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African Countries (Medical Sector)

Volume 447: debated on Monday 12 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to build and strengthen the capacity of the medical sector within African countries, with particular reference to measures to retain health workers. (75674)

Strengthening health services in Africa is a DFID priority and we have contributed over £650 million to this since 2000. At Gleneagles in 2005, the UK pushed for a G8 commitment to strengthening African health systems and addressing the human resources for health crisis. Providing long-term predictable financing for expanding basic health services will be a priority for 2006 and beyond.

DFID is tackling both “push” and “pull” incentives for health worker migration. In the UK, DFID has worked closely with the Department of Health to prevent the targeting of developing countries in the international recruitment of health care professionals. A list of countries has been agreed from which the NHS does not actively recruit—including all sub-Saharan African countries. In addition, the Department of Health has brokered a groundbreaking agreement for this code to apply to major players in the UK independent health care sector.

But health worker shortages go beyond migration and international recruitment. There is also migration within countries from rural to urban areas and between countries in Africa, and health professionals also move into non-health careers.

In Africa, DFID has responded to health worker shortages through our support for health systems development. This will help countries deal with the “push” factors within their health systems such as poor pay, housing, training and career progression, job satisfaction and availability of equipment and drugs. For example, in Malawi, where the shortage of health workers is particularly severe, we have provided £100 million support to the health sector of which £55 million is earmarked for the Emergency Human Resources Programme.

DFID is also continuing to work with the Department of Health to further develop the NHS Links programme and the Tropical Health Education Trust (THET) programme of support to health workers from less developed countries practising in the UK.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to help African governments abolish healthcare fees; and what recent assessment he has made of whether the targets agreed at the G8 summit in 2005 will be met. (75685)

DFID strongly supports the removal of official user fees for health, along with other barriers to the poor accessing health services, where governments choose to do so. For example, the UK has committed £14.5 million over five years to the Government of Zambia to support abolition of health user fees in public health facilities. In addition to our ongoing health sector reform programmes, we continue to look for opportunities to support similar policies to remove barriers to the poor accessing care.

DFID publishes a monthly update to the “Gleneagles Implementation Plan for Africa”, which set out the milestones to be reached this year as a step towards delivery of the Gleneagles commitments. Copies of the updated plan are placed monthly in the Libraries of both Houses. DFID also published a detailed report in March this year on the “Implementation of the Commission for Africa recommendations and G8 Gleneagles' commitment on poverty”. Both the Plan and the report can be accessed from DFlD's website (www.dfid.gov.uk).

At an international level, there will be a statement at the G8 St Petersburg summit on 15-17 July 2006 on progress made in delivery of the Gleneagles' commitments on Africa.

At Gleneagles, the G8 agreed that the existing Africa Partnership Forum (APF) should be strengthened to monitor commitments made by Africa, the G8 and other development partners. An APF support unit is being established and is due to publish its first progress report in October 2006.