Individuals Pooling Money to Fight Local Diseases Worldwide
By Negar Rachel Treister | July 7, 2006
The boom in international trade and travel over the past 50 years has helped make local diseases, and the responses to them, global health concerns. The rapid spread of contagious diseases is nothing new—smallpox and the black plague ravaged entire cities in the Middle Ages—but the ease of crossing borders in the modern globalized era has accelerated the speed with which diseases spread across the globe. When AIDS first emerged as an international health threat nearly 25 years ago, the pace with which the epidemic spread was a central concern of health officials.
Along with AIDS, several new illnesses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), avian flu and mad cow disease, have cropped up to threaten global health in recent years. The last two—which could easily spread through the movement of cattle and birds across borders—have had a particularly strong impact on international trade. So far, most avian flu cases have occurred in Asia. Nevertheless, many governments worldwide have scrambled to contain the disease, investing billions of dollars to prevent its entry into their borders. In the United States, the concern over containing a possible avian flu outbreak is so strong that in a recent prevention plan, the White House said it would consider blocking its border with Canada, its top trade partner, if an outbreak were to occur there.
In addition to working to contain global health threats, many countries and private individuals are also pooling their money and research expertise to fight local disease outbreaks as well. In Africa alone, 800,000 children under the age of five die each year from malaria, even though treatments exist for 55 cents a dose (Source: New York Times). Countries and international organizations have more than doubled their commitments to $841 million in the past year toward treating and ending the disease, according to the World Health Organization. In the private sector, malaria funding has been buoyed by Warren Buffet’s recent $31 billion donation to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has made fighting malaria one of its primary goals.
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