Friday, January 02, 2009

A commentary from a former US president and a adviser to the UN secretary

Former US President Bill Clinton and Philippe Douste-Blazy a special adviser to the UN secretary general wrote an opinion piece that appeared in today's International Herald Tribune. They both encourage the wealthy nations to keep their aid promises to help the health of the world's poor.

The financial crisis has undermined our economic security. But it has also taught us that the stability of any one nation depends on its interdependence with others. A functional global marketplace depends on productive workers and healthy consumers in Africa, Asia and Latin America, as much as in the United States and Europe. As we look toward a new year, it is well to remember the importance of keeping the promise to help developing countries fight AIDS and build stronger health systems.

Development assistance is good economic policy. The returns are disproportionately in our favor given that it represents far less than 1 percent of any wealthy nation's budget. Malaria - which still kills more than a million children in Africa annually - was eliminated in the United States in the 1950s, saving more than $2 billion in today's dollars that the disease cost the American economy each year. The cost of wiping smallpox out globally is recouped every month in the economic output gained by freeing the world from its scourge.

These are lessons in what aid can save and a reminder that we should define investments in development assistance by their long-term return, not their short-term cost.

Helping others is good foreign policy. Saving lives is the right thing to do by any moral standard. It is unacceptable that extreme poverty kills 25,000 children daily. Averting this loss of life is a responsibility shared across all faiths and nations.

Aid works. We have made remarkable progress in the 21st century. Better vaccine coverage has averted 3.4 million deaths since 2000. The number of people receiving AIDS medicines has increased tenfold in five years, to 3 million. Among children, we have narrowed the gap in half that time from 1 in 40 in need receiving treatment to 1 in 4. The majority of those children are receiving the commodities they need in part thanks to a partnership between our organizations, which we started together on World AIDS Day in 2006.

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