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Who is the Biggest Scrooge of Them All?

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and India Cares Foundation joined hands to urge China, Germany and Japan to increase their contributions to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

Nirupama Sekhri
Publish Date: Jun 13 2016 5:00PM | Updated Date: Jun 20 2016 2:02PM

Who is the Biggest Scrooge of Them All?
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and India Cares Foundation recently joined hands to urge China, Germany and Japan to increase their contributions at the fifth Replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. But are they really the only ones who should be paying for this critical healthcare fund, examines Nirupama Sekhri
 
The blistering heat was no deterrent for an impressive bunch of community-based organisations and people living with HIV/AIDS to campaign at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar calling for greater funding by countries like Germany, China and Japan towards the prevention and cure of diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in poor nations around the world, especially in South-East Asian and African countries that have the most staggering numbers suffering and dying of the three diseases.
 
Their argument is that these countries should match up to what other rich nations like the US and UK contribute, for the next 2017-2019 grant cycle.
 

Average per capita contribution from 2010-2015 to the Global Fund of some countries

Country

Average per capita contribution (in US$)

China

0.003

Japan

1.71

Germany

3.73

U.S

3.73

UK

6.14

France

5.65

 
In addition, it is felt that this investment has long term benefits of nurturing a healthy global population. This, besides being an ethically correct one, will be beneficial for donor countries’ increasing financial and economic engagement with various countries in the African and Asian regions.
 
However, there is a strong counter-argument to this as well, which states that this donor base needs to be expanded both directly and indirectly.
 
Many of the countries affected, which includes India, allocate a pathetically meagre percentage of their GDP to public health. India has higher number of patients suffering from tuberculosis than the Sub-Saharan average.This is not in sheer numbers alone, but as an average per 100,000 population.
 
AHF statistics state that while HIV prevalence in India is relatively low at 0.3 percent; in absolute terms this means an estimated 2.1 million people are living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). 
 
Despite malaria being preventable and curable, about 3.2 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – live at risk of malaria. While Sub-Saharan Africa shares disproportionately high proportion of the global malaria burden, reporting 88 percent of malaria cases and 90 percent of malaria deaths, India accounts for 58 percent of cases in the South East Asia Region, according to the World Health Organisation.
 
There is a great need for some of the governments of these affected countries to substantially scale-up their health expenditure, as can be seen in the table below.
 

Country

Public Health expenditure (% of GDP) 2011-15

China

3.1

Japan

8.6

Germany

8.7

India

1.4

Pakistan

0.9

Philippines

1.6

Nigeria

0.9

Zambia

2.8

Zimbabwe

2.5

 
In addition, Germany is receiving the greatest number of asylum seekers pouring in from the unstable middle-eastern and African countries. According to the BBC, Germany received the maximum number of the one million refugees that Europe hosted in 2015 alone, at more than 476, 000.Germany processed 587 asylum applications, in the UK it was 60 applications for every 100,000 residents. The EU average was 260.
 
Besides, government spending, another powerful group that needs to open up its purse-strings is the corporate sector. As someone who has worked extensively in the social sector around the world said, “My personal view was that Indian towns and cities (when I was there) are very wealthy places, with huge hoards of family gold, unproductive investment, while the streets are running with sewage - private wealth and public poverty -- so foreign agencies like Oxfam should not be spending money on public utilities in urban areas. Of course, there are plenty of rural millionaires too, but somehow the distance between the rural poor and the millionaires is greater than between rich and poor in urban areas!”
 
The same can be said about other south Asian and African countries.
 
The 2016 Forbes list has 84 Indian billionaires, being the fourth highest number in the list after the US, China and Germany. Pakistan too has at least 9 billionaires; in fact two in these also happen to be former political top bosses of the troubled country –Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif! 
 
Africa too accounts for 24 billionaires this year, which include Tanzanian businessman and former politician Rostam Azizi, pharmaceuticals tycoon Stephan Saad. Another Tanzanian, Mohammed Dewji, is still the youngest billionaire in Africa.
 
Nigeria too is represented in this list of billionaires, by Mike Adenuga, who is now worth $10 billion, up from $4 billion a year ago. With 55-60 percent of the grant to the Global Fund targeted specifically towards women and girls, may be female African billionaires – the Angolan investor Isabel dos Santos and and oil tycoon Folorunsho Alakija of Nigeria – can help raise significant funds too.