African Civil Society Organisations Petition AU

Published on 23rd July 2010

Letter from 117 African Civil Society Organisations to African Union Summit on Upholding African Health and Social Development Commitments 

To Heads of States of African Union Member States 


H.E. President Bingu wa Mutharika,

President of the Republic of Malawi,

And Chairperson of the African Union,

Office of the President,

Capital City, Lilongwe 3, Malawi.

22 July 2010 


Grave Concerns of African Citizens on Importance of Upholding, Progressing and Implementing Health and Social Development Commitments of African Governments. 

We the undersigned write to bring to your urgent attention grave concerns of African citizens that some Heads of State are being advised to repudiate crucial commitments on health and social development, in particular the 2001 Abuja pledge by African Heads of State to allocate at least 15% of national domestic budgets to health to help tackle Africa’s health emergency, These concerns have been heightened following several well reported public statements by some senior officials of member states to the effect that “governments have other competing priorities besides health”, with some reportedly going as far as stating that Presidents should be advised to drop the Abuja Commitments, and also requesting that references to it be deleted from conference documents and outcomes. 

At a time when Africa should be leading on implementing African and global investment and policy commitments on health and social development, it is worrying that some senior government officials are reportedly dis-inclined to uphold crucial commitments made by AU Heads of States, without regard to African lives this will cost, or the impact on human development. 

As you may already know Excellencies’ (even allowing for overlaps, and taking into account some recent progress) Africa still tragically losses an estimated 6 million lives a year to a combination of just 5 preventable, treatable or manageable MDG’s 4, 5 and 6 health issues, with tens of millions also suffering from these : Malaria (801,000 deaths / 212 million cases)1; HIV and AIDS (1.4 million deaths / 22 million PLW-HA)2; TB (385,000 deaths / 3.8 million PLW-TB)3, Maternal Mortality (265,000 deaths / Millions of injuries and pregnancy related disabilities)4, and Child Mortality (4.1 million deaths)Alongside infectious diseases and MDG health issues, the World Health Organisation has recently highlighted that non-communicable diseases - including: heart disease; stroke; diabetes; chronic respiratory disease; various cancers; asthma; and others caused by unhealthy working and social conditions, and harmful products (such as alcohol and tobacco) – are now responsible for an estimated 35 million global deaths annually, and increasingly affecting the developing world which has weaker health systems. In addition the lives of over a billion people globally (many in rural Africa especially) are blighted by treatable but disabling neglected tropical diseases including: Trachoma; Onchocerciasis/River Blindness; Sleeping Sickness (human African trypanosomiasis); Chagas Disease; Leprosy; Dengue Fever; Ascariasis/Roundworm; Hookworm; and Lymphatic Filariasis / Elephantiasis.    

Consequently Healthy Life Expectancy in Africa is at a record low of 45 years resulting in un-fulfilled personal, national and continental potential and aspirations, and the loss of billions of dollars in productivity. Considering these enormous challenges, and given the clear and globally recognised correlation between healthy life expectancy, productivity and consequently GDP and GNI, it would be a historic setback for African governments to drop health and social development commitments, or suggest in anyway that the health of African economies exists in isolation from the overall health of African citizens. 

Excellencies’ you all assumed office with the stated intention of improving the lives of citizens of AU member states. While it is true that all sectors play a role in overall development, this cannot be achieved by deserting fundamental commitments to the health sector which plays a pivotal role in human and social development. This requires a basic level of domestic public financing to run public health programmes, resource facilities, train and retain vital staff, purchase medicines and equipment and ensure effective health systems. 

Health sector investment complements and does not compete with separate but no less vital investments in ensuring 100% of African’s should have access to clean water, improved sanitation, food security and improved nutrition, sustainable use of environment, clean energy, planned housing, good roads, efficient and safe public transport, and education. 

The Abuja 15% commitments were broadly based on the global trend of regions with best performing health indicators investing on average between 15% - 17% of budgets in health (Current Africa average is 9.6%). Nine years after the Abuja commitments, only 3 countries are currently meeting this pledge,6 although 6 have previously done so, and many have made important progress supported by parliaments and civil society. 

However and very significantly, at present 34 African countries are investing less than the World Health Organisation recommended minimum package of $40 per capita in health. These include 27 African countries investing less than $20, and 15 countries investing as little as $2 - $10 per capita on health which is insufficient to meet a combination of diverse health challenges. Clearly per capita investment in health needs to improve alongside percentage allocation for Africa and its citizens to have a chance to fulfil potential and aspirations. 

