July 21, 2009
Cape Town, South Africa -- In an unprecedented and historic show of unity, advocates for all the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have charged the leaders of G-8 countries with reneging on their commitments to health by chronically underfunding programs for AIDS, TB, maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, and health systems strengthening across the globe.
The coalition of advocates demands that world leaders make the health of men, women, and children around the world as important a priority as the health of banks, Wall Street investment firms, and auto companies and calls on donor governments to partner with civil society to strengthen accountability from recipient countries.
"We are already seeing people die and families forced further into poverty by healthcare costs as a direct result of this global economic crisis," said Dr. Lola Dare, Executive Secretary of the African Council for Sustainable Health Development (ACOSHED). "The fickle policy decisions of world leaders and national government are further compounding these problems. The global health community is speaking with one voice on this urgent need. We can no longer permit the world to be distracted by false choices -- between one disease and another, between a mother's life and that of her children, between treating sick people now, in their home communities, and building sustainable health systems for the future to deliver basic health care that can save lives."
"Investments now in HIV and health broadly are fundamental prerequisites for global development," said Julio Montaner, President of the International AIDS Society.
The global economic downturn is leading to significant backsliding in governments' commitments to funding for health programs in developing countries. "The rhetoric by heads of state at this year's G-8 summit was, as usual, noble and righteous. They produced statements about their support for health systems strengthening, maternal and child health, and integrated health service delivery," said Gregg Gonsalves, a co-founder of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition. "But, as has come to be the unfortunate pattern, the financial commitments made by the most powerful of the world were unacceptably low or worse, not made at all."
"At least a million additional lives are in jeopardy because of this economic crisis. We are calling for the world's richest countries to support their words with concrete action and back up their promises with the money necessary to fulfill them," said Ann Starrs, President of Family Care International.
"We estimate that to meet the promised health needs of less developed countries would take an increased investment by high income countries and developing country governments of around $150 billion a year.1 The AIG bailout alone was $170 billion," said Brook Baker, Professor of Law at Northeastern University and Policy Analyst for the US-based Health GAP. "Or to look at it another way, for 36% of what countries have spent in one year on direct bailouts of corporate and financial interests, rich countries alone could fully fund the additional $944 billion that we estimate is needed from now through 2015 to meet all MDG and health systems strengthening needs in less developed countries." Developed countries have so far contributed over $2.5 trillion in direct bailouts and over $6 trillion in 'guarantees'.2
"All we seem to be getting from the bailouts so far is record level projected bonus payouts for Wall Street," added Gonsalves. "But we know with one hundred percent certainty that many more people will die in 2010 because of this bailout, probably 100 times as many as the 13,000 Goldman Sachs employees who are projected to get compensation of over $500,000 each."
The coalition of global health advocates demands that each G-8 country pays 100% of the commitments they have made for 2010 including: for Universal Access to AIDS treatment, prevention, and care; full funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; as well as additional commitments made for maternal child health and health systems strengthening.
"The fact that governments have quickly passed legislation to bailout the banks and companies that created this global financial crisis proves that there is sufficient capital to support those whose lives have been most affected by the crisis. What is needed is sufficient will," said Donna Barry of Partners In Health in the USA.
The U.S. President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has been flat funded for three years; the G-8 countries have underfunded the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria by $4 to 9 billion; donor country promises to fund maternal and child health and sexual and reproductive health programs are wholly insufficient to the task; and no G-8 country has made sufficient commitments to contribute significantly to expanding and strengthening the health workforce, to supporting community-based prevention and care, or to strengthening health systems and health infrastructure.
"The global economic situation cannot be used as an excuse to renege on financial commitments," said Kieran Daly, Executive Director of the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO). "Hundreds of billions of dollars, pounds, and euros magically appeared to bail out global financial markets and corporations. We do not want to believe that this bailout came at the cost of millions of human lives."
"The only way we will make real progress on meeting the MDGs is for donor countries to engage with developing country governments, and for developing country governments to commit financially and politically to revitalizing their national health systems to meet the challenges of HIV, sexual and reproductive health, maternal health, child survival and other health problems. Governments also can not forget that before 2015, they have other goals to meet, including UNGASS-AIDS 2010 and the Cairo Plan of Action," said Alessandra Nilo of GESTOS in Brazil.
Leaders representing advocates for more than 25 organizations focused on AIDS, TB, maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health and primary health care came together in Stony Point, New York in May 2009 to initiate a partnership devoted to advocating for the universal right to health. A Declaration of Solidarity for a Unified Movement for the Right to Health was drafted at that meeting, and is being endorsed by health and human rights organizations around the world.3 This growing union of advocates, many of whom are signed on to this document, is now working in solidarity to hold the powers of the world accountable.
"We are all health and human rights advocates and we refuse to be pitted against each other," said Paula Akugizibwe of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, "MDGs are simply categories of different needs that exist within the same human being. The same mother who needs ART to prevent the transmission of HIV to her infant also needs adequate nutrition and her children need clean water and immunizations. The same community that needs infection control for TB also needs it for influenza; and insufficient financial and human resources for health may prevent them from having any of these rights fulfilled."