Investing in global health is investing in the Netherlands
Today, 30th January 2024, is an important day for global health. The Dutch House of Representatives will debate the annual budget for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, which includes significant cuts in the areas of global health and sexual health. In our opinion, this is a very bad plan for three reasons: investments in global health are proven to be effective, it’s an area where the Netherlands has expertise, and it is in the interest of the Netherlands.
We know what we are talking about: as the Dutch Global Health Alliance, a coalition of nineteen Dutch organizations working in the field of global health, we were closely involved in the development of the previous government’s Dutch Global Health Strategy. This was developed at the request of the House of Representatives and will be debated on March 21st, 2024. Adequate resources are crucial for the successful implementation of this strategy.
Why does this matter so much? First of all: investments in global health are proven effective. Thanks in part to Dutch contributions to major global health funds, tens of millions of people in low- and middle-income countries worldwide now have access to malaria nets and HIV medication, and children can be vaccinated against common childhood diseases. The Global Fund, an organization fighting epidemics, estimates that for every dollar invested $31 is returned in health and economic gains. Since its inception, the same organization has saved over 59 million lives.
Historically, investments in global health led to the (near) complete eradication of smallpox and polio, preventing much human suffering. These efforts, combined with global investments in nutrition, healthcare, water and hygiene, led to a sharp decline in child mortality rates. In fact, the number of children who died before reaching the age of 5 in low- and middle-income countries decreased from 15% in 1980 to 4.4% in 2021. All this would have been impossible if countries like the Netherlands had not invested.
In addition, the Netherlands has a reputation to uphold in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), global health and the crucial Life Sciences & Health sector. Not only has the Netherlands been a guiding force in the fight against HIV and tuberculosis, we also contributed to pandemic preparedness and countering antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This is crucial as, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), AMR is one of the biggest threats with far-reaching consequences for Dutch public health.
Thanks to Dutch contributions to the WHO and major health system financiers such as the World Bank and the Global Fund, the Netherlands has a seat at the table, where we bring our expertise and influence global health infrastructure. This international recognition is evident, for example, in the Dutch role as vice-chair of the negotiating team (INB) of an international pandemic accord.
Finally, and particularly relevant in today’s context, it’s essential to note that investing in global health is in our own interest. After all, the Netherlands is not an island. Diseases, and we know this all too well since the Covid-19 pandemic, do not stop at national borders.
For all these reasons, the Dutch Global Health Alliance urges members of the House of Representatives to vote against the proposed cuts on Tuesday. If we continue to invest in global health and sexual health now, the likelihood of being and remaining healthy in the future is much greater.