Dreadful Deauville disappoints on health

Dr Rhona MacDonald, freelance editor, rhonamacdonald@gmail.com

The report stating the delivery and results of the latest G8 Commitments on Health and Food Security has just been published—the Deauville Accountability Report, so named as this year’s G8 was held in Deauville, France, last month.

Perhaps the small smattering of media reports and the profound lack of public awareness about the 2011 G8, could be yet more proof that the time for eight countries—which account for 13% of the world’s population and 65% of its wealth—to grandstand over the rest of the globe should finally be put to rest. If G8 leaders actually believed what they stated in their first declaration… “We, the Leaders of the Group of Eight, met in Deauville on 26 and 27 May 2011. In this period of change, we reaffirmed our profound commitment to the values of freedom and democracy, and their universality”… then perhaps next year’s planned G8 in the United States will be the last such event of the self-appointed eight.

Hyperbole aside, what exactly did the G8 commit to over health this year? Of course the amount of overseas development assistance (political speak for “aid”—a large amount of which goes towards the “health” MDGs-4, 5 and 6) took prime position, but this year, even the non-governmental organisations seemed to have given up hope and have only given the G8 a lacklustre lambasting for all of its broken aid promises. Currently at US $19 billion short, the UK actually heads the list of donors, with 0.56 % of it Gross National Income (GNI) dedicated to aid. Russia comes last at 0.05% with the remaining countries covering the intervening spectrum—France – 0.5, Germany – 0.38, Canada – 0.33, United States – 0.21, Japan – 0.2, and Italy – 0.15—giving an appalling average (or miserable median) of 0.28. Does anyone remember the commitments reaffirmed at the 2005 G8 summit in Gleneagles for all countries to give 0.7% of GNI by 2015?

How well then is the G8 doing to honour its commitments to global health? Health systems strengthening has recently become a new G8 focus and this year, the human resources in health crisis received some attention: “Support health workforce coverage towards the WHO threshold of 2.3 health workers per 1,000 people, initially in partnership with the African countries where the G8 is currently engaged and which are experiencing a critical shortage of health workers.”

And the G8 action? The G8 works worldwide with partners at country level to advocate and catalyze actions to resolve the Human Resources for Health crisis and to support the achievement of the health related Millennium Development Goals and Health for All.” Nice platitude but absolutely nothing about stopping the recruitment of health workers from low income countries to G8 countries, which would do more to help reverse the brain drain than any other single action.

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