From Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia):
Ethiopia: Maternal, Child Health Budget 80 Percent Below Maputo Plan
26 July 2010
An open letter signed by 10 African celebrities, written to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi as well as many African leaders, called the continent’s performance in maternal and child health scandalous for the continent, the future of which lies with women and children.
The letter, signed by the likes of Haile Gebrselassie, record setting athlete; Liya Kebede, model and actress who started a foundation under her name; and Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of South Africa, was sent to about 25 heads of state, addressing each individually.
The letter was sent to them ahead of the 15th African Union Summit to be held in Kampala, Uganda for three days under the theme “Maternal, Infant, and Child Health and Development in Africa,” from July 26, 2010.
The letter, written under the logos of seven NGOs, including Oxfam and Save the Children, deplored the continent’s performance in the fourth and fifth Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality by 2015.
“We call on you to show leadership at the summit and ensure that, collectively, Africa’s leaders extend the Maputo Plan of Action,” the letter, addressed to Meles, read.
The Maputo Plan of Action on the Continental Policy Framework on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights was adopted in 2005 by African heads of states in Abuja, Nigeria. These 25 leaders committed to prioritising sexual and reproductive healthcare through programmes such as increasing access to family planning resources, reducing gender based violence, and expanding access to health education.
The letter called on Meles to ensure that the promise to spend at least 15pc of the country’s budget on healthcare, made in Abuja, were kept.
Ethiopia is far from achieving that figure. It spent 2.1 billion Br, only 3.2pc of the national budget of the just ended fiscal year and plans to spend 3.1 billion Br, 3.9pc of the budget this year.
The extension of the Maputo Plan of Action, which expires this year, is one of the issues slated to be discussed at the summit.
“We call on you to seize this opportunity and keep your promise to Africa’s mothers and children,” the letter said. “No woman should die giving life. Every child should survive. Everyone has a role to play.”
It is certainly courageous of Ethiopian celebrities Haile Gebrselassie and Liya Kedebe to sign this letter, and of Addis Fortune to mention it, as dictator Meles Zenawi does not like criticism.
What the letter and Addis Fortune do not mention, maybe because of justified fear about how the Ethiopian dictatorship might react, is why Ethiopia spends so little on health care. Because it spends so much on secret police and soldiers to oppress dissidents in Ogaden province and elsewhere; on armed forces threatening, once again, war with Eritrea; and on war in Somalia (officially, the Ethiopian army’s role in Somalia is finished; in practice, it is not yet).
It would not be fair to blame all that oppression and warmongering, which indirectly, by under-funded health care, kills Ethiopian women and babies, for 100% on one individual, Meles Zenawi. Mr Zenawi was an ally of the George W. Bush administration in the USA, and, as such, he entered the bloody war in Somalia. And the Pentagon still considers him an ally.
By the way, the political Right in the USA hates the Maputo Plan of Action, as it would give women more control about their own bodies. George W. Bush’s US allies are lobbying against the Maputo Plan.
Ethiopia is denying opposition supporters food, loans and government services in a widespread effort to suppress political dissent, Human Rights Watch warned on Tuesday: here.
Omo River dam threatens traditional farming & culture in Ethiopia: here.
The African Union (AU) has agreed to send at least another 2,000 soldiers into war-ravaged Somalia and has loosened rules of engagement for the Ugandan and Burundian intervention force there: here.