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Frerichs, R.R. WHO Budget Cuts for SE Asia?

SEA-AIDS Network, May 5, 1998.

Posted in response to:

SEA-AIDS, May 15, 1998

From Chris Green, Jakarta, Indonesia

I have just heard on the BBC that the WHO is planning huge budget cuts in South East Asia. Overall for the region these will amount to a cut of 48% of current budgets; in Thailand the cut will be over 80%!

A cut this large is bound to impact on HIV/AIDS. As we have so often noted in this forum, many of the challenges both in prevention and in treatment stem from inadequate health care infrastructure.

The WHO meeting is considering this proposal which will be voted on formally later this week. I don't know if this is a done deal, but I think we should try to lobby against it.

Chris Green,

Jakarta, Indonesia

R.R. Frerichs Posting

The news story that Chris Green heard on BBC about cuts in WHO funding for HIV/AIDS control appears to have substance. Ten days ago, the following abbreviated story appeared in the CDC Daily AIDS Summary, supposedly appearing in the May 3 issue of Hindu. I searched the May 3 electronic issue of Hindu, but found no reference to the abstracted story. Nevertheless, I have been looking for additional stories on this important development, and would certainly welcome clarification from WHO or others in the know. Given the quick responsiveness of SEA-AIDS, we should be able to piece together what is occurring in the next few days.

Source: CDC Daily AIDS Summary, 5/4/98

"Sharp Cut in WHO Aid to India Likely" Hindu Online (05/03/98) P. 14

A proposal to substantially reduce the allocation of financial resources to India by the World Health Organization has been approved by the WHO executive board and will go into effect if it is ratified by the World Health Assembly in Geneva on May 11. The proposal would cut WHO funding by about one-third to under $10 million starting in 2000. The proposed cut would affect about 40 programs, including tuberculosis and HIV disease control. Additionally, the proposal would similarly cut funding in other South East Asian nations, as well as the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Western Pacific region; Europe and Africa would benefit from the proposal, with substantial increases in their funding. The WHO's South East Asia region--which only has 10 countries but is one of the largest in terms of population and disease burden--would be the most affected by the proposal, which would cut funding for the region from $100 million to $50 million.

Also to be noted, WHO yesterday confirmed the appointment of Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, as its new director general. She is listed in the news accounts as "a physician and public health specialist" who "pledged new links with industry" and promised to streamline the "much-criticized agency." She also was quoted as saying that the WHO "must become more effective, more accountable, more transparent and more receptive to a changing world."

If the new budget austerity is true, she clearly will have her hands full in assisting nations in Southeast Asia with the struggle to contain HIV/AIDS, given the revenue shortfalls in both public and private sector.

In this regard, she will need all of our assistance.