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Africa is full of success stories that remain invisible to a largely pessimistic world, and this vacuum of knowledge goes hand in hand with widespread scepticism that disease can be controlled in the developing world.

"Such fatalism is simply unacceptable," says UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. "Given what we know, over the next decade it will be possible to make huge gains world-wide. But if we don't make a concerted effort now, we are, in essence, condemning millions of people to death, especially young children."

Bellamy's remarks are contained in a new report jointly issued by five United Nations agencies and the World Bank that claims that the main diseases that cause and perpetuate poverty can be successfully controlled.

"Worsening AIDS, TB and malaria epidemics are not inevitable," it says. "Numerous strategies have been deployed by several developing countries to successfully fight these diseases, and prevent the deaths they cause. What is needed are the funds and systems that will enable widespread implementation of actions that have shown to be effective.

The report contains success stories from 20 different countries, encompassing the widest variety of economic, social and geographic conditions. It shows, for example, how countries like Senegal, Uganda and Thailand have developed strategies that reduce HIV infection rates, how Azerbaijan and Vietnam have cut in half the number of deaths from malaria, how China, India and Peru have cut TB deaths by half, and how Sri Lanka has drastically reduced maternal mortality.

The report: Health, a Key to Prosperity: Success Stories in Developing Countries, outlines key factors for combating AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, childhood diseases and maternal and perinatal conditions, even in resource-poor environments.

"The prospects of intervening to prevent death in developing countries have never been better," says Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO. "The evidence refutes those who doubt that the world's poorest communities can be protected from AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), malaria, childhood diseases and maternal mortality. With a concerted effort from the international community we can turn the promise of these success stories into a reality in the coming years."

Says World Bank president James Wolfensohn. "The stories demonstrate that success is possible even when resources are scarce. They show that inputs such as drugs or vaccines, as important as they are to improving health, are not enough.

"Political commitment, capacity-building, human resources, education and communication, local adaptation and community involvement are critical. They also signal that strengthening and increased financing of underlying health systems and social services is key to ensuring a large-scale and more sustainable response."
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Publication:African Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Feb 1, 2001
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