Poised for the future

One of today’s headlines in the Independent.ie sums up much of international opinion: “Few tears will be shed over Bush’s departure.”  While the article ticks off issues of consternation ranging from wars to the economy, it does not overlook the accomplishments.

In one area at least the Bush legacy will be looked at kindly. He has accelerated dramatically efforts to combat HIV/Aids and malaria in Africa, and by the time he leaves office President Bush will have doublethe level of assistance to Africa to $8bn. Besides that, his President’s Malaria Initiative of 2005 and his emergency plan for Aids relief is estimated to have reached 25 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.

Tony Das believes that President Bush has build a good foundation for President-elect Obama, but worries about a statement by the Vice-President-elect during the debates that implied a possible ‘slow down’ in U.S. commitment to foreign aid.  Das explains that,

Health care is a pillar of U.S. assistance to Africa. Some $1 billion per year funds the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Most of that goes to Africa. Additional funds fight malaria, TB, a resurgence of polio and waterborne diseases. More African kids die from diarrhea contracted from dirty water than from AIDS and malaria combined.

Das recognizes that the public may also be less supportive of foreign aid increases during the current economic crisis, but stresses the need for leadership in the new administration to ensure people see that health aid goes beyond humanitarian ideals and serves important strategic objectives.

The answer lies not in altruism and humanitarian concern but in the fact that communicable diseases undermine the social fabric of African states and the viability of their security apparatus, threatening U.S. national security interests by creating a breeding ground for insurgencies and global terrorist recruiting.

The Global Health Council and its Malaria Roundtable offer the following recommendations to the new presidential team:

  • General
  • Need for high level appointee for global health within the National Security Council
  • Need for a cohesive, integrated five-year strategy on global health
  • Need for restructuring management and delivery of global health
  • Establish a five-year initiative on family health that integrates maternal, child and reproductive health
  • Malaria Specific
  • Develop and Implement a five-year strategy as soon as possible
  • Retain Malaria Coordinator position
  • Plan to fulfill funding commitments made in H.R. 5501, Lantos/Hyde Leadership Act Against AIDS, TB, and Malaria, with a minimum of $800 m for FY 2010

Malaria itself inflicts economic hardship, and so combatting malaria is a key step in reducing the impact of the global economic crisis, especially among the more vulnerable peoples and governments in the world. The new administration should be poised to continue the fight against malaria.

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