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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations

Secretary General’s High Level Forum on
Advancing Global Health in the Face of Economic Crisis
15 June 2009

Delivered by
H.E. Mr. Hilario G. Davide, Jr.
Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Philippines
to the United Nations

Thank you Madame Moderator for giving the floor to the Philippines.

Let me start by commending and congratulating the Secretary General for organizing this forum whose goal is to ensure that our progress on global health is neither stunted nor reversed in the face of this global financial and economic crisis. I hope that our focus on this goal would not be weakened or diminished by the H1N1, which as recently reported, has now affected 74 countries, with 34,000 recorded cases. On the contrary, H1N1 should provide us another challenge to consider a global plan on health issues in a more creative and innovative manner in terms of preventing another kind of flu.

I commend Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director General, for her stirring message and challenge to all health stakeholders. To me, the upshot of her challenge is that we should not convert the financial and economic crisis into another kind of “communicable disease”, more serious, perhaps, than the others named by medical science. The crisis should, in fact, provide us a special kind of “prescription” to advance global health.

I thank the panelists for their inputs.

Need for a proactive, deliberate and concrete strategy/plan to stem ill impact of the economic crisis on health

  • Needless to say, this global financial and economic crisis has tremendous implications to health and the ability of health systems to deliver vital health goods and services. It is clear that protecting global health from the adverse consequences of the financial and economic crisis requires each country to closely and consciously adopt a proactive stance to mitigate, if not insulate, public health from a harmful collision course. If we do not have a deliberate strategy to mitigate the impacts of the crisis and to target interventions to sustain the funding of health services for the poor, this crisis will erode past gains in the fight against diseases and poverty. Thus, there should be a conscious, planned and deliberate effort to protect financing for health and sustain health-related expenditures. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) came up with five (5) areas for action in the Report of the High-Level Consultation on the Financial Crisis and Global Health that it commissioned. The areas of action to be taken at the country, regional and global levels would help the health sector weather the global financial storm. My delegation is of the view that this study could be taken a step further, with the end in view of making it the basis of a concrete global action plan that could be crafted by the World Health Assembly. Such an action plan, functioning as a blueprint for action on future similar crises, should harness partnerships across the various sectors, in particular in the area of health financing. A multisectoral approach on, for instance, ensuring an increased level of spending on health, reforming health finance systems to lessen household out-of-pocket spending, and increasing aid effectiveness for health, could be included as elements in this action plan.

Protecting the poor and the most vulnerable

  • In the face of a financial and economic crisis, foreign aid, including those for health programs, is an easy target for dramatic reductions. To illustrate, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which helps finance many pro-poor health programs in developing countries announced, in February of this year, that it is facing a $ 5 billion dollar funding gap through 2010. This is disturbing, particularly when the world should be accelerating its pace towards achievement of the MDGs. The slashing of health resources impacts immediately on the poor and vulnerable, such as children, women, persons with disabilities, the elderly and those with chronic illness, who are the primary recipients of the assistance. When national budgets are squeezed because of falling tax revenues and falling donor contributions, the social services for the poor, such as child immunization and nutrition for pregnant mothers, are some of the first to be jeopardized. Given this, it is easy to understand why the UN Secretary-General, in his report to the ECOSOC, sounded an alarm bell by revealing that, in the current global scenario, “the greatest disappointment is found in the area of maternal and newborn health”. Pro-poor policies in the context of crises, means that we need to ensure that social safety nets, which are precisely put in place for these times of crises, are strong enough to catch the poor and vulnerable.

I thank you Madame Chair.

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