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Monday, December 15, 2008

The not-so-unexpected results of the crisis

In today's edition:
  • EU urged to fund research on 'terrible triangle' of disease
  • EU food aid in doubt as economic crisis takes its toll
Two very upsetting news, since we all like to believe that Europe cares about the world and want to do what it can to improve the life of the poorest. Not any more. Read and find out why.

EU urged to fund research on 'terrible triangle' of disease

14 November 2008

The European Commission is failing to pay its "fair share" in funding research into the main poverty-related killers HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, according to health NGOs.

The EU provides support to measures dealing with the three main poverty-related diseasesexternal (HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis) in developing countries. The overall objective is to optimise the impact of existing intervention, increase the affordability of key pharmaceuticals and diagnostics and increase R&D of vaccines, microbicides and innovative treatment.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international medical humanitarian organisation, is calling on the Commission to increase its funding "five-fold" into research for medical tools to fight tuberculosis (TB).

"This is ever more urgent given TB's rapid spread among people living with HIV and the rise of drug-resistant strains of the disease, which do not respond to many of the commonly-used treatments," MSF underlines. "Europe's responsibility here is clear," said Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, director of MSF's campaign for access to essential medicines.

Speaking at a conferenceexternal on poverty-related diseases on 13 November, EU Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik acknowledged that "sitting in our comfortable European homes, with well-developed healthcare systems, it is all too easy to forget about the pernicious impact that infectious disease has across the world".

He noted that AIDS, TB and malaria - the "terrible triangle" - kill five million people each year and that a health crisis of this dimension was disastrous not only on a personal level, but also "a major obstacle to development" and thus a threat to humanity.

The aim of the conference was to identify research priorities for these three main killers and consider ways of increasing the impact of EU-funded research to combat them.

"It's all about research responsibility," said Potočnik, listing the roles of different stakeholders on the issue. According to him, all countries should take responsibility through targeted policies and real cooperation, while the pharmaceutical industry should plan and implement more focused R&D strategies to deal with the problem.source

My comment: Very enlightening. The real issue here, however, is that these diseases are really dangerous in many countries, not only for the people who live there. Knowing of the strong ties between Western Europe and Africa, it's pretty obvious that an outbreak of any of these will affect Europe also. Another thing is that not all the European members have a "well-developed health-care system". Some of us really don't have a working one. Not for serious diseases anyway. In Bulgaria, people are still dying from AIDS, something that won't happen in normal countries because of the retro-viral drugs they have. We have them also, but nobody pays them, so, it doesn't really make a difference. That's why, I believe, the responsibility of EU is even bigger- it should undoubtedly fund the research and deployment of drugs and also, it should make sure that the fight with the diseases is really continuing, not only on conferences, but in real life too.

EU food aid in doubt as economic crisis takes its toll

12 November 2008

EU development ministers received an angry rebuke from Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel earlier this week for failing to deliver a billion-euro package aimed at helping farmers in Africa.

The aid package, proposed by the European Commission in July, would free up unused funding from the EU agriculture budget to buy seed and fertiliser for developing countries, thus strengthening their capacity to cope with rising global food prices.

But although the 27-member bloc agreed "in principle" to maintain delivery of the package, several member states expressed discontent at having to release additional funding at a time of global financial turmoil.

Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) surpluses are above average this year following the hike in global food prices, and normal procedure allows surpluses to be returned to the EU budget's largest net contributors.

As a result, many EU countries are reluctant to approve the aid package, citing irregular "budgetary reasons".

Commissioner Michel attacked member states for their intransigence, insisting that the EU urgently needed this funding.

European NGO network SOLIDARexternal delivered an equally strong message to the EU that the "financial crisis must not be used as an excuse": "We urge all member states to resist the temptation to water down their Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) commitments. We call on all member states to support binding timetables in order to ensure the predictability of aid and fulfill the promises we have made."

The French EU presidency has been particularly active in promoting its development agenda. It is expected to try to find a solution to the impasse next week. source

My comment: Oh yeah. Again, not very unexpected. But definitely shameful. Especially when those money pour in agriculture instead of sectors that would really matter in time of crisis-like R&D, infrastructure and so on. What I mean is that we cannot force member states to give money they don't have, although I firmly believe they should keep a percentage of the available money for this purpose. The point is that they don't even give them when they are really useful-then why not give them the starving people. Not to the angry farmers.

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