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Opinions: Harper And Global Health; Health Workers In Developing Countries; Funding Commitments; DDT, GMO Use

Canadian Prime Minister Should Use G8 To Press For Global Health

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper “can use the relatively intimate setting of the G8’s Muskoka meeting to press for a renewal of the G8’s commitment to better health for Africans, and help the developed world be truly accountable for its promises,” the Globe and Mail writes in an editorial. “The G8’s failure to fully fund the historic aid commitments to Africa it made at the 2005 Gleneagles summit” puts the future success of the developing world at risk, the editorial states.

“Mr. Harper’s initiative in pledging $1-billion for childbirth-related health programming is welcome. But maternal and child health also benefits from fighting AIDS (the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age), malaria (a disease that attacks children) and TB (a highly virulent disease). As G8 host, [Harper] should set time aside to push his peers to re-commit to the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria]. The world’s most developed nations must live up to their promises to the world’s neediest” (6/24).

World Leaders Should Invest In Job Creation In Health Sectors Of Developing Countries

Ahead of the G8 and G20 summits in Canada, Jack Chow, former U.S. ambassador on Global HIV/AIDS and former assistant director-general of the WHO for AIDS/tuberculosis/malaria, calls on world leaders to invest in “job creation in the health sectors of developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where half the people survive on less than $1.25 a day, according to the World Bank” to help “reinvigorate the global economy,” in an Ottawa Citizen opinion piece.

“Creating a stimulus package for hiring and training a global health work force at a variety of skill levels can accomplish multiple objectives: disease reduction, job creation, and economic stability,” Chow writes. “This strategy benefits donor countries by potentially mitigating the long-term cost of foreign aid and reducing the risk of disease-prone nations incubating new, transportable epidemics such as the deadly influenza variants,” he says.

Chow reflects on how the G20 can tap countries to support such an effort. One such strategy is that “[c]ountries with deep foreign currency reserves, such as the oil-rich and Asian exporting nations, should be called upon to allocate a reasonable portion of their reserve earnings to assistance programs.” He writes, “It will be politically difficult for these leaders to support job creation outside of their own countries, but the disease-poverty cycle can be broken in a way that contributes to overall economic stability and health security” (6/23).

Canada Should Increase Its Funding Commitment To Global Fund, Reinvigorate G8, G20 To Meet Prior Commitments, Global Responsibilities 

In a Globe and Mail opinion piece, James Orbinski and James Fraser, co-founders of Dignitas International, reflect on the threat of G8 nations retracting the commitments promised at Gleneagles in 2005 to ensure universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment by 2010: “Reduced G8 funding is already leading to systemic drug shortages, with deadly consequences for those receiving or awaiting treatment, devastating overstretched health systems, and threatening global health security,” they write.

The authors note how drug shortages can lead to increased resistance to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis drugs – an issue that they stress threatens global security – before writing, “The moral, legal and security arguments that led the G8 and the U.N. General Assembly to commit to universal access to HIV treatment by 2010 have not changed. A funding retreat by the G8 is shortsighted in light of the tremendous progress the world has made and the threat that still looms.”

“This October, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will oversee the 2011-2013 Global Fund Round 10 replenishment meeting in New York. To achieve universal access targets by 2015, $20-billion (U.S.) in pledges is needed. There is a shortfall of $11-billion,” the authors write, before calling upon Canada to “increase its funding to 5 percent of the Global Fund’s budget, or $1-billion … This would enable Canada to be the leader that it is capable of being, and to work to bring both the G8 and the G20 to meet their prior commitments and global responsibilities” (6/23).

DDT, GMO Can Help Africa Fight Malaria, Hunger 

An opinion piece by Temba Nolutshungu of the Free Market Foundation in South Africa in the Washington Times looks at how Africans “suffer from the European Union’s bureaucratic ideology known as the ‘precautionary principle'” in relation to use of DDT and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). “Although there is no outright global ban, DDT use is inhibited by unnecessarily restrictive limits on residues in agricultural imports to the EU. Every year, about a million people – most of them children – die from malaria. Many of those deaths could be prevented if the residue limits were raised to more realistic – and still safe – levels.” The author also comments that “Africans pay a price” for EU’s ban on GMOs “in lower crop yields and malnutrition while North Americans happily consume vast quantities of GMOs with no known harm.”

Nolutshungu concludes that “as long as the EU – and maybe the United States – continue to legitimize unfounded fears, the uptake of GMOs, herbicides, insecticides and other important modern agricultural technologies will remain limited. The precautionary principle will harm not only the developed economies that impose them but also the developing world. Before they ban new technologies because of hypothetical, unproven risks, wealthy nations should stop to consider the very real effects of precautionary policies on the poor” (Nolutshungu, 6/22).

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