Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net
If Africa is to adequately address some of the disease burdens that have been choking the continent for years on end, a new external assistance approach for more research is not just needed but urgently. These were the humbling thoughts from the Spokesman for the European Parliament at the second High Level Conference on the EDCTP (the European Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership)
Nirj Deva, the Conservative MEP for the South East of England and Vice Chair of the European Parliament’s International Development Committee warned that a fresh approach is needed towards international aid
“Every 40 Seconds a child living in Sub-Saharan Africa dies from a mosquito bite. There are 35 million people living today with HIV and this number will only continue to grow. Today, right now, people all over the world live and struggle with abject poverty, hunger and ill health.”
And he rhetorically asked, “How could we have allowed this to happen?” “How did we manage to overlook the fact that one billion people are living their lives lacking the most basic access to fundamental healthcare that we take for granted everyday?” “If we do not help who will?
To him, thinking that this challenge can be overcome by the sheer donation of more aid, more money is nothing but a delusion. Instead adoption of a more intelligent strategy that takes into account all the factors at issue: “economic development, improved housing, better education and basic healthcare” is imperative
“Quite rightly my taxpayers will demand why we should increase research funding to eliminate diseases that don’t affect them, especially at a time when money is already tight.”
“The answer is simple and not entirely altruistic: Jobs; jobs created in Europe. 13,000 new jobs have already been created in Europe between 2002 and 2010 through exactly such investments in research into poverty related diseases.
This staggering fact means that every Euro we spend to wipe out meningitis, aids, malaria or TB in third world countries, results in increased employment here at home. It is a win – win that could help us out of the recession.”
Nirj Deva concluded his key-note address on Monday stating: “We live in a rapidly developing world defined by unprecedented innovations and opportunities. Yet, unless we act now, today, we will consign not only those already left behind, but their children as well to a continuing struggle for survival. They will never catch up, occupied instead by the need to find water, food, shelter, basic sanitation and medicine. We will have failed them.”
The high level conference that was widely attended by ministers from Europe and Africa as well as notable public and private stakeholders such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, called for a rise in funds towards the EDCTP, an increase from 400 million to 1 billion Euros