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Access to Essential Medicines in Africa

In the new Routledge Handbook of African Development, hera partner Aarti Patel discusses problems accessing essential medicines in Africa. The Handbook, edited by Tony Binns, Kenneth Lynch and Etienne Nel, is set to be published this April. The substantial volume presents an extensive overview of African development – past, present and future. It brings together over 60 of the world’s leading scholars to provide a detailed and up-to-date analysis of the key opportunities and challenges that confront Africa, and how such issues are being addressed.

Aarti's chapter titled 'Access to essential medicines in Africa' presents a human story along with current data and context to illustrate the problems managing and accessing essential medicines throughout the continent. Pretty Buthelezi is a 27 year old working as a domestic labourer in Durban, South Africa and she has just found out that she is pregnant.

"Last month, she was sent home by the local clinic without receiving her Depo-Provera injection because the clinic did not have any stock. Pretty is also on medicines for tuberculosis that she gets from the local community health centre. This is not a planned pregnancy. Pretty thought she was safe as she was using the injection, she has not been seeing her boyfriend for too long and her job is also quite new. What went wrong?"

Aarti's account unpacks Pretty's dire situation and the pharmaceutical sectors of African countries, she traces the development of the concept of ‘essential medicines’ and the current link to the global movement for primary health care. She highlights key policy gaps bottlenecking progress and "outdated pharmaceutical laws that fail to provide the regulatory authorities with the legal instruments to address and adapt to new trends. There is a long way to go", she says, "to find sustainable strategies for equitable access."

This is a compelling and important chapter in a great new resource. In the coming weeks, the publication will be ready for distribution and will be shared with the Africa research community. On social media, you can follow and take part in the conversation using the hashtag #AfrDevHandbk.

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