UN: 12 November 2008 – The current financial turmoil, exposing the high level of interdependence among countries, could threaten to derail the momentum towards improving global health, the head of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) warned today.
“It is not yet clear what the current financial crisis will mean for low-income and emerging economies, but many predictions are highly pessimistic,” Director-General Margaret Chan said in a statement. “In the face of a global recession, fiscal pressures in affluent countries may prompt cuts to official development assistance.”
Further, the spectre looms of poorer nations potentially slashing social spending in areas such as health, education and social protection, she cautioned.
The current crisis comes amid efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, which Dr. Chan characterized as “the most ambitious drive in history.”
She noted that a 1978 drive to improve health to boost socioeconomic development was thwarted by a fuel crisis, soaring oil prices and a debt crisis.
“In the international response to these crises, mistakes were made when budgets were shifted away from investments in social sectors, most notably health and education,” the statement said. “Many countries are still suffering the legacy of these errors.”
Thus, it is essential to learn from previous mistakes and offset the current economic upheaval by enhancing investment in health and the social sector, the Director-General stressed.
Stepping up spending is crucial to protect the poor, promote economic recovery, encourage social stability, generate efficiency in health expenditure and building security, she said.
“We cannot afford, in this time of crisis, to squander our investments, to abandon our drive for greater balance in this world, which I firmly believe is a marker of civilized society,” Dr. Chan said, calling on all governments to press ahead with efforts to improve their health systems.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who will attend the summit of the so-called Group of 20 (G-20) nations later this week, said he will press upon world leaders the need to protect the world’s most vulnerable in the face of the turmoil shaking global financial markets.
“We must do everything we can to alleviate the impact of the crisis on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people,” Mr. Ban told reporters yesterday at his monthly news conference in New York.
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Ban to focus on plight of world’s poorest at Washington summit on financial crisis