Review of Reclaiming Resources for Health - Aids and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa

Reclaiming Resources for Health
Review: Gregg Gonsalves of ARASA (AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa) Pambazuka News

Back in the late 1970s, at a conference on primary health care in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, health experts made a bold call for “health for all” by the year 2000. Now thirty years later, health for all seems an elusive goal as inequities across the globe deepen the divide between the sick and the well. Nowhere are these great divides more apparent than in Southern and Eastern Africa, which has been hit with tremendous force by HIV/AIDS, and which has exacerbated already existing gaps in health.

AIDS activists have been successful around the globe and in Southern and Eastern Africa in resurrecting the fight for health services—the enormity of the epidemic has led thousands and thousands of people to rise up to claim their right to health.
However, AIDS is only one of the many ailments that face Africans on a day-to-day basis and the future of the AIDS response depends on strengthening access to primary care around the region.  We need “health for all” and we need it now.

Reclaiming the Resources for Health, a new book by the Regional Network for Equity in Health in Eastern and Southern Africa is a godsend and could not come at a better time.
As activists struggling with how to respond to the health crises in Africa, we often have little access to the information and analyses we need to make evidence-based decisions about our work.  Simply put, we often can’t answer the question: what are the policies we should be pushing for to ensure that poor people receive the care they need?

Reclaiming the Resources for Health will become a bible for many of us-it offers analyses of many key issues in an easily-accessible format, digesting complex concepts into pictures, graphs and bullet points, but without leaving out the “meat” of its research from the text.  Thus, the book will be a valuable resource for the average activist, but also those who want to go deeper and more fully understand what is happening in the region.

AIDS activists and health advocates have often been at odds-the former arguing for the exceptionality of the epidemic and the latter arguing for the need to jettison “special treatment” of HIV/AIDS in favor of support for primary health care in general.  One of the innovations of Reclaiming the Resources for Health is that it doesn’t fall into these counter-productive dichotomies and makes a case for the synergies between disease-control programmes and health systems development.

Finally, over the past few decades health and development has become the terrain of experts and technicians, divorced from the struggle for social and economic justice, from the politics of our countries. Reclaiming the Resources for Health, reclaims the field as one about the rights of poor people, about a struggle to see that all Africans receive the care and services they need to lead healthy, productive, happy lives.  The book is also a call for participatory democracy in the governance of health, in the way our countries work.  Instead handing our future over to bureaucrats from donor countries and our own government elites, Reclaiming the Resources for Health makes the case for a truly, people-driven, ground-up process in the design and delivery of services.  We can only hope that this book is read by our presidents, our ministers, our parliamentarians in Africa and in the countries that seek to promote better health on the continent.