Privatizing Health Care in the Third World
Posted on Jun 19, 2009
For only $5 a month, you too can undermine a developing country’s health infrastructure. Since 1990, foreign funding for “development assistance” has quadrupled, offering medical resources to the poor but also luring local health care workers away from government hospitals and toward more lucrative private companies.
The vast sums of money ploughed into efforts to fight diseases such as Aids, TB and malaria in the last 10 years have saved many lives but have also sometimes undermined health systems in poor countries, according to a survey by the World Health Organisation and others published today.
Funding for what the researchers call development assistance for health has quadrupled from $5.6bn (£3.4bn) in 1990 to $21.8bn in 2007. A worldwide outcry around the turn of the millennium over the plight of people in Africa dying of Aids, a disease kept in check with drugs in rich countries, triggered a rush to fund big disease-fighting programmes on the part of western governments, aid organisations and philanthropic donors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
But until now, there has been little attempt to find out how well the money has been spent and what impact the focus on high-profile diseases has had on the everyday business of hospitals, clinics and overworked healthcare staff in the poorer countries.
The Dream Center, an AIDS hospital in South Africa, may be unintentionally luring health care workers from state-supported facilities.