While Africa (at current average of $34 per capita) invests significantly less than best performing regions (at average of $1,374 - $1,546 per capita)8 the experience of Costa Rica and Cuba for example (currently investing $356 and $558 per capita) demonstrates that it is not only how much, but how efficiently funds are utilised alongside investment in other crucial sectors. Both countries invest well less than the US, which invests $3,317 per capita on health. But by combining this with almost 100% vaccination coverage; vital investment in social determinants, to ensure 89% to 100% of the population have access to clean water, improved sanitation, nutrition; and training and retention of required health workers, both countries achieved same life expectancy with arguably one of the worlds richest countries. 

The Abuja commitments therefore need to be upheld, and indeed improved and urgently implemented by all countries - taking into account: needs based budgeting; overall improved per capita investment; improved investment in crucial social determinants; and gender equity in health amongst other principles. This formulation, which upholds and progresses the Abuja commitments has been described as 15% plus. 

To ensure progress on implementation of commitments on a sustainable basis supported by all citizens and sectors of society, we urge you to ensure: that the July 2010 Kampala AU Summit restates the Abuja commitments; and supports the AU Commission in fulfilling its mandate, and work with governments and civil society to monitor, provide evidence and report on health gains, and crucially ensure a progressive 10th year review of the 2001 Abuja commitments by April 2011. 

In accepting global solidarity on health and social development, such as more developed countries commitment to devote 0.7% of their GNP as ODA especially in the last 5 years of the MDGs, African governments need to fulfil African commitments and obligations to enable us accept global solidarity with dignity. 

Significantly, dropping the Abuja Commitments also signifies a dropping of global frameworks on health including the MDGs as the Abuja Commitments are a key tool for implementing African and global frameworks. 

Excellencies’ while improved domestic public funding of the health sector is required to meet obligations on health and social development, we also urge you to lead Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and all ministers to examine how to strengthen promotion of health, population and social development across all sectors. The global Commission on the Social Determinants of Health provides indisputable evidence of gains that can be made on social development through intersectoral action for health. We further urge promotion of executive, parliamentary and civil society co-operation and dialogue to audit and improve performance. 

We acknowledge the important re-statement of the Abuja Commitments by the first joint meeting of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in 2008, and urge them to stand by, improve on and implement these commitments – in the context of: needs, health challenges of various countries and improved per-capita investment for health. 

We further acknowledge continued efforts of Excellencies and the African Union on health development and financing - including various Special Summits, and Ordinary Summit focus on health and related themes. 

We appeal that especially in this important year for global and African social development commitments, the modest progress made through a combination of efforts of African civil society, health and social development agencies, global solidarity, the AU and African governments should not be reversed. Rather we should accelerate momentum on these efforts to ensure speedy economic and social development of Africa. 



1. Abibimman Foundation, Ghana

2.Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS (AGHA) Uganda

3.Action Health Incorporated, Nigeria

4.Advocates for Human Rights and Sustainable Development(AHSUD), Nigeria

5. Africa Health journal

6. Africa IDP Voice

7. Africa Medical Research Foundation (AMREF)-Uganda

8. Africa Public Health Alliance & 15%+ Campaign

9. Africa Youth Initiative on Climate Change

10. African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD), Nigeria

11. African Council of AIDS Service Organizations (AfriCASO)

12. African Federation of Sexual and Health Rights

13.Afrihealth Information Projects/Afrihealth Optonet Association, Nigeria

14. Alliance for Integrated Development and Empowerment (AIDE), Uganda

15. Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights (ARHR), Ghana

16. Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development (ACORD)

