Non-governmental organisations met recently at the Financing and Action for Global Health Conference in London and called on European donors to improve their development policy and make more money available to achieve the health Millennium Development Goals.
The conference, organised by a coalition of partners and led by Action for Global Health, showcased cutting edge research, practice and policy on global health.
Dr David McCoy of University College London stated "At the mid point of the Millennium Development Goals and the launch of the International Health Partnership, the UK Government has shown leadership in encouraging other donors to better coordinate their funding for health. It is no longer a question of whether to invest in strengthening health systems or financing for specific diseases, like HIV/AIDS. Both need attention.”
The conference heard from health experts from the North and South. Weak health systems - the lack of health workers, clinics, essential medicines, new health technologies and equal access to health services, particularly for women - are real impediments to economic development in many settings.
Juliana Lunguzi, representative of the National Association of Nurses, Malawi, said “It has been good to see health advocates from across the board – from pediatricians, to women’s rights activists, to those concerned with the public health impact of tuberculosis – come together to find common solutions. One of these solutions is ensuring adequate numbers of trained and remunerated nurses on the ground to actually do the work.”
Participants agreed that whilst initiatives like the International Health Partnership do throw up new opportunities for action on global health, many questions remain unanswered.
The health MDGs will continue to remain unmet and health systems under developed, without substantial increases in financing from European and other donor governments. It is unclear who will make available the US$27 billion that WHO estimate should be available this year – let alone how future financing gaps will be filled. The role civil society plays in monitoring health services in developing countries does not receive the support it requires. Without financing and technical support to this end who will scrutinise health sector spending and ensure that services are truly accessible to those who need them most – the poor and the marginalized? How will the UK Government operationalise their commitment to health when they are slashing back on their technical and professional staff in the UK and in recipient countries?
Clearly Europe can do more. Health advocates who attended the conference will be working to see that they do.