Bono At Launch WHO Report

24 Dec 2001
Blueprint for Poorest Countries launched by World Health Organisation.

The richest countries must spend an additional $38 billion a year on health aid by 2015 to break a cycle of disease, war and poverty in the world's poorest countries, according to a new report from the World Health Organisation. The report, which argues that the extra money would save 8 million lives each year, is the work of 18 of the world's top economists and public health specialists and maps out a new global blueprint for health. ``We have found that millions of lives can be saved every year with momentous benefits for economic development with a little bit of effort from the rich countries and with partnership with the poor countries,'' said Jeffrey Sachs, a Harvard economist who chaired the World Health Organization's (WHO) Commission on Macroeconomics and Health.

Sachs has been working closely with Bono and others in the Drop the Debt Campaign to cancel the unpayable debts of the worlds poorest countries in recent years. Besides improved health, greater life expectancy and lower birth rates, the spending would yield big dividends in political stability and international security as populations in developing nations become less vulnerable and more productive. The crux of the 210-page report is that improved health is a prerequisite for economic development, a finding which departs from conventional thought, which suggests health will automatically improve on the coattails of economic growth.

``Africa will not be able to get right until the major pandemics, AIDS -- but also tuberculosis and malaria -- are brought under control,'' Sachs said. Poor countries cannot beat these diseases alone. ``They're so poor that they can't address the problems that are making them poor. They're trapped,'' Sachs said in a conference call with reporters.

At a news conference in London, WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland described the report she commissioned two years ago as a turning point for health. ``It is not just another plea for more resources in one key sector. The commissioners argue for a comprehensive global approach to sustainable development with concrete goals and specific time frames,'' she said. Bono told the news conference he hoped the report would mark the moment the developed world woke up to the crisis in poor countries. ``It doesn't actually cost that much to save the world,'' he added. Only a few health problems are to blame for most of the damage, the report said, and urged less developed countries to start national programs to fight them. The list includes HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, childhood infectious diseases, unsafe pregnancies and tobacco related illnesses, the report said, noting effective treatments exist for most of these conditions. The cash would be used for medicines, health centers and infrastructure to administer the programs, the report said. Sachs described the money as a modest effort for rich countries. He said controlling epidemic disease and cutting poverty by 2015 was not naive idealism but an achievable goal. ``Marvelous things can be done. The ratio of the benefits to the cost is so astounding that I think, actually, it is rather inevitable that we will go forward to do the things outlined in this report,'' he said.


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