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Report finds 669 million lives saved by aid

International aid prevented 669 million deaths between 1990 and 2016 by spreading access to health services, but the gains could vanish if donors dry up.

International aid prevented 669 million deaths between 1990 and 2016 by spreading access to health services around the world, the ONE Campaign reported. But the gains could vanish if donors close their pocketbooks.

The international organization co-founded by U2's Bono launched its report at a global health summit this week in Berlin, where it used the opportunity to caution that millions more death could result if donor nations and philanthropists slow or stop their contributions to the fight against preventable diseases.

The organization, launched in 2004 to focus on fighting poverty and preventable diseases particularly in Africa, said international health aid peaked in 2013 at US$56 billion, nearly triple from US$20.4 billion in 2000. But the aid decreased to US$51.8 billion in 2015.

“The lives saved amount to twice the