Illness impedes development. Curing and preventing the diseases of poverty is an effective way of fighting poverty. In the poorest countries, such as sub-Saharan Africa, people primarily fall ill and die from diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases. Development of antibiotic resistance can make the diseases completely untreatable. That is the opinion of Gunilla Källenius and Claes Ånstrand at the World Infection Fund.
All people should have access to health care. It was long believed that poverty diseases (especially infectious diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases) would disappear if the standard of living in a country was raised. But it is also the case that diseases make it difficult or prevent people from rising out of poverty. Repeated and prolonged illnesses prevent schooling and education. Illness can make the family's only income disappear. Healthcare costs can put a family helplessly in debt.
Recently, the largest ever compilation of the state of health in the world has shown that it has improved in several ways compared to what it looked like in 1990. New disease patterns in certain parts of the world are associated with people becoming richer. Mortality associated with poverty has decreased globally, such as diarrhea and malnutrition. Most of all, the number of children dying from measles has decreased, thanks to successful vaccination campaigns.
But in the poorest countries, such as sub-Saharan Africa, people still fall ill and die primarily from the diseases of poverty. HIV and AIDS as the cause of death have increased sharply in twenty years. Malaria and tuberculosis are declining, but only at a slow pace. Development of antibiotic resistance can make the diseases completely untreatable.
Since the poorest are most important to support, health issues must be an important part of our development cooperation.
Intensive discussions are currently taking place on how to fight poverty after 2015 (MDG post-2015) when the millennium goals on poverty, health and the environment must be met. It is already clear that some of the Millennium Development Goals will not be achieved by 2015. These include Millennium Development Goals 4, to limit infant mortality by two thirds, 5, to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters and 6, to stop the spread of HIV / AIDS, malaria and other diseases . The only goal that has been achieved so far, which indirectly affects health, is an intermediate goal in goal 7, to halve the number of people who do not have access to clean drinking water.
That is why it is important that we do not lose sight of the goal of fighting the diseases of poverty, especially among women and children.
Health assistance has always been an important part of Swedish development assistance, and we have long experience and great competence to contribute. Sweden should therefore contribute to:
1) Build sustainable health care systems in countries with the greatest need
2) Put the health of women and children in focus
3) Develop effective methods to cure and prevent diseases of poverty
Gunilla Källenius, board member, World Infection Fund and Professor at Karolinska Institutet
Claes Ånstrand, Chairman, World Infection Fund