Misplaced Priorities

Who's Contempt For The Real Problems Of The Third World

Misplaced Priorities:
WHO's Contempt for the Real Problems of the Third World

by Wanda Hamilton

Though WHO gives lip service to helping poor countries, in reality it shows nothing but contempt for them and wastes its resources on administrative costs, endless conferences and meetings, and its politically correct global war on cigarettes.

According to a l996 essay in the British medical journal The Lancet: "Staff time spent on disease prevention and human resources in African countries is 4%, whereas administration may consume 65%.Less than a tenth of 1% of the budget is spent on malaria control--the largest killer disease....In Africa the budget for drug and vaccine safety and efficiency is slightly over $65 per country per year.In South-East Asia control of acute respiratory tract infection in children costs less than 1 cent per child.The least developed countries do not receive substantial budget increases and their annual per capita allocations hardly ever exceed 25 cents."And this despite the fact that WHO's annual budget has grown by about 4000% since 1950 with 75% going to fund administrative overheads, (Ermakov V, "Reform of the World Health Organization," The Lancet, 347:1536-37, Jun l996).

Even before Gro Harlem Brundtland took over the helm of WHO in l998, she vowed to step up the organization's commitment to fight tobacco use on a global scale and make it a top priority, especially in Third World countries.Of course, the people in those countries are not dying from smoking but from malnutrition and infectious diseases, butno matter, WHO will bring them the gospel of tobacco control anyway.

It is also ironic that many of these poor countries are helping build their economies by growing the very weed Brundtland has vowed to eradicate:tobacco.

In February, l999, a delegation from the International Tobacco Growers' Association [ITGA] appealed to WHO not to eliminate their livelihoods, saying that the WHO tobacco war would be disastrous for many emerging economies. 'We believe the WHO does not fully understand the effect the TFI [WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative] would have on tobacco growers in poor regions,' said Antonio Abrunhosa, executive director of the ITGA, whose member countries produce 80 percent of the world's tobacco, ("Producers to lobby WHO," Financial Times, 2/23/99).

And here is WHO's let-them-eat-cake response in an official press release reported by the Panafrican News Agency on March 10, l999:"Tobacco is a killer and tobacco growers must separate their concern for their own livelihood from the public health impact of tobacco...."

But it isn't tobacco that is killing people in these developing countries; it's malnutrition and infectious disease:

  • "Three billion people worldwide are malnourished....Six to fourteen million people die worldwide each year from malnutrition says the World Health Organization," ("Healing Our World," Jackie Alan Guiliano, Ph.D, Environmental News Service, May, l999).Nevertheless, Nanny WHO frets about obesity. "The WHO is so concerned about obesity that in a recent statement it concluded that obesity, 'should be regarded as one of the greatest neglected public health problems of our time, with an impact on health which may well prove to be as great as that of smoking,'" ("Cutting out tougher than butting out," Canada NewsWire, 9/3/97).

  • 17 million people died from infectiousor parasitic diseases in 1996, and 5 million babies born in developing countries in l995 died in their first month of life, (U.N. World Health Report l997).

  • "Nearly 600,000 children under 15 and 2.5 million people aged 15-24 caught the Human Immunodeficiency Virus last year [the United Nations] said," ("3 Million Youths Got HIV Last Year," Associated Press, in The New York Times, 2/25/990). AIDS is hitting African countries especially hard.

  • "Tuberculosis has become the world's No. 1 killer of young women, contrary to the developed world's perception of it as a disease hitting mainly elderly men, the World Health Organization said Tuesday," ("TB the No. 1 killer of women of child-bearing age," the Nando Times, 5/28/98).According to WHO TB killed 3 million people worldwide in l996, but "only 16% of patients with tuberculosis worldwide receive treatment," (Abbasi K, "The World Bank and world health: Healthcare strategy," British Medical Journal, April 3, l999;318:933-936).

  • There are 300-500 million acute cases of malaria occurring worldwide each year, and the disease accounts for one in four of all childhood deaths in Africa (World Health Report, 5/11/99).

A quarter of the world's population earns less than $1 a day (Abbasi,BMJ, 4/3/99).

Of course, WHO says it's going to go after malaria and AIDS and all that, but clearly cigarettes are its first priority.After all, tobacco control's all the rage in the First World.

And after tobacco"Well, then it's on to weight control and proper exercise.

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