This week has seen really exciting developments in the campaign to remove user fees for healthcare in the developing world. At a summit in New York world leaders including Gordon Brown and Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organisation, pledged their support for removing user fees and called on developing country governments to undertake this policy change. Gordon Brown also announced a $5.3bn package to help developing countries deliver on the pledges, of which the UK will provide at least £250million. The meeting also saw heads of State from Ghana, Malawi, Nepal, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone commit to extending free health care.
Robert Zoellick, the President of the World Bank, co-hosted the event, and although he stopped well short of announcing a new World Bank position opposing user fees (his speech has been described as ‘less than enthusiastic support’) it is clear that the pressure is on for the Bank to change its stance. This really is a historic opportunity for change, so our September action calling for the Bank to remove user fees for basic healthcare is extremely timely. The UK government must use the momentum of this historic moment to push the Bank to acknowledge the harm that has been caused by user fees and pledge to proactively work to remove them, following the example of so many nations and international institutions.
You can view all the speeches at the event on the UN website (scroll down to the 23rd September, the event title is: ‘Special Event: Innovative International Financing for Health event, hosted by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom’), and a press release on the event on the website of the Taskforce on Innovative International Financing for Health Systems.