Many people in developing countries have no chance of achieving true health, a state of complete physical and mental well-being. Every year more than 7.5 million infants still die from diseases that are mostly avoidable. That is equivalent to around 21,000 deaths every day. More than 80 per cent of these deaths occur in the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Every day around 1,000 women die worldwide from the consequences of pregnancy or childbirth, because proper medical care is not available. According to United Nations estimates, 1.8 million people died of AIDS in 2010. Many millions also suffer from diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, river blindness, sleeping sickness and dengue fever.
We need to continue to devote hard work and determined efforts to halting the spread of HIV, malaria and other infectious diseases. However, at least the latest UNAIDS figures on the HIV epidemic give us hope. We are close to turning the tide. I think we are witnessing the beginning of the end of AIDS. This is an achievement, not least, of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
That is why Germany announced this week that it is committing 1 billion Euro over five years to the Global Fund.
Still, the challenge remains huge: Illnesses are a frequent, direct consequence of poverty; at the same time, poverty can result after a period of illness, it is a vicious circle. Successfully reducing poverty is one important precondition for improving the health of people in poor countries.
That is one reason why German development cooperation focuses on poverty reduction. Efforts undertaken in this field by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development are orientated to the Millennium Development Goals, three of which focus on health:
Reducing child mortality (MDG 4),
Reducing the number of maternal deaths during pregnancy or in childbirth (MDG 5), and
Controlling AIDS and other infectious diseases (MDG 6).
Over the past ten years, Germany has tripled its funding for health in developing countries, bringing it to about 750 million euros a year. At the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, too, health figures high on the agenda as one of the major issues for the future.
Polio is an example of how successful a campaign against a disease can be if it is mounted on a global scale. Polio has almost been eradicated.
However, the international community must not let up in its efforts now that this goal is almost within our grasp. Only then will we be able to wipe out polio once and for all. First Polio - then, hopefully, other diseases, too.
Because health is a vital prerequisite for human development. Even more: It is a human right.