2009 is a key year for the world’s poorest. The global economic crisis has so far driven more than 50 million people into extreme poverty, particularly women and children. Lessons from previous crisis have shown that setbacks for the poorest take a long time to put right, so the need for action is urgent.
The 2009 report of the Global Campaign of the Health MDGs, Leading by Example – Protecting the most vulnerable during the economic crisis that was unveiled at a luncheon at the UN 15 June, hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Foreign Minister of Norway Jonas Gahr Støre, show the way forward.
Recent actions from governments, international agencies and civil society have started to show impact on the health of mothers and children. This has given hope for accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals 4 & 5 (aiming to reduce child mortality by two-thirds and maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015), the most neglected and impeded of the health goals. However, this progress is now threatened by the most severe global economic crisis since the 1930s, especially in low-income countries.
World Bank analysis suggests that the crisis will trap 53 million people in extreme poverty in the developing world in 2009. Some 200,000 – 400.000 more infants will die every year, more women will die while giving birth.
The Network of Global Leaders including 12 leaders from developing and donor countries are honoring their commitments in the report: All the developing countries are maintaining their health budgets, and some (Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, Tanzania) are continuing to increase them. The four donor countries are maintaining their commitments to ODA and increasing their commitments to health. In United Kingdom, ODA as a percentage of GDP will grow. Norway will exceed its one percent target.
In developing countries targeted action to help the most vulnerable through social protection programmes are being rolled out: conditional cash transfer programmes, economic stimulus packages for small businesses, food protection programmes, and free public health services for the vulnerable creating increased demand for public services. World Bank and WHO refer to lessons from previous crises in Asia showing that the impact of the crisis depends on how governments react to protect health of the poor and vulnerable.
More money is needed to accelerate the progress towards the health goals. New financing mechanisms and private public partnerships are welcomed. Better money is sought for through efficiency gains and consolidations. Costs are cut, and efficiency gains are pursuited. The Global Fund for Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria has committed to cut ten percent of expenditures without cutting program delivery. UN is coordinating work at country level. UN agencies, funds, Gates foundation and the World Bank are grouping for better efficiency
In the report The Network of Global Leaders urge leaders to take measure to protect the vulnerable, especially women and children, from the economic downturn. “The global economic crisis demonstrates how inter-dependent we have become as a global community. This is the time to honour our commitments and invest in our common future”, says the leaders in the signed overview of the report.
UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon writes in the report: “If we balk now in our efforts to achieve the Health MDGs, we will put present and future generations at risk. But if we rise to the challenge, we can set the world on course for long-term prosperity and stability.”
The Foreign Minister of Norway, Jonas Gahr Støre, says: “Important progress has been made to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and childhood diseases. However, efforts to reduce maternal and newborn deaths have so far failed miserably. To make significant strides towards the MDGs by 2015, we all need to invest more, work more closely together and secure systems that deliver on our commitments.”
Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the UK writes in the report: “We are committed to ensuring that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every newborn is healthy and every child has the opportunity to prosper and reach their full potential.”