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A new drive to meet the health commitments of the United Nations' millennium development goals was announced last week, as Britain and other European countries joined many of the world's biggest health agencies and foundations to launch the International Health Partnership. The new partnership aims to simplify and improve the delivery of aid to selected developing countries.
“Our vision today is that we can triumph over ancient scourges and for the first time in history conquer polio, tuberculosis, measles, and then, with further advances and initiatives, go on to address pneumococcal pneumonia, malaria, and eventually HIV and AIDS,” said Prime Minister Gordon Brown, announcing the partnership.
Seven “first wave” countries in Africa and Asia will initially join the scheme: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, Cambodia, and Nepal.
Six donor countries have signed up to the scheme so far: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Norway. Other partners include the World Health Organization; the World Bank; UNAIDS (the joint UN programme on HIV and AIDS); Unicef; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the European Commission; the African Development Bank; and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Speaking at the launch, Douglas Alexander, secretary of state for international development, said that global aid for health has doubled since 2000 but is still not sufficient to meet the millennium goals set in 2000. “This is not about launching a health initiative but is about building health services,” he said.
Too much is spent on disease specific programmes without building health infrastructure, said Mr Alexander. He noted that only 10% of donor support for health care in Zambia goes directly to the government to support comprehensive health systems. The International Health Partnership will focus on raising health budgets, training healthcare workers, and improving access to basic services in the targeted countries, he said.
The fund also aims to simplify the delivery of aid by reducing the number of donors that developing countries must deal with. Currently in Cambodia, for example, 22 different donors provide support for health through 109 separate projects.
The three health commitments of the millennium development goals—reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and combating HIV and AIDS and other diseases—are the furthest off track of the commitments, said Mr Alexander.
Speaking at the launch, Mr Brown said that the goal of reducing child mortality by two thirds by 2015 is now out of reach. He added: “It would not even be met until 2050 unless the pace of progress improves.”
(See Personal View doi: 10.1136/bmj.39335.520463.94.)