NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Report Calls for More Health Aid to Poor Countries

December 21, 2001

Until now, most pleas for increased medical assistance to poor countries have been based on humanitarian or moral grounds. But a new report from the World Health Organization attempts to put specific dollar figures on how disease drains the economies of poor nations.

Here are some of the WHO report's assertions:

  • For just a penny out of every $10 of rich countries' gross domestic product -- combined with sharply increased spending by poor countries themselves -- millions of lives could be saved each year, reaping annual economic benefits in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
  • The lost earning potential of people killed or sickened by malaria amounts to almost 6 percent of sub-Saharan Africa's total 1999 GDP -- and for AIDS it exceeds 17 percent, according to the report's most conservative estimates.
  • Many of the diseases among the world's destitute peoples are the result of preventable or treatable diseases -- such as malaria and tuberculosis, and childhood diseases such as measles, for which cheap and effective vaccines exist, the report says.
  • In the world's wealthiest countries, total per capita health-care spending exceeds $1,900 a year -- while among the world's poorest countries it's a mere $13, and upping that to just $34 could save eight million lives each year.

WHO envisions $66 billion in additional spending, some $28 billion of that coming from low-income countries, with wealthy countries coming up with the balance of $38 billion.

Source: Mark Schoofs, "Study Tallies Disease's Cost in Poor Nations," Wall Street Journal, December 21, 2001; based on "Macroeconomics and Health: Investing in Health for Economic Development," December 2001, Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, World Health Organization.

For text (WSJ subscribers)


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