New Plan Aims to Tackle Global Poverty, Healthcare

LONDON, England ~ British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have announced details this week of a new global initiative aimed at boosting healthcare for the world’s poorest nations.

Ahead of talks at Brown’s Downing Street office in London on Wednesday, the pair said “urgent action” was needed to tackle diseases like HIV/AIDS and cut child and maternal mortality rates in developing countries.

Tackling disease and reducing child and maternal mortality rates are among the eight UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed by the international community in 2000 that aim to reduce world poverty by 2015.

But a midterm report on the goals has assessed that progress is “off-track” with those on health the least likely to be met.

An international health partnership to ensure that overseas aid is better targeted at the main health needs of impoverished countries will be officially launched on September 5, they said in a joint statement.

The partnership will involve Britain, Germany, Canada and Norway, as well as the World Bank and the World Health Organisation and aims to improve access to health services in poorer nations as well improve their effectiveness.

Brown and Merkel said that although overseas aid had increased in recent years, funding had targeted specific areas only and not built strong, sustainable healthcare systems vital for combating ill health.

International assistance was “over-complex” and “fragmented,” they added, while a lack of health workers, clinics, supplies of essential medicines and financing were hindering more rapid progress in improving the situation.

To address the problem, they said countries, international health agencies and other bodies would work with “country-owned” plans linking donor support to national plans and co-ordinate their efforts on the ground.

In doing so, they hope to create “sustainable health systems which deliver improved outcomes,” the leaders said in a statement released to the media.

“We see this as a critical step in our call for an international mobilization of effort to achieve the MDGs that will build year on year until 2015,” they added.

“Our efforts must bring together the private sectors, NGOs, faith groups, international agencies and governments in a new partnership to reduce poverty, improve health and provide opportunities for the poor across the world.”

The announcement follows a pledge by the Group of Eight richest nations in Germany in June to provide US$60 billion to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria in Africa as well uphold an earlier promise to boost development aid.

Brown flagged up the international health partnership plan in a speech to the United Nations last month when he called for countries to uphold their MDG commitments.

“There is no greater cause than that every child in the world should be able to benefit from the best medicine and healthcare,” he said.

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