The government of Equatorial Guinea has announced that it will maintain its offer to UNESCO to create a prize to encourage research into illnesses and health problems on the African continent. The government of Equatorial Guinea donated $3 million to UNESCO in 2008 for the creation of an annual Obiang Nguema Mbasogo-UNESCO Life Sciences Prize. UNESCO initially accepted the donation but then declined under pressure from human rights organizations and other critics of the government.
In a statement issued on September 30, the government of Equatorial Guinea said the prize’s “sole purpose is to encourage research on diseases and health problems on the African continent.” The government said that through this proposal, “Equatorial Guinea wishes to share a part of its wealth with other less fortunate states on the continent.”
Equatorial Guinea has made defeat of endemic diseases a priority and has achieved great success in combating malaria, according to the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership. Equatorial Guinea has reduced the incidence of malaria by 57% in four years, according to the most recent report by RBM.
In an address before the United Nations General Assembly in September 2010, Equatorial Guinea’s foreign minister, Pastor Micha Ondo, said the prize was “aimed at the international scientific community and has as a goal the search for solutions and remedies for the great pandemics and diseases that today assault the world in general and the African continent in particular.”
Equatorial Guinea was once one of the poorest countries in Africa, but since oil was discovered offshore in the 1990s, it has experienced significant economic growth and has used its oil income to improve infrastructure, education, health facilities, and housing in the country.
President Obiang’s Horizon 2020 development plan established sustainable development goals for Equatorial Guinea to be completed by the year by 2020 in the areas of potable water, education, health, food, security, communication, infrastructure, tourism development, and environmental conservation.