G8 infectious disease focus6th July 2006
World health is at the top of the global agenda thanks to this year’s G8 summit focus on global health; the leaders of the world’s eight richest nations, the Group of Eight, are set to focus on infectious diseases and help to ensure disease threats are tackled at the very highest level.
AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and vaccine-preventable diseases slow economic development, perpetuate poverty, and threaten security in large parts of the world.
At last year’s meeting in Gleneagles, the G8 pledged to write off most of the multilateral debts in 18 of the world's poorest countries, double aid to Africa, and increase investment in health.
Leaders also pledged they would reach as close as possible to universal access to AIDS treatment by 2010, as well as reduce HIV infections to produce an AIDS-free generation in Africa.
Through their focus on health, the G8 led to strengthening the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and created the Global Fund, worth $9 billion. Set up to prevent, diagnose and treat infectious diseases, the fund now has active programmes in 131 countries saving an several million deaths from preventable diseases.
History shows the might of the G8 in global health matters does work. Focused efforts, and more than $2 billion funding from G8 countries, has helped make the eradication of polio a possibility, with the number of polio endemic countries now numbering just four.
The new International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm) worth $4 billion is expected to prevent 10 million deaths – including five million children - over the next decade through developing immunisation programmes where they are lacking.
Now ahead of the summit in St Petersburg in mid-July, leaders of four key health policy and financing organisations - the World Health Organization (WHO), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the GAVI Alliance - urged the G8 to use their power and influence to continue to improve the health and lives of people in the world's poorest countries.
Lobby groups want to see a commitment to comprehensive health services which will bring a range of separate programmes, including vaccinations, together. G8 leaders also need to address the world shortages of four million health workers to achieve these plans.
Alongside their commitment to help the world’s poorest countries improve health, G8 countries have developed national plans to tackle pandemic influenza, following recent fears of a worldwide outbreak. Work is underway to continue efforts to eradicate disease and improve the world's response to outbreaks, through meticulous early warning systems which will make it impossible for outbreaks to slip by unnoticed.
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