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Japan an exemplary health partner with Africa

by Jakaya Kikwete

Special To The Japan Times

In April, I launched the Tanzania HIV and AIDS and Malaria Indicator Survey report, which examines key health indicators in my country. The findings of the study are heartwarming and inspiring. The results point to a turning tide against HIV and AIDS and malaria infections in Tanzania. They indicate that we are making steady progress in the fight against these diseases. Our investments in a healthier future for our people are bearing the desired fruits.

The survey found that the prevalence of malaria has declined to 9 percent from 18 percent in 2007. HIV infections have declined to 5 percent (for people between the ages of 15 and 49) from 7 percent recorded in a 2003-2004 study.

Likewise, recent data on under-5 and maternal mortality show a declining trend. The infant mortality rate declined from 99 per 1,000 live births in 1999 to 51 per 1000 live births in 2010. Corresponding data for under-5 children indicate a decline from 147 per 1,000 live births in 1999 to 81 per 1,000 live births in 2010. The maternal mortality rate declined from 578 per 100,000 live births to 454 per 100,000 live births.

These successes are very much a function of the dedicated efforts by Tanzania’s health workers, the investments made by our government and the generous support from our international partners, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Tanzania is the second-largest recipient of grants from Global Fund with total approved funding of $1.3 billion.

Over the years, Global Fund has become one of Tanzania’s key partners in the fight against malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Support from Global Fund in the fight against these diseases has been instrumental in our achieving the encouraging results we have registered so far. Indeed, many lives have been saved and will continue to be saved.

I would like to acknowledge and thank the government and the people of Japan for being a dependable supporter of our endeavors in this regard. Japan has been supporting us directly through the work of JICA and Japanese volunteers. Japan has also supported us through investments from its private sector such as that by Sumitomo Chemicals in building a factory producing mosquito nets in Arusha.

Indirectly Japan has made a huge contribution as one of the largest contributors to the Global Fund budget.

Japan seems determined to contribute to African development and is doing so in many ways. Japan’s support to African nations, including through Global Fund, has helped save millions of lives — proof that when we all come together to fight deadly diseases we can achieve great things.

This is the message that I conveyed during my participation in the Tokyo International Conference on African Development — a unique platform launched in 1993 to promote high-level policy dialogue among African leaders and development partners. It encourages the principle of African “ownership” and international partnership.

Although the prevalence of HIV in Tanzania has decreased to 5 percent, we need to do more to accelerate that pace to bring it down to 3 percent in the next five years. Ultimately our goal is to have an AIDS-free generation as early as possible.

We know very well that this will demand more commitment from my government, especially in increased domestic financing for health. We are committed to doing precisely that. We are already doing it. Since 2005, we have increased the health-sector budget sixfold from 271 billion Tanzanian shillings ($169.4 million) to 1.5 trillion shillings ($937.5 million). The health budget has moved from sixth place to third after education and infrastructure.

We are determined to do more. Additionally we will continue to seek more bilateral and multilateral support from our development partners including institutions such as Global Fund.

With increased domestic financing and continued support from the international community, Tanzania and, indeed, all African nations should be able to reverse the prevalence of diseases in Africa. We will be able to prevent and cure diseases, and reduce the negative impact of disease on African economies and on the welfare of the people of our dear continent.

All over Africa, diseases prevent adults from being productive members of their communities, and children from attending schools and growing into healthy and productive adults.

I strongly believe that our efforts, supported by our development partners, coupled with scientific discoveries and improved knowledge in epidemiology, will help us to permanently turn the tide against diseases in Africa.

Defeating the deadly diseases devastating the people of Africa will mean boosting opportunities for healthier and wealthier African people and the world.

Jakaya Kikwete is president of Tanzania.