African leaders to confront elaborate social welfare agenda

Sharm El Sheikh- Egypt (PANA) -- African leaders will commit to the implementatio n of new initiatives to bolster funding for child welfare improvements and make c ommitments to the efforts to eradicate malaria at the start of their high-level f orum on Monday, AU officials said in Sharm El Sheikh on Sunday.
African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs Biance Gawanas said the Summit of African leaders was expected to adopt a special declaration, calling on the West to accord fair treatment to professionals leaving the continent to look for fres h economic opportunities.
In what appears to be one of the most elaborate anti-poverty-focused Summits eve r to be held by the African leaders, issues of safeguarding the welfare of the A f rican child and the fate of hundreds of thousands of health workers leaving the c ontinent are expected to preoccupy the continent's political leaders, even as th e y tackle the provision of water services.
Speaking on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting to prepare for the main Summi t, which opens on Monday, Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai called on the lea d ers to prioritize the protection of forests and criticized the "food first" appr o ach of handling the environment, where most countries destroy forests to create r oom for the cultivation of food crops.
"If you destroy nature, it will hit back with a vengeance.
It will not care that you did not know the consequences of your actions when you cut all the trees and left the rains to take the fertile soils to the big oceans," the Noble peace la u reate told PANA.
The African leaders are expected to take stern measures to ensure the protection of the African child by overseeing the implementation of a new landmark accord on the protection of child welfare.
Gawanas, a Namibian lawyer who has been overseeing the Commission's handling of social affairs, said conditions had been inappropriate for most African women, e s pecially at birth.
"In many cases in Africa, giving birth means burying the mother.
We are telling the African leaders to ensure that women do not have to die and that they must p u t the child and infant welfare in its right place," Gawanas told journalists.
The African leaders, who have been streaming in for the Summit, slated to kick o ff in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El Sheikh, will be tasked on their progre ss in implementing past commitments under the protocol on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, a continental law put in place to ensure African children enjoy improved services.
Gawanas said the leaders would also consider the progress made in tackling other life-threatening diseases in the continent, top among them the eradication of m a laria, which, she said, was being considered under an accelerated plan.
She said the continental leadership was examining a series of bold initiatives, including the setting up of pharmaceutical companies to oversee the war against m alaria through availability of drugs.
"We want to make the promotion of child welfare central to this Summit.
We canno t ignore the determinants to good health such as water and sanitation," Gawanas s aid.
AU Commission President Jean Ping kicked off the campaign in Sharm El Sheikh on a strong note, saying Africa had the opportunity to ensure a malaria-free contin e nt if it set up its own drug manufacturing companies to provide the essential me d icines.
"You will tell me I am dreaming but even the AU was once a dream, now, we have i t; you cannot have what you have not dreamt," Ping said, as he reiterated that e f forts are underway to manufacture essential drugs within the continent.
The AU is keen to push for the implementation of the maternal health commitments made by African states, among them, a pledge to increase the proportion of heal t h budgets to 15 per cent of public expenditure to provide more funds to tackle t h e challenges.

29 june 2008 12:22:00




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