Has the G8 delivered on its Africa promise?

image captionThe G8 agreed a $50bn boost to aid

In July 2005, leaders of the G8 group of developed nations promised a $50bn (£33bn) aid-boost to poorer countries. Five years on, Ian Brimacombe of BBC World Service explores how the decision affected the lives of some people in Africa.

It was 12 years ago when Ethiopian cancer survivor Fantu Shoamare had her first cancer scare.

She had just had a baby and noticed a lump while breastfeeding. Her family raised money for her treatment, and she was able to arrange to receive drugs from abroad. They were not available inside Ethiopia at the time.

"I was very very lucky to get the medicine, to get the specialist treatment," she says.

"I am lucky. God helps me. Now I am OK."

Mrs Shoamare has been cancer free for six years, and in that time, she says, she has noticed significant improvements in cancer care in Ethiopia.

"Now patients can get medicines for chemotherapy inside Ethiopia," she says. "If they have money, they can buy the drugs. In my time they couldn't."

More widely available drugs are just one part of the improving picture of cancer treatment in Ethiopia. Patients can now receive some medicines for free, and Ethiopians have much better access to information about cancer.

Funding shortfall

G8 assistance has played a big role in the changing picture.

Five years ago this week, world leaders gathered at the Gleneagles G8 summit in Scotland and vowed to boost aid for the world's poor by $50bn (£33bn) by this year.

Half of the increase, $25bn (£16.5bn), would go to Africa, they said. They also agreed to cancel $40bn (£26bn) of debt owed by 18 of the poorest countries in the world, most of them in Africa.

But the money provided has fallen short of what was promised.

According to aid groups, G8 countries will deliver 44% of their combined commitments to sub-Saharan Africa by 2010 - or $11bn (£7.2bn) of the $25bn (£16.5bn) that was promised.

There has been plenty of criticism directed at the G8 for not meeting its targets. Italy, in particular, has been criticised for reducing its development assistance from 2004 levels.

Despite the shortfall, overall assistance still represents a large increase in funding from the G8 to Africa.

"Aid and debt cancellation mean developing country governments have more money to spend on health services," says Laura Kelly from the international aid campaign group ONE.

"You've seen huge increases in HIV/Aids treatment," she says.

"There were only around 50,000 people receiving antiretroviral drugs in 2002. That's gone up to nearly half a million in 2007.

"And malaria is another area where we've seen big advances - with deaths halving across the continent."

Reflecting on Fantu Shoamare's story she says: "That's an example of where you're seeing improving health systems.

"So you've got the nurses, you've got the doctors who can identify symptoms and identify the cancers and deliver the drugs to the patients who need them."

Dr Anne Reeler agrees. She is the chief technical officer of Axios International, a health consultancy, and has worked in cancer care in Ethiopia for the past 20 years.

"A lot has been achieved in multiple areas, particularly in terms of infectious diseases," she says.

For the past five years, Dr Reeler has been working at Addis Ababa's Tikur Anbessa, the only hospital in Ethiopia with a cancer specialist unit.

"When we came here, there was no functioning mammography, there was no treatment available," she says. "There was one wonderful man - a dedicated oncologist - but he was all alone."

She says the diagnostic capacity at the hospital is being built up gradually and many of the improvements are down to international assistance.

"I think we have done something profound for the health care systems. We're on the right path," she says.

The other major area that has benefited from G8 funding is education in Africa.

According to ONE, the additional funds have brought about "dramatic progress" in learning, helping to put more than 40 million African children into school.

"The donors were coming together in support of African priorities," says Ms Kelly, "and they included things like eliminating school fees and things like the cost of having to pay for uniforms or pay for books."

More children in schools

One country that is benefiting is Uganda.

Primary education there has been free for a family's first four children since 1997. But fewer than half of Uganda's children go to secondary school because many parents can't afford the fees.

For three years now, the Ugandan government has been funding a scheme that allows more than half a million children access to free secondary education.

Under the scheme, children who receive good marks in primary school can have their secondary education paid for by the state.

According to the education ministry, 1,471 schools are taking part in the programme.

Kololo High School in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, is one of the participating schools. Its number of students has tripled since the programme was introduced.

So high is the demand, the headmaster has introduced "double-shifting", with some students attending in the morning and others in the afternoon. Class sizes have increased.

The children are happy to be able to continue their secondary education.

"Because I started this programme, my life in my family has improved," says 17-year-old Teddy Nakakande.

"We can afford lunch," she says, as her parents do not have to pay a fee for her courses.

"The money we have saved, we use to improve everything at home so that life is good.

"I was seeing myself as somebody who was nothing, but now I am seeing my future."

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