Address to the Group of Eight by Dr Anders Nordström, Acting Director-General
G8 Summit, St Petersburg, Russian Federation
Mr President, I would like to start by thanking you for your leadership in making health and infectious diseases one of the G8 priorities.
I greatly appreciate the engagement of Russia in the national and international health agenda and look forward to further collaboration.
The links between health, security and economic development are evident to everyone today. They are clearest when one of those elements falters.
We learnt from SARS that when some hundred people died, the economic and psychological effects were felt by millions. The cost amounted to billions of US dollars.
The stock market today explicitly tracks avian flu news. If there is a pandemic, the World Bank predicts an 800 billion dollar hit to the global economy in one year alone.
What about pandemic flu today? The threat is still here.
Two years ago we had human cases in two countries; it went up to five last year and now ten countries have reported human cases. Fifty countries have reported bird flu, and Spain found its first case just last week.
We know what to do and how to prepare. We must get early warning systems in place everywhere. We must be ready to respond quickly to contain any outbreak.
We have a strong instrument: the new International Health Regulations. One hundred and ninety-two member states have agreed to work together to build global health security, to manage the outbreak of new infectious diseases, and to bring us closer to the kind of shared information and capacity that we all need.
How do we ensure universal access to basic health services?
The G8 commitment last year towards universal access to HIV services has offered new hope that this is possible.
Your advocacy and support have already made a critical difference to other major infectious diseases such as polio, TB and malaria, as well as to vital health services such as childhood immunization.
Here is a vial of polio vaccine. This vaccine is a global good that can protect every single child from paralysis. There is enough polio vaccine in the world for every child. Yet polio remains endemic in four countries and continues to kill or cripple.
It is unacceptable, in the 21st century, that children are disabled or die because they cannot access the vaccines that protect them from polio, measles or pneumonia.
But, some products, like some soft drinks, make it to every village in the world. What's the difference?
For universal access to become a reality, every country needs a health service that works. Vitally, that includes a motivated health workforce. Walk into a health centre in many poor countries, and you would be lucky to find enough doctors or nurses. We must ensure there are enough trained and paid health workers.
Only through coordination with the education, labour and finance sectors can we build and sustain a workforce both in developed and in developing countries. This is where G8 power can change the landscape - as you have already done with access to HIV treatment.
I ask you, leaders around this table, to consider my five priorities.
- Sustain political and financial momentum for scaling up basic health services against the major diseases.
- Manage new disease outbreaks and threats, including a potential pandemic influenza outbreak.
- Improve access to drugs and vaccines though expanded markets and increased affordability.
- Ensure there are enough motivated health workers in health centres and hospitals - they must be trained, retained and sustained.
- Invest in innovative financing that can make a huge difference, like the International Finance Facility for Immunization (IFFIm) and the International Drug Purchase Facility (UNITAID). Advance market commitment to vaccine purchase may also support increased provision of life-saving medicines.
By delivering on these priorities, we can ensure that this polio vaccine, other vaccines and lifesaving medicines get to all those who need them. I thank you for your continued support and commitment.