The global health assistance and what it means for the health sector

A stethoscope. Photo by: jasleen_kaur / CC BY-SA

The global financial crisis may be hurting economies, but not the health sector — at least not yet.

New research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington — which assessed the effects of the global economic crisis on funding for health — shows development assistance for the health sector has continued to increase, but growth slowed in 2009 to 2011.

While development assistance for health reached a total of $27.73 billion from 2009 to 2011, the growth rate was only 4 percent each year — quite low when compared with the 17 percent increase in 2008.

A big factor in the continued growth in health assistance can be attributed to the World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which increased aid 128 percent between 2010 and 2011, providing a total of $1.42 billion for the sector this year.

This, somehow, offset the slowdown in development assistance for health from bilateral agencies and the decline in aid from the United Nations.

Meanwhile, the GAVI Alliance and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have added to the growth of development assistance for health for years. However, the recent decision of The Global Fund to cancel new grants until 2014 might affect the current trend. The study’s preliminary estimates indicate assistance channeled through the agency declined $592 million between 2010 and 2011.

“We were expecting to see a story that’s pretty different, an overall decline,” Christopher Murray said. He is the head of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which produced the report. “What we’re seeing is a continued increase — albeit slower — which is a surprise.”

But while the figures do not sound the alarm yet, funding cuts, especially from big donors such as the United States, may soon be felt by the health sector.

“Even though we continue to see growth in global health funding through 2011, it is troubling to see so many funders pulling back,” Murray said.

Slowdown in funding from the United States may affect those relying on U.S. health assistance funds, including recipient countries of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the study indicates. A decline in funding from the United Nations may also pose risks to several health areas where the agency plays an important role. The study points to maternal and child health, noncommunicable diseases, and tuberculosis as the three health areas that depend most on U.N. aid.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.