Members of the RESULTS network received letters this week through their MPs confirming that DFID is working to push the World Bank to change its position on the provision of free healthcare in developing countries.
Back in early September, RESULTS activists met with their local MPs to talk about the importance of removing user fees for basic health services in developing countries. MPs were asked to raise the issue with Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander ahead of the UN General Assembly in New York and to call on the government to put pressure on the World Bank to make a clear statement in opposition of user fees.Later that month we reported that whilst Gordon Brown and other world leaders pledged their support for removing user fees, the World Bank maintained its position and failed to seize the opportunity to help developing countries remove harmful user fees.
It is clear that further pressure is needed on the World Bank to alter its stance on user fees. We are therefore pleased to learn that DFID will continue to press international partners such as the World Bank on the case for free health care. In his letter to RESULTS activists, DFID Minister Gareth Thomas stated that:
The World Bank’s “technical and financial capacity means that it is uniquely placed to support the strengthening of health systems. But, as we clearly stated in our recent White Paper: ‘Eliminating World Poverty: Building Our Common Future’, the Bank needs to step up its performance, including supporting free healthcare. We will continue to press it to do so.”
It is significant to learn that DFID is interpreting the language about reforming the international institutions in the recent White Paper as a commitment to push for changes in policy as well as governance structures. This is a really promising sign that DFID is willing to push the World Bank to change what it actually does as well as the way that it is managed. RESULTS stands ready to work with DFID to make this a reality.
In addition to spending £100 million over the next three years to help Nepal, Malawi, Ghana, Liberia, Burundi and Sierra Leone remove user fees and expand access to health services, Gareth Thomas also said that DFID is working to secure substantial investments from other donors and the private sector to finance better health services in the developing world. One example is the ‘Massive Good’ initiative which aims to generate an additional $3.2 billion by 2015 by giving travellers the opportunity to make voluntary contributions when they purchase airline tickets.