Posts tagged ‘Medicines’
Yesterday we were kitted out in our psychedelic 70s retro gear outside the World Health Organisation (as brazen as we could be) with our 1970s T.V, dodgy lamp shade, banners and posters, while a UN security guard looked on suspiciously.
“Why on earth were you doing that?” I hear you cry.
Well, the world’s ministers, who have come here to discuss health at this year’s World Health Assembly, have forgotten the promises they made back in the 1970s (called the Alma Ata agreement) promising health for all by 2000.
6,000 people die each day of AIDS related diseases and & 1,400 women die needlessly in pregnancy and childbirth. So health is still a really important issue.
We think it’s an absolute disgrace that not only have they missed the deadline (by eight years) but have chosen to swiftly shove the Alma Ata agreements firmly under the carpet, hoping we’ve all forgotten!
Well we haven’t forgotten and that’s why we’re here, reminding them of their commitments. We’re here turning up the heat and getting them to reaffirm to those promises they made in the 1970s.
Health ministers have been feeling the heat this week and it’s not because they’ve been dancing the night away in a disco inferno. Credit: Act Now for Global Health
One of the things about being a campaigner is that you’re often on the outside of the big meetings. Campaigners are the ones who do the stunts, hold protests, hand-out fliers and put up posters. We’re often not the ones who lobby ministers and speak to policy advisers in government departments.
But today I got to trade in my jeans and placard for a swanky badge and suit and went inside the United Nations building to the World Health Assembly. My job was a simple one – to get health and development ministers to recommit to delivering health for all.
Health is such a basic right – it seems weird to still have to campaign for this sort of thing. 30 years ago, health ministers from around the world signed an agreement called Alma Ata. This agreement said that health was a right, and that health care should be available to all by the year 2000. Needless to say, this hasn’t been achieved. Instead, we’re half-way towards the deadline for the Millennium Development goals, and some of the health ones are the furthest away from being achieved.
There are three MDGs about health: one about reducing child mortality, one about reducing maternal mortality, and one about fighting HIV and AIDS. The progress on the maternal mortality goal is particularly bad – in some countries maternal mortality has gotten worse. We can’t let the MDGs go the same way as the Alma Ata agreement. We need governments to really put the financial resources and political will into delivering better services.
Because of this, along with Save the Children, World Vision, Action for Global Health and Global Movement for Children, we’re pushing health ministers to reaffirm their commitments of 30 years ago and to sign a statement making action on health a priority for 2008.
So why get Health and Development Ministers to sign this statement? Firstly – to make sure they don’t give up on health for all. It may not have been achieved but under no circumstances should we stop trying. Secondly – to make sure rich countries give more and better aid for health. Only 8 cents in every aid dollar can be spent on building and improving public health services – such as recruiting and training workers. That’s simply not good enough. Thirdly – to make sure developing countries prioritize health for all. Health ministers need to fight to ensure they get the budgets which will allow them to invest in and build good quality health services.
It was a long day – and I’m not sure I’m ready to trade in my placard permanently! But I got to speak to many ministers and their delegations – though I wasn’t always sure which was which! We got really positive responses from many countries, including Zambia, Sweden, Mexico, South Africa, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Netherlands, Angola, and Senegal. Hopefully this trend will continue and we’ll get every country to sign on by September, when the actual 30-year Alma Ata anniversary takes place.
You can find out more about the work Oxfam is doing on this issue at: www.actnowforhealth.org
The World Health Assembly is happening inside the UN in Geneva.
It’s my first time driving on the right side of the road, I’m in city I don’t know at all, and I’m lost. The things we do when campaigning for health for all.
I’m in the picturesque city of Geneva at the World Health Assembly. For the next week, Oxfam will be campaigning to make sure Ministers of Health, their policy staff, the media and the World Health Organisation remember that every day 2 billion people don’t have the medicines they need, 1400 women will die in childbirth and 4,000 children die of diarrhoea.
You can feel the energy build as more and more NGOs, governments and institutions descend on the city. We’re all here to talk about health – but Oxfam wants to make sure this talk is leading to action. Over the week, Oxfam will host policy debates, run media stunts, and attend planning meetings to talk about aid for health.
And we believe there are some really big issues that need to be talked about.
- There needs to be real progress in delivering new and affordable medicines.
- Rich countries and institutions like the World Bank need to stop pushing the privation of health services in poor countries.
- Governments need to really prioritise delivering health for all.
Oxfam’s aim this week is to make sure governments and institutions are thinking about these important issues, are making decisions that will benefit the poorest people and are keeping focussed on achieving health for all.
And I hope to make it off these roads in one piece.
The World Health Assembly meets this week in Geneva. Oxfam will be there reporting back. Credit: WHO
by Shally Vitan, Advocacy Coordinator, Oxfam GB Philippines Office
16 May 2008
Some of the issues Oxfam works on aren’t that simple. But as things go, access to cheap medicines is a fairly simple one – no one should have to make a choice between putting food on the table and getting treatment from illness.
Unfortunately, in the poorest countries, vital drugs are often priced out of reach – effectively making clinics and hospitals useless, as people can’t afford to pay for medicines.
But people are fighting back, and winning.
You might remember that last year, Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis launched a legal battle to challenge India’s right to produce cheap, generic versions of medicines – which millions of poor people worldwide depend on.
Half a million people – including 80,000 Oxfam supporters – voiced their opposition. And it worked – India won the legal battle, stood firm, and put patients before profits.
And it’s happened again in the Philippines.
Last week a new law was passed which will allow 26 million people – 30% of the population – to access affordable medicines.
The law was passed because hundreds of those most affected by the high price of medicines – people like Lola Eufemia and Lolo Jose, in the video below – stood up and spoke out.
For over two years they defied their age, the elements, and sometimes even hunger to stage numerous demonstrations and monitored the bill as it passed through the Filipino Congress.
Their efforts, supported by Oxfam and other local partners, captured the public imagination and galvanised public support.
The tide is turning, but there is still much more to do – 2 billion people still go without access to medicines – but the victory in the Philippines and in India sends an important message that developing countries can and will fight for their right to protect public health, and win.
And, it is yet another example that campaigning works and that when we speak out, change happens. Add your voice by signing the ’6 million more’ pledge and join a growing global movement demanding health and education for all.
Photo: Last week campaigners in the Philippines successfully won their battle for affordable medicines (Credit: Gerry Carreon)