International Aid Reductions Could Result in Deaths Worldwide, World Bank Official Says
Tens of thousands of preventable deaths could occur as a result of the global economic crisis if countries do not protect programs aimed at providing assistance to low-income countries, Julian Schweitzer -- director of health, nutrition and population at the World Bank -- said on Monday at an Action for Global Health meeting of not-for-profit organizations in London, the Financial Times reports. The meeting was convened to examine the likely downturn in donor support for health programs worldwide in light of the global economic situation. Schweitzer said that initiatives such as direct cash payments to low-income people should be supported by donors and developing countries to reduce the potentially severe impact on health services. He added that imported medical supplies and expensive drugs are at risk of running out in low-income countries as their value increases in correlation with the devaluation of local currencies.
Schweitzer also said the current crisis would have a larger impact than previous ones because it originated in industrialized nations rather than the developing world. He said, "Anyone who thinks there will be a major increase in bilateral funding over the next two years is very, very optimistic." According to the Times, the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has delayed a new round of fundraising, and individual organizations are preparing for budget cuts as donor support is running out. Donor governments -- such as Ireland, Germany and Italy -- have begun to reign in international development assistance in discussions with not-for-profit organizations and international agencies, the Times reports. In addition, some observers say the U.S. likely will reduce financial commitments for initiatives aimed at global health issues such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tropical diseases in light of the economic situation, according to the Times (Jack, Financial Times, 1/26).