1412 Alternative Health Mandate For Africa


There is a platform of NGOs advocating for  an Alternative Trade Mandate (ATM) in trade relations between Europe and other nations. The platform, consisting of almost 50 organizations is keen in developing an alternative vision of European trade policy that would be respectful of human rights . and planet first before big business. Though they do not chorus on all the specifics, but, there is a general principle that the present trade laws and policies between Europe and the nations of the south are unjust. They want alternative policies and laws that will lead to fairer trade, not only in goods but also in services.


The Ebola outbreak on the West coast of Africa has revealed the extent to which the Africa's weak health system has been impoverished by the unjust trade laws and policies. It also reveals how sick the global and EU institutions are. The current effort to contain Ebola in Africa is only first aid. It therefore becomes imperative to deal with the scourge by  definitively addressing  Africa's weak health systems.


The world health system is an integral part of world economic policies and the exercise of power. Some pertinent questions that need to be asked, even if we don't have the courage to respond to them are: What is at the centre of our socio-economic policies? Human beings and their needs or profit? What motivates the policies of pharmaceutical companies in the development of medicines? Human health needs or profit? Obviously, when economic policies are motivated by the profit of the trans-national corporations, they take a very big toll on the public health systems.


Ebola was first isolated in 1976 and, almost four decades later, no vaccines or drugs has been developed for it. If Ebola has had its origin in Europe or America, would the story be the same as it is today? If medicines were developed to take care of human health needs rather than for profit, would solutions not have been found in all these years?


The documentary, "Fire in the Blood" tells the story of how western pharmaceutical companies and governments aggressively blocked access to low-cost AIDS medicines for the countries of Africa and the global south. It took the intervention of people with a human heart like Desmond Tutu, Bill Clinton and Joseph Stiglitz to stop the genocide, but injustices against Africa through unjust trade policies and laws have continued to express themselves in the way Ebola and other tropical diseases have been handled by the global and EU institutions.


Consequently, the AEFJN supports the recent joint report of UNDP, UNOHCHR and the WHO that advocates the adoption of human rights approach to trade that would alter the global health system. Pope Francis also spoke of this approach to trade in his recent address to the members of the European Parliament. He stressed that the human person possesses inalienable rights which no one may take arbitrarily, much less for economic reason. He expressed great disappointment that political debates centre on technical and economic questions rather than genuine concern for human beings.


Adopting a human rights approach to trade would prioritize  human  right to life over profit.  Such an approach would address Africa's impoverished health system, food sovereignty, land grabbing, ecology and other economic issues.


The response to the Ebola outbreak has also raised a very serious question about the funding of the World Health Organisation. The WHO is presently funded  by individuals, corporate organizations and governments. In this situation, it is obvious that WHO would incline more towards the intentions and programs of the donor rather than the common good. For example, the experimental Ebola medicine and vaccines have existed for years  but the WHO did not consider it a priority especially when the US government who is major donor no longer judged Ebola to be a potential bioterrorism threat. That is why AEFJN is strongly supporting the call to revert to the mandatory contributions to the WHO that were scraped in the 80's. This will give the WHO the freehand to organize a more effective response to world health matters.


Chika Onyejiuwa

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