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Questo articolo è stato pubblicato il 30 maggio 2012 alle ore 14:34.


NEW YORK – The critics of foreign aid are wrong. A growing flood of data shows that death rates in many poor countries are falling sharply, and that aid-supported programs for health-care delivery have played a key role. Aid works; it saves lives.

One of the newest , by Gabriel Demombynes and Sofia Trommlerova, shows that Kenya’s infant mortality (deaths under the age of one year) has plummeted in recent years, and attributes a significant part of the gain to the massive uptake of anti-malaria bed nets. These findings are consistent with an important study of by Chris Murray and others, which similarly found a significant and rapid decline in malaria-caused deaths after 2004 in sub-Saharan Africa resulting from aid-supported malaria-control measures.

Let’s turn back the clock a dozen years. In 2000, Africa was struggling with three major epidemics. AIDS was killing more than two million people each year, and spreading rapidly. Malaria was surging, owing to the parasite’s growing resistance to the standard medicine at the time. Tuberculosis was also soaring, partly as a result of the AIDS epidemic and partly because of the emergence of drug-resistant TB. In addition, hundreds of thousands of women were dying in childbirth each year, because they had no access to safe deliveries in a clinic or hospital, or to emergency help when needed.

These interconnected crises prompted action. The United Nations’ member states adopted the Millennium Development Goals in September 2000. Three of the eight MDGs – reductions in children’s deaths, maternal deaths, and epidemic diseases – focus directly on health.

Likewise, the World Health Organization issued a major call to scale up development assistance for health. And African leaders, led by Nigeria’s president at the time, Olusegun Obasanjo, took on the challenge of battling the continent’s epidemics. Nigeria hosted two landmark summits, on malaria in 2000 and on AIDS in 2001, which were a crucial spur to action.

At the second of these summits, then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. The Global Fund began operations in 2002, financing prevention, treatment, and care programs for the three diseases. High-income countries also finally agreed to reduce the debt owed by heavily indebted poor countries, allowing them to spend more on health care and less on crippling payments to creditors.

The United States also took action, adopting two major programs, one to fight AIDS and the other to fight malaria. In 2005, the UN Millennium Project recommended specific ways to scale up primary health care in the poorest countries, with the high-income countries helping to cover the costs that the poorest could not pay by themselves. The UN General Assembly backed many of the project’s recommendations, which were then implemented in numerous low-income countries.

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