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    "When many cures are offered for a disease, it means the disease is not curable" -Anton Chekhov

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    Monday, January 30, 2006

    Health Diplomacy: Using public health aid to build international understanding:

    In the confusion of this post-Cold War, terrorist-troubled world, Congress is betting more and more foreign aid dollars on fighting that one common foe everyone can agree upon: infectious disease.

    "Medicine can be a currency for peace" says Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a surgeon and a force behind the change. Today that "currency" is near $4 billion -- almost triple in real dollars what the U.S. was providing per year in 2001.

    ....But even as they cut other parts of President Bush's foreign-aid budget, lawmakers went beyond the White House this year in funding the fight against infectious diseases. Counting money passed through the Global Fund, based in Geneva, an estimated $273.5 million would go to fight malaria; $114 million for tuberculosis. Prodded by Mr. Frist, Congress directed that at least $200 million from development funds go to projects to improve drinking water in poor countries to guard against infections that kill millions of children each year.

    In the 2001 foreign-aid budget, the Congressional Research Service estimates about $1.28 billion was provided for global health programs. By 2004 that almost doubled to $2.5 billion, and in fiscal 2006, ending Sept. 30, the House Appropriations Committee estimates the total is $3.65 billion.

    When related items, such as clean-water funding and $131.5 million to counter the spread of avian flu, are added, $4 billion is a fair estimate of the total U.S. commitment.

    Critics argue most of this growth has gone to fight AIDS and the total assistance is still inadequate, given America's wealth. But the numbers reflect a fundamental change in the direction of the foreign-aid budget, driven by Congress. And the $4 billion for global health is beginning to rival that old mainstay, military financing grants, which received $4.5 billion in 2006.

    As long as the money really goes to the efforts for which its earmarked, and isn't diverted by corrupt politicians in those countries, then Frist may be right. It certainly makes more sense to offer aid for clean water and fighting infectious disease than to offer to pay poorer countries not to reproduce. That always had a smack of insult to it.

    posted by Sydney on 1/30/2006 07:43:00 AM 0 comments


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