G8 must focus on healthcare to save millions of lives

Millions of people are dying in the developing world because of poor access to cheap medicines and basic healthcare, the BMA says today (Wednesday, 6 July, 2005) ahead of the G8 summit.

The warning comes as the Association today adds its name to the Make Poverty History campaign, and issues eight challenges to the leaders of the G8 nations.

In a new paper, ‘Improving health, fighting poverty’, the BMA says that one in three people worldwide does not have access to essential medicines for poverty-related diseases such as HIV/ Aids, TB, and malaria. In the poorest parts of Africa and Asia, the number without access rises to half. The paper says it is indefensible that negotiations on trade reforms have been allowed to fall into deadlock while millions die from diseases for which drugs are readily available in richer countries.

Along with such ‘headline-grabbing diseases’ the paper says that developing countries are struggling to overcome illnesses such as sleeping sickness and river blindness that do not affect the developed world. These account for over a tenth of the global disease burden and claim millions of lives each year, but receive little priority in medical research funding.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the BMA, said: “Poverty and ill health are inextricably linked. We can massively increase aid to Africa and write off billions of pounds worth of debts, but we will not make poverty history if we do not enable developing nations to improve their health services.”

Dr Edwin Borman, chairman of the BMA’s International Committee, added: “The G8 nations have an historic opportunity to tackle global poverty, but they will only succeed if they put the health of the world’s poorest people at the heart of their agenda.”

The paper calls on the G8 to:

  1. Provide incentives for developing countries to invest in healthcare
  2. Address workforce shortages in richer countries which are causing them to recruit healthcare workers from the developing world
  3. Maximise trade opportunities so that essential medicines become affordable and available in developing countries on the basis of clinical need
  4. Work with developing countries to maximise the delivery of drugs which are readily available at low cost
  5. Ensure that health and social spending are given a high priority in debt reduction packages
  6. Ensure that resources released by debt relief are subject to independent monitoring so that they are channelled into health and social welfare
  7. Implement the recommendations of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, which recognised water and sanitation as being inextricably linked to poverty reduction and sustainable development
  8. Work towards a concerted programme to increase the provision of safe drinking water and hygienic sanitation for the world’s poorest people

View the full paper at: http://www.bma.org.uk/ap.nsf/content/8fortheg8

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