Health policy attacked

6 February 2001

The People’s Health Conference 2000 criticized the World Bank’s health policies for being “anti-Third World”. The meeting, held in Bangladesh 4-8 December, was attended by 3000 mainly non-governmental organizations from 95 countries. Delegates called for “justice, not charity” in response to cuts in government expenditure on health and education as a result of debt servicing and the globalization process. Charles Mutasa, Zimbabwe, said disease specific interventions, such as World Bank spending on TB or leprosy, won’t be enough as long as the debt trap remains.

Richard Lee Skolnik, the World Bank’s regional director for health, nutrition and population responded that the organization’s health policy is to “overcome and address inadequate access and low quality of health services.” He also said that the World Bank is the largest financier of malnutrition programmes, particularly in South Asia.

The meeting stressed the unfulfilled promise of Health for All by 2000, calling on governments to renew the pledge and on people to press for their right to health. The People’s Health Charter was finalized at the conference to provide action indicators. NGOs can endorse the Charter on the website.