According to a new report, countries around the world contributed 1.6% less to global health projects in 2014 as compared to 2013. This is only the second time in the past 15 years a reduction in funding has been documented.
The report, published by The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, shows that while global health funding grew by 5.4% annually in the 1990s and increased to 11.3% annually from 2000-2010, it stalled around a year later.
Overall, the world has contributed $227.9 billion to global health funding in poorer countries since the turn of the century, when the United Nations revealed its Millennium Development Goals.
The eight goals, which focus on providing monetary funding to pressing global issues, led to a surge in global health funding.
The largest donor has consistently been the United States, which gave $12.4 billion last year toward the treatment and prevention of AIDS and malaria in developing countries.
However, only three nation’s governments increased overall funding between 2013 and 2014: the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan.
Specifically, funds allocated to improving maternal health around the world decreased by 2.2% and supplies used for the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis were cut by 9.2%.
In addition to revealing the decrease in funding for global health projects, the report also gives insight into disease funding. It shows that some treatments and programs are favored over others.
For example, last year, over $3 billion was allocated toward vaccines for children, over $1 billion was spent on children nutrition initiatives, and $778 million was put toward family-planning projects.
In contrast, only $164 million was spent addressing mental health issues and only $31 million was used for anti-tobacco programs.
David Molyneux, Peter Hotez and Alan Fenwick are three scientists who became frustrated that certain treatments and programs receive more funding than others. Specifically, the three wanted the world to know about 17 largely ignored diseases in the world’s poorest countries.
These diseases can result in blindness, deformed limbs and stunted growth, but are ignored because they have disappeared from the developed world.
With 1.4 billion people suffering from these illnesses, which include onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis and leishmaniases, the scientists decided to stimulate awareness about them by coining the term “neglected tropical diseases.”
Molyneux and Hotez first used the term at a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting in Berlin in 2003 to “market” the diseases to politicians and private foundations. It was approved at another WHO meeting the following year, which was also in Berlin.
As a result, the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases was formed, and since 2006, around a billion dollars has been pledged by government and aid organizations to the fight against neglected tropical diseases.
Pharmaceutical companies are also donating 1.4 billion treatments of the diseases each year, resulting in 700 million people being treated in 2014.
In addition, last month Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, who directs WHO operations in Africa, announced a plan to create an entity with the sole purpose of directing work related to neglected tropical diseases. This is just one part of efforts by the international community to rid the continent of some of these diseases within the next five years.
While some treatments and programs are favored over others, people like Molyneux, Hotez and Fenwick are giving a voice to those in developing countries suffering from largely ignored illnesses such as the neglected tropical diseases.
– Matt Wotus