikwete recalled that over the past decade, an unprecedented effort had been made to defeat malaria, supported with funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Bank, bilateral partners and pri vate sources around the world.
''Thanks to this funding, a huge volume of rapid diagnostic tests, life-saving m edicines and nearly 350 million mosquito nets will be delivered to Africa by the end of 2010.
Other efforts, such as spraying households with insecticides, are being scaled u p as part of a comprehensive attack on the disease,'' the statement said.
The African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), representing 28 heads of state and chaired by Kikwete, recently set up a regional effort to facilitate cost-effecti v e bulk procurement of mosquito nets.
It is expected that this effort, in which ALMA collaborates with UNICEF, will al low accelerated delivery of nets to countries that need them most.
''We must now commit to overcoming barriers to malaria control and treatment, an d a key area here is tax and tariff removal.
Most anti-malaria commodities are c u rrently produced outside of Africa.
''When ships that transport nets, medicines and other essential health products arrive in African ports, their cargoes are often subjected to taxes and tariffs t hat absorb precious funds, reducing the volume of health goods that can be purchased, and creating i nordinate delays in distribution,'' the presidents observed.
During the AU Summit plenary session on maternal and child health in Africa, Kik wete said the common problem around the continent was the lack of resources.
''International support is important for Africa to save the lives of many mother s and children who die of preventable causes,'' he added.
Later Monday, ALMA members were scheduled to hold their third meeting to strateg ise effective practices for combating malaria and to elect a new chair of the al l iance.
Kikwete has held the position since ALMA's inaugural meeting in September 2009 a t the UN General Assembly in New York.