Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Culture of Life: Installment XXXVIII

Remember those United Nations Millenium Development Goals? The ones including the commitment of .7% of GDP from the wealthy countries, that Tony Poodle thought he get his friend Incurious George to commit to at the G-8 summit, in exchange for destroying Iraq and helping Iran's clerical rulers gain control of what's left? (What a strategery!) Tony Poodle was disappointed, of course -- Incurious George only cares about the lives of rich people, and those who lack cerebral cortexes.

Now the UN has issued a report on the status of health worldwide in relation to the goals. I'm sorry to have to tell you that it isn't good. According to the World Health Organization,

The report, Health and the Millennium Development Goals, presents data on progress on the health goals and targets and looks beyond the numbers to analyse why improvements in health have been slow and to suggest what must be done to change this. The report points to weak and inequitable health systems as a key obstacle, including particularly a crisis in health personnel and the urgent need for sustainable health financing.

Without more rapid progress on developing health systems, large numbers of people will continue to die from mostly preventable diseases. Annual avoidable deaths in developing countries include: almost 11 million children under five, approximately one million people from malaria, and more than half-a-million women in pregnancy and childbirth. The HIV/AIDS pandemic takes three million lives each year.


WHO says securing sustainable health systems financing is key. A minimum of US$ 30-40 per capita is needed annually to finance a minimum health package, but many poor countries invest far less, on average US$ 10 per capita, and in some countries, as little as US$ 2 per capita. Achieving the health MDGs will be impossible without a considerable increase in investment and commitment from developing and donor countries. The UN Millennium Project recently said that meeting all the MDGs would require an estimated US$ 135 billion of Official Development Assistance, rising to US$ 195 billion by 2015.

“Global political commitment for long-term financing of the MDGs is crucial,” said Dr Andrew Cassels, WHO Director of MDGs, Health and Development Policy. “We must use all potential means of raising resources, including debt relief. We need resources which are predictable and sustained to allow countries to make long-term plans. And health must be at the centre of these efforts.”

Check out the "quick facts" and the press release on the WHO site if you don't have time to read the whole report. Then, if you are so inclined, you might want to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, or your representative in Congress, about the Culture of Life.

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