The World Health Organisation (WHO) stressed, last month, the need to tackle the health issues in the Millennium Project's recent development report. This includes research and programmes to deliver HIV/AIDS treatments, improve maternal and child health, control and treat tuberculosis and malaria, and to make more medicines affordable. Headlines looks at this initiative and reviews EU actions against communicable diseases.
The Millennium Project – a UN advisory body – presented its ‘Investing in Development' report to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan last month in New York. It is the result of a three-year consultation process involving 265 of the world's leading development experts. The report puts forward a package of specific cost-effective measures to cut extreme poverty in half and improve the lives of at least one billion people in poorer countries by 2015.
|Helping to get more and better drugs for TB, malaria and HIV/AIDS in developing nations.|
In September 2000, leaders of 189 countries adopted the UN Millennium Declaration, which was translated into a roadmap setting out eight goals – including reducing poverty, hunger and ill-health, and tackling gender inequality, poor education, water quality and environmental degradation – to be reached by 2015. But this requires a massive investment in research and health programmes, says the WHO.
The WHO has analysed the Millennium Project's report and observes that several of the eight development goals relate to health, notably child and maternal health, HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, access to medicines, water and sanitation, as well as tackling hunger tied to health. The report calls for a scaling up of WHO actions against these problems.
Today, more than one billion people – one sixth of the world's population – live in extreme poverty, lacking safe water, proper nutrition, basic health care and social services needed to survive. Almost 11 million children die each year – six million of them under five – from preventable diseases and 500 000 women do not survive pregnancy or childbirth, the WHO writes. Right now, there are some 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS, around 2 million deaths a year from tuberculosis and 1 million from malaria.
EU action, too
The European Union has also responded to the call for more and better research to combat health-related poverty and communicable diseases, in particular malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, but also funding research targeting increasingly drug-resistant viruses, such as hepatitis B and C.
For example, to help new drugs and vaccines speed through the development pipeline, the EU helped set up the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Platform (EDCTP). Funded by the Commission and comprising 14 EU Member States plus Norway, the platform supports “development of new clinical interventions to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in developing countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, and to improve generally the quality of research in relation to these diseases”. In 1998, the Union also helped set up the European Malaria Vaccine Initiative (EMVI) to speed up development and testing of anti-malarial vaccines.
More recently, it announced it would provide €9 million to an integrated project, called VIRGIL, addressing the growing concern of viral resistance to drugs making diseases, such as hepatitis B and C and influenza, very difficult to treat. ‘Vigilance Against Viral Resistance', a Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) project launched in 2004, complements a €30 million EU research investment into anti-microbial drug resistance, the Commission says.
“Through collaboration between European academic researchers, the pharmaceutical industry, clinicians and public health authorities, the network will help overcome problems associated with viral drug resistance to help save lives.”
EU and WHO