Health-care at a high cost

International donors made up of private and public sectors in a global partnership to immunise children in poor countries has announced that they will donate $4.3 billion to vaccinate up to 250 million children against  life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhoea, but behind this so called altruistic gesture is the cruel hand of the market and the global privatisation of health-care. If there is something all developing countries should be aware of by now it is to beware of Europeans bearing gifts.

When the Trojans were warned to beware of Greeks bearing gifts the truth of that statement was to be devastating for them as the Greeks presented a wooden horse from which they hid themselves ready to attack their enemies.

The Trojan horse has been used many times by the West as a pretext to invade countries under humanitarian pretences as in Libya, or a threat to world peace as in Iraq.

Now private companies are using preventable human illnesses from which to exploit people for more profit and take over public health-care.

Donors made up of both the public and private sectors has given $4.3 billion to immunise up to 250 million children in poor countries against diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhoea.

The collective of organisations called GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) is supported by Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates who said he would pledge $1 billion over 5 years. Other countries such as Britain, Norway and America have also pledged money to this effort.

While the news is covering this story from a ‘feel good’ angle hidden from public scrutiny are the sinister motives of the alliance.

The World Bank is a member of GAVI which provokes the question. Why is an organisation known for its profit-focused ethos providing cheap vaccinations for children in poor countries?

The global privatisation of health-care

The answer to the question lies in profit. The corporate takeover of global health-care.

According to Martin Khor (Third World Network: Experts attack shift in global health strategy), there has been a decisive shift from public health-care to private health-care in the last three decades.

In 1978 the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF endorsed the Alma Alta Declaration at a global health conference, where poor countries successfully fought for the principle that health was a human right and that the government and local community should actively participate in providing health-care. (Evelyne Hong: Third World Network: Globalisation and the Impact on Health A Third World View: August 2000 p.24-25)

This doctrine soon came under sustained attack from the corporate community for obvious reasons. The Rockefeller Foundation and other corporate organisations led the assault on community health-care.

Instead of the 1978 agreement, health-care in poor countries was to be decided by the World Bank and not the local community or government.

According to Khor, David Werner, author of Where There Is No Doctor, the renowned and best-selling primer on community-based health practice, said that the World Bank’s approach to health-care “…has worsened poverty and further jeopardised the health of the world’s neediest people.”

Dr Mira Shiva of the People’s Health Network, a leading health expert in India said that World Bank policies has only worsened health-care in India. She said, “The problem is that with one hand the Bank’s policies are taking away the health services the government used to provide to the needy, and with another hand the Bank is giving money for health on a loan basis to be repaid.”

WHO is also a member of GAVI, and has been accused of having close ties with the private sector. According to Chakravarthi Raghavan (Third World Network: HAI voices concern over WHO’s ‘partnership’ with private sector: 13 May 2001), Non governmental organisations from over 70 countries voiced concerns over the close relationship that WHO has with pharmaceutical and other corporate companies.

This is the background of some of the partners which make up GAVI and altruism is far from their intentions in regards to the global child immunisation program. It is one step further towards the global privatisation of health-care, and another disastrous step backwards for the children and population of poor countries.

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