Debt and Health
December 2007The ongoing debt crisis has a severe impact on the provision of – and access to – healthcare, as it makes it impossible for poor country governments to invest in decent public health facilities and programmes when they have to use valuable resources to service their debts.
The debt crisis is preventing governments from investing in healthcare and the positive changes that have taken place in countries that have received debt cancellation.
Staff shortages, insufficient medical supplies, poor equipment and an absence of accessible health facilities, all mean that millions of people in poor countries are unable to receive basic and essential health care. However, the evidence is that debt relief works to alleviate these problems. Spending on health services in countries that have received debt cancellation has risen by 70%, and this money is being used effectively; for example, nearly 70% of all births in Bolivia are now attended by a health professional.
"Debt is tearing down schools, clinics and hospitals and the effects are no less devastating than war"
- Dr Adabayo Adedji, African Centre for Development Strategy
Urgent action is needed to help deal with developing countries’ health crises.
- Rich countries, institutions and commercial creditors must cancel all illegitimate and unpayable debts being claimed from all poor countries, not just those countries eligible for the international debt relief scheme known as the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Initiative.
- Creditors should recognise debtor governments’ accountability to their own citizens, and not impose economic policies on poor countries through conditions on debt relief or loans. This includes conditions limiting public spending or specifying how healthcare should be delivered.
- Southern governments must abide by the demands of their citizens that funds from debt cancellation be used to improve essential public services, including comprehensive primary healthcare, and the governments must be open and accountable to their people over the use and monitoring of these funds.
Debt and Health presentation - can be used in conjunction with the briefing or independently; slides may be omitted if a shorter presentation is required.
Includes speaker notes.