17. Borno Coalition for Democracy and Progress (BOCODEP), Nigeria

18. Brave Heart Initiative for Youth and Women, Edo State, Nigeria

19. Ambassadors of Change, Kenya

20. AYICC-Ghana

21. Cameroon Association Of Media Professionals (CAMP)

22. Cameroon Coalition Against Malaria

23. Campaign Against Unwanted Pregnancy (CAUP), Nigeria

24. Care International - Tanzania

25. Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD

26. Centre for Economic Governance and AIDS in Africa (CEGAA)

27. Centre for Health Policy and Innovation (IDRC), South Africa

28. Center for Health, Human Rights and Development, Uganda

29. Centre for Hospital and Health Services Improvement (CHAHSI Nigeria)

30. Center for Reproductive Rights, Africa Program

31. Citizens United to Promote Peace and Democracy in Liberia (CUPPADL)

32. Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Nigeria

33. Coalition of African Parliamentarians Against HIV and AIDS [CAPAH]

34. Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS), Uganda

35. Community Youth in Development activities (COYIDA), Malawi

36. Christ Soldiers Foundation, Ghana

37. Eastern Africa Network of AIDS Services Organisations (EANNASO)

38. Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network, Kenya

39. E-Knowledge of Women in Southern Africa (EKOWISA).

40. Fresh & Young Brains Development Initiative, Abuja, Nigeria

41. Family Care International - Kenya

42. Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia

43. Friends of the Treatment Action Campaign

44. Gender and Economic Alternatives Trust-GEAT (Zimbabwe)

45. Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health- Ghaha

46. Ghana National Youth Coalition on Climate Change (GNYCCC)

47. Global Call to Action against Poverty-Burkina (GCAP Burkina)

48. Global Call to Action against Poverty-Liberia (GCAP Liberia)

49. Global Pan African Movement Secretariat (GPAM) - Uganda

50. Goodwill AID - Ghana

51. Health NGOs Network (HENNET), Kenya

52. Health and Rights Education Programme(H REP), Malawi

53. IPAS, Africa Alliance Office, Kenya

54. International Community of Women Living With HIV/AIDS - Eastern Africa Region (ICW EA)

55. International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) Africa Regional Office

56. Intergraded Social Development center (ISODEC)-Ghana

57. Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium (KANCO)

58. Kenya Consortium to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (KECOFATUMA)

59. Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA)

60. Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)

61. Kenya Treatment Access Movement- KETAM

62. Liberians United to Expose Hidden Weapons (LUEHW)

63. Malaria and Childhood Illness NGO Secretariat (MACIS), Uganda

64. Mamas Club, Uganda

65. National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), Nigeria

66. National Empowerment Network of PLHAs in Kenya (NEPHAK)

67. National Organization of Peer Educators, Kenya

68. National Youth Council of Malawi

69. National Youth Network of Cote d'Ivoire

70. Noble Missions for Change Initiative, Nigeria.

71. Pambazuka News

72. Pan African Development and Advocacy Programme (PADEAP) - Uganda

73. Pan African Movement-Uganda National Chapter (PAM-U) - Uganda

74. Paulsitive Actions Consultancy (PAC) - Zambia

75. People’s Health Movement Global/ South Africa

76. Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA), Nigeria

77. Positive Women's Network, South Africa

78. Public Affairs Committee (PAC) -Malawi

79. Public Health Community Health Workers Association - Buikwe, Uganda

80. Public Services International (PSI), Global/Africa

81. Regional Network for Equity in Health in East and Southern Africa (EQUINET)

82. Réseau Jeunesse Population et Développement du Senegal (RESOPOPDEV)

83. Rozaria Memorial Trust, Zimbabwe

84. Save the Child Initiative, Sokoto, Nigeria

85. School of Public Health and Family Medicine (University of Cape Town), South Africa

86. Southern Africa AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS)

87. Southern Africa Youth Movement

88. Southern African Aids Trust

89. Southern African Network of Nurses and Midwives (SANNAM)

90. Southern and East African Alliances for Parliamentary Committees for 'Equity in Health' [SEAPACOH}

91. Swaziland Positive Living (SWAPOL)

92. Side by Side Zimbabwe

93. The AIDS Support Organisation-TASO, Uganda

94. The Lower Eastern NGOs Network (LENGO), Kenya

95. The Mvula Trust, South Africa

96. The Uganda Paediatric Association

97. Uganda National Academy of Sciences, Uganda

98. Uganda Network of AIDS Service Organisations (UNASO)

99. Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET)

100. Uganda Network on Toxic Free Malaria Control (UNETMAC)

101. Uganda Water and Sanitation Network

102. Volunteers for Africa, Kenya

103. White Ribbon Alliance - Uganda

104. Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Nigeria

105. Women and AIDS Support Network (WASN) - Zimbabwe

106. Women Alive, Kenya

107. World AIDS Campaign, Africa Region

108. World YWCA - Africa Region

109. World Vision International, Africa

110. Young Activist Initiative, Nigeria

111. Young Activists Organisation, Ghana

112. Youth Challenge Gambia.

113. Youth for Community Academic and Development services (YOCADS), Liberia

114. Youth Intercommunity Network, Kenya

115. Youth Partnership for Peace and Development, Sierra Leone

116. Youth Vision, Zambia

117. Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre & Network (ZWRCN)

CC: H.E. Dr Jean Ping, Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union.


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