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Health promises at the G8 summit:
the challenge is to deliver
of countries approved for Fund support
A PROMISE to give priority to expanding
childrens immunization was among the less-widely reported
outcomes of the summit of the Group of Eight (G8) major industrialized
nations in Okinawa, Japan, which ended on 23 July. But after
a summit widely criticized in the worlds media for its
lack of real progress, all eyes are now on those responsible
for turning promises into action.
"We have the political backing
and promises of some new money: now the real test is
to make something happen on the ground," Andrew Cassels,
senior policy analyst at the World Health Organization,
told Immunization Focus. Cassels said that the WHO had
been strongly "encouraged" by the G8 leaders recognition
that better health is key to reducing poverty, but warned
that there is "a huge agenda of work to be done over
the next few months".
The seven rich nations plus Russia
committed themselves to fight infectious diseases, especially
AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and childhood diseases. In their
final communiqué, they set targets to halve TB deaths
and the burden of malaria disease, and to cut by a quarter
the number of HIV- infected young people, by 2010. The communiqué
does not specify any mechanisms for achieving these targets,
although a further meeting in the autumn will review priorities,
discuss new ways of working and set a timetable for action.
better chance: children like these in Haiti cannot afford
to wait too long for results
New money has been promised from two of the
rich nations: Japan will allocate US$3 billion in assistance to
low-income countries for infectious and parasitic disease control
over the next five years; and the United Kingdom is to double to
US $160 million over the next three years, its development assistance
for improving access to drugs and technologies for major communicable
The European Commission, whose president
also attended the G8 summit, is also understood to have promised
significant new funding although no statement or specified
sum had been announced as Immunization Focus went to press.
The leaders in Okinawa also heard confirmation
that the International Development Association, the World
Banks concessionary lending arm, would treble its provision
of credit to combat AIDS, malaria, TB and childhood diseases,
including immunization, to at least US$1 billion.
Besides setting targets on the three major
killer diseases, the G8 communiqué also sets out a broader
agenda which will need to be addressed if these targets are
to be achieved.
This includes "the development of
equitable and effective health systems, expanded immunization,
nutrition and micronutrients and the prevention and treatment
of infectious diseases". And it commits the G8 nations and
their partners to work "to make existing cost- effective interventions,
including key drugs, vaccines and preventive measures more
universally available and affordable in developing countries".
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