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WHO goes on offensive against diseases of poverty

The WHO launched a major new drive for funds to fight disease.


The World Health Organisation has wrapped up a three-day conference in Winterthur, where it launched a "massive effort" to deal with diseases intimately linked to poverty, including HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.

The three-day meeting, which ended on Friday, focused on ways of creating a "movement" to galvanise rich countries into funding a sustained campaign against diseases caused by poverty.

The head of WHO, Gro Harlem Brundtland, said she was seeking "sustained, additional financing for 10-15 years".

The WHO estimates that $2 billion (SFr1.74 billion) a year is needed to combat malaria and TB. It says if a further $1 billion was spent on drugs there could be a 50 per cent drop in mortality within five years.

The costs of combating HIV/Aids are even higher. The WHO says $2.5 billion is needed annually for prevention alone.

Brundtland said that to ensure funding of this order, the WHO would need to build popular support in both rich and poor countries to exert regular pressure on governments.

Research suggests that malaria alone reduced economic growth by as much as 1.3 per cent a year in 31 African countries between 1980 and 1995.

HIV is having a similar effect - when it reaches eight per cent of the population, as it has in 21 African countries - per capita growth falls by nearly half a percentage point a year.


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