AfDB Lends Voice to Human Development Discourse at Rotterdam Global Health Initiative

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The African Development Bank (AfDB) lent a strong voice to the international dialogue on health and development at the recent launch of the Rotterdam Global Health Initiative. The forum, whose theme was  "World Health Stage: Imagining Global Health Anew," brought together renowned health and development professionals from around the world, interested in promoting new ways of thinking through global health challenges and finding new solutions to the gaps that still exist in health and health care.

Speaking in a high level panel, Agnes Soucat, director of human development at the AfDB, delivered a presentation on important current trends in African health and development. Soucat, a physician by training, highlighted the importance of investing more intelligently in research infrastructure in Africa, and in giving considerably more room to the voice of people and communities. Drawing participants' attention to the particular human development plight of Africa, she pointed out that with only 12 percent of the world’s population, the continent now accounted for 57 percent of the world’s maternal deaths, 49 percent of child deaths, and 85% of malaria cases. Africa, she said, was also home to 67 percent of people with HIV, and 26 percent of underweight children in the world.

Soucat stressed that both more money and more value for money were needed to address the challenges. She said there was a high potential for good returns if the right investment was made in such areas as new technologies, knowledge management and social inclusion. She spoke of the need to integrate private spending in policymaking and about the need for external aid to be catalytic: to be focused on results and efficiency gains.

Other speakers included academicians and policymakers like Paul Hunt, physician and professor from the University of Essex and former UN & Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, as well as Adam Wagstaff and Tim Evans of the World Bank and Bangladesh-based development organisation BRAC, respectively.

The Rotterdam Global Health Initiative is a top service network of several Erasmus University institutions, the city of Rotterdam, international non-governmental organisations and business partners. Participants from different backgrounds work together in global health research, education and social valorisation. It encourages innovative orientations to urgently diminish the socio-economic gap in health, improve people’s living conditions world-wide and tackle inequities in power, money and resources which impact on health.