Talking Health in Geneva

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Last week I attended a high-level taskforce meeting on climate change and innovative financing that was part of the 62nd World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. This precedes a big conference in Paris this week on innovative financing for health.

Dr Philippe Douste-Blazy, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the UN in charge of Innovative Financing, proposed the creation of the I-8 Group for the Millennium Development Goals, which brings together United Nations agencies and civil society representatives.

The 8 finance mechanisms are (be prepared for a mouthful):

  1. The International Finance Facility for Immunization, supporting the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations
  2. UNITAID
  3. The Advance Market Commitments for vaccines
  4. The ‘Debt 2 Health’ initiative of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
  5. (PRODUCT) RED
  6. The Responsible Social Investment initiative of the Agence Française de Développement
  7. The use of revenues from the Carbon Market
  8. The Millennium Foundation for Innovative Finance for Health

Last week’s meeting in Geneva was the first meeting of the group. And it was certainly an impressive set of people sat around the table, including Ban Ki-moon (Secretary-General of the UN), Dr Margaret Chan (Director-General of the World Health Organization) and Michel Sidibé (Executive Director of UNAIDS).
Due to the current economic crisis, Ban Ki-moon pointed out that traditional forms of financing for health are under threat as commodity prices are falling and overseas development assistance is under pressure. He made a plea for innovative ideas and for innovative financing to close the gap between what is available and what we need to meet the Millennium Development Goals. He also emphasized that there is a need for creativity around innovative financing and new opportunities but that it is also critically important to strengthen current mechanisms.

Margaret Chan noted that there were 19 men around the table and only one woman, herself. She talked about maternal mortality and made the stark point that in some countries, women are not allowed to give birth when in labour unless they have the permission of the man.

Michel Sidibe, followed on from Chan, and said that this meeting could not have been more timely. The AfDB recently projected that another 27 million people in Africa are at risk of ill health and poverty. Predictable and sustainable financing is key and this innovative financing scheme must help build a fairer globalization. He concluded by saying the following: “If we are going to reach the Millennium Development Goals, we must avoid duplication, resist competition, and put people at the centre”.

-Eloise Todd

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