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Princess Anne ends visit, deplores lack of health care

[Ethiopia] UK's Princess Anne visits Ethiopia October 2002.
UK's Princess Anne during October visit to Ethiopia (IRIN)

Princess Anne on Thursday urged the international community to do more to help millions of Africans who cannot afford health care. The Princess Royal was speaking at the end of a five-day
trip to Ethiopia, where some 30 million people are too poor to buy vital medicines.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. There are around 48,000 people per doctor, and per-capita health expenditure is less than US $1.35. "It sounds amazing to anybody else from a relatively developed country that you could cope with that kind of coverage," said Princess Anne, who is president of the UK charity Save the Children.

Launching a report by the charity entitled "Too poor to be sick", she said a "huge challenge" facing health care within the country was simply the vast population – some 65 million. "What we hope is that through bringing out reports like this there will be some overseas donors who will see it," added 52-year-old Anne, the only daughter of the British Queen.

The average annual salary in Ethiopia is just $100. It also has the third-highest population in the world living with HIV/AIDS – some 3.5 million people.

The report called for increased funding for the health sector. It said that although the Ethiopian government was spending some 20 percent of its national budget on basic services, the international community was "lagging far behind".

It noted that lack of money was the main reason that families in Ethiopia could not get medical help. It also blamed the "cost recovery" system for drugs, which argues that selling medicines creates a sustainable health-care system. However, the Save the Children report stated that Ethiopia was simply too poor to sustain such a system. "The result is a public health-care system that effectively excludes half the population," it said.

Save the Children also deplored the lack of medical insurance. The charity said that despite attempts to overhaul the health sector in Ethiopia, the majority of the population were still left deprived due to money. "Coping with the costs of illness reveals how a decade of health-sector reforms has not addressed the needs of most Ethiopians," it said. "It demonstrates that the major barrier to health care for the majority of rural Ethiopians is the high cost of drugs."

This is the third time that the Princess Royal has visited Ethiopia, earlier visits having been paid in 1973 and in 1994. The current visit was organised by Save the Children-UK and the British embassy. It coincided with a severe drought that has hit the country, and which the UN says could affect as many as 14 million people by early next year.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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