Earlier this week, leaders of over 50 African countries packed their bags and headed home from the African Union (AU) Summit in Uganda. So after months of planning for the event, I can take a break and reflect back on what happened at the meeting!
This year, the AU Summit focused on maternal and child health, two of the Millennium Development Goals that are furthest of track. It’s a scandal that during the three days of the meeting, 2,000 women and 37,000 children will have died in Africa, mostly from preventable causes. This Summit was a key opportunity for African leaders to commit to doing something about it.
Oxfam joined forces with a range of partners including Fair Play for Africa and SAfAIDS, to pressure governments in the weeks leading up to the meeting. Alongside the usual rallies, NGO forums and lobby meetings, Oxfam also organized a mock debate, the first stunt of its kind at the AU Summit, where actors used puppets and masks to play the role of Presidents in Africa to a lively audience and the media.
On Sunday, musicians from across the continent performed an all-day concert to demand ‘health care for all’. Legendary South African star Yvonne Chaka Chaka – the Princess of Africa – headlined the event and ended with a clear message to African leaders: “This continent is for all of us who live in it, not just you.”
So what did African governments agree this week?
- Leaders have re-committed to spending 15% of their government's budget on health – the so-called Abuja target was first promised nine years ago but only a few countries have reached it.
- They pledged to increase the number of community health workers in their countries and to make health care free for mothers and children.
- And they’ve committed to setting up an AU task force on maternal and child health that will track progress on meeting targets.
These are fine words, but they will be meaningless if they are not backed by concrete actions and funding for health care in African countries. If we are really going to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, we must stop talking and start acting.
It’s been a privilege to see the impact that our campaigning has achieved; many of the recommendations proposed by our coalition have been adopted by African leaders. But our biggest challenge is yet to come – to hold our Presidents truly accountable for their promises this week.