NEW YORK – Every country, rich and poor, should ensure universal coverage of primary health care, including safe childbirth, nutrition, vaccines, malaria control, and clinical services. Each year, nearly nine million children die of conditions that could be prevented or treated, and nearly 400,000 women die because of complications during pregnancy.
Almost all of these deaths are in the world’s poorest countries. Ending these deaths would not only reduce suffering, but would also unleash economic prosperity in impoverished and unstable societies.
The greatest barrier to doing so is that the poorest countries can’t afford universal primary health care, even though the cost per person is very low. Using immunizations, modern medicines, state-of-the-art diagnostics, mobile phones, and other new technologies, universal primary health care is now highly effective and very inexpensive, costing around $54 per person per year in the poorest countries.
Yet, because of their very low incomes, the poorest countries can afford only around $14 per person from their national budgets. Financial help from abroad is needed to cover roughly $40 per person per year. With approximately one billion impoverished people still lacking primary health care, the total sum needed is around $40 billion per year. Foreign donors – including the United States, the European Union, and Japan – are currently contributing around one-third of that, roughly $14 billion per year.