Oxfam and UNISON: International Health Partnership could save millions of lives – if countries give it their full backing

Published: 6 September 2007

The International Health Partnership (IHP), unveiled at Downing Street this afternoon, has the potential to save millions of lives, said Oxfam and UNISON. The IHP, championed by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is a pact between donor and recipient countries which could help developing countries to build functioning health services. The program intends to provide long term and predictable financing which can be used to fund the salaries of desperately needed doctors and nurses. It is designed to coordinate health financing and address the problem of disparate projects.

Oxfam GB's Director Barbara Stocking said: "This initiative will only succeed if enough countries get behind it and if it mobilizes additional aid to provide coordinated and expanded state health provision. Tackling poor health is crucial – it is unacceptable that 30,000 people die every day from preventable diseases and over half a million women die every year from complications in pregnancy or childbirth."  
The initiative is intended to help countries reach the Millennium Development Goals on health which are currently way off course - in particular the goal to reduce maternal mortality by 2015. In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, the odds that a woman will die in childbirth or during pregnancy are 1 in 16 over the course of her lifetime. There is no evidence that this, the highest rate in the world, is declining. In the developed world the figure is 1 in 3,800.
So far, signs that donor countries are behind the initiative are encouraging – Norway, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK have all announced their commitment. Eight developing countries – Ethiopia, Burundi, Mozambique, Kenya, Zambia, Nepal, Cambodia and Mali – will be the first to implement the initiative. 
UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said: "In many developing countries it is public health service workers who are at the forefront of efforts to achieve the Millenium Development Goal health targets. UNISON welcomes this initiative if it will make available desperately needed resources for investment in the Global South's public health sector."
International organizations, including the World Bank and WHO are also supportive of the IHP.
Barbara Stocking said: "The involvement of the World Health Organization and the World Bank is a very positive sign but the true test will be in twelve to eighteen months' time when we will see if donors are actively financing robust national health plans with strategies to train and recruit the health workers so desperately needed to deliver health care for all."


Contact Information

For more information, please contact: Lys Holdoway, Oxfam, +44 (0)1865 47 2484, mobile +44 (0)772146 1342