Beside the great Lake Kivu, beneath the shadow of an enormous volcano, the Rwanda-DRC border divides the neighboring cities of Gisenyi and Goma. As the day begins, the predominant impression is one of movement, as people walk in either direction through the customs checkpoint, carrying giant bunches of green banana, stacks of nesting plastic chairs, anything that is tradable. They form an unbroken stream of humanity crossing to and fro, the tall border signboards towering overhead.
As we reflect on the promise of the New Year in Africa, the irrefutable link between peace and development has never been clearer after my recent travels.
Earlier this month, I joined leaders from 53 African nations, the United Nations, and the African and European Unions at the Elysee Summit for Peace and Security in Africa to talk candidly about how our countries can work together to maintain and enhance peace.
We talked about what this would mean in practice. For example, we must curb drug trafficking on the continent, increase financing for African peacekeeping operations, fight terrorism, manage borders more securely, include women fully in the political and economic decision-making process, and condemn the intolerable persistence of sexual violence when conflicts do occur. This last measure was strongly endorsed by the First Ladies of the Summit who also met to discuss issues of gender, development, and women’s rights.
The African leaders recognize that for many of these measures to work, economic development must be twinned with public and private investment in business, technology, agriculture, climate-smart policies, and in young people who are fast becoming Africa’s driving force and future. Africa is now the world’s youngest continent and how well we meet the skills needs of our young people will greatly determine the continent’s future.
The U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, is in full swing now, aiming to reach consensus and agreements on addressing the climate challenge by its close on December 9. While there are high expectations, people also realize that this is not an easy issue to tackle. Uncontrolled, man-made carbon emissions, which climbed to a new record of 30 billion tons worldwide in 2010, are at the core of the climate change dilemma. Curbing this trend is not only a daunting multisectoral task that demands sophisticated technical solutions, but its complexity is intensified by disagreements among countries on the size of the problem and what to do about it.
Climate change should matter to all of us, since changing weather patterns, including more frequent extreme climate events (e.g., the 13 warmest years on record have been in the last 15 years) and natural disasters (e.g. in some regions the number of particularly large hurricanes has increased), negatively impact the lives and well being of ALL people—the raison d’être of development. In this context, climate change should be seen as a critical health challenge that demands increased attention and management. Why?
A landmark 2009 report by The Lancet Commission documented how climate change over the coming decades could have a disastrous effect on health conditions across the world. There are both direct and indirect health threats through changing patterns of disease, water and food insecurity, vulnerable shelter and human settlements, extreme climatic events, and population growth and migration.
Thousands of Basotho joined HM King Letsie III last Friday at the inauguration of a state-of-the-art hospital in Maseru, Lesotho. The new hospital, together with its three filter clinics, is bringing modern, high-quality health care to about half a million people—or a quarter of Lesotho’s population—living in Maseru district, and also serving the country as a revamped national referral and teaching hospital.
Prime Minister Mosisili reminded the audience of Lesotho’s history as a British protectorate. “The protectors gave the country its first national hospital in 1957 and named it Queen Elizabeth II after their Queen,” the PM said. “The new hospital is ours and we named it after our Queen, ’Mamohato.”
Why is this hospital so important? It symbolizes a fundamental change in publicly-funded health services in Lesotho. The transformation in the country's health sector is supported by a unique partnership between the government and the private sector that is truly exciting as Africa looks for ways to reach the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, especially those related to saving mothers and children and fighting HIV/AIDS.