Threat of swine flu pandemic makes investment in public healthcare critical

“But amidst the current, justified concern about swine flu we should not forget the much bigger threat to poor people posed by malaria, HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality.”
Claire Seaward
Oxfam
Published: 19 May 2009

Millions of poor people across the globe are facing the prospect of a swine flu pandemic without access to potentially life-saving healthcare, leading charities Oxfam, World Vision and Save the Children warned today.

The three charities are calling on the World Health Assembly, taking place in Geneva this week, to adopt a proposed resolution to strengthen primary health care in poor countries.

Claire Seaward of Oxfam said, “The threat of swine flu reveals once again just how vulnerable poor countries lacking even basic healthcare are to a global pandemic.

“But amidst the current, justified concern about swine flu we should not forget the much bigger threat to poor people posed by malaria, HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality. Investing in poor countries’ free public healthcare offers them protection against all of these as well as future health emergencies.”

World Vision CEO Justin Byworth added, “There is a need for national and global leadership to protect health, especially in developing countries where these threats may be less visible but are often more acute"

So far there have been 8829 cases of swine flu worldwide and 74 people have died*. The threat of this pandemic as well as the economic crisis are adding further pressure to already over-stretched health systems in poor countries. Failure to improve access to healthcare is already having a huge cost:

  • Every year 9.2 million children in developing countries die from largely preventable causes
  • Every minute a woman with no medical care dies during pregnancy or childbirth
  • Every hour, 300 people die of an AIDS-related illness

In September 1978 the Alma-Ata Agreement was made, expressing the need for urgent action by Governments, health and development workers, and the world community to protect and promote the health of everyone in the world. But progress is still slow three decades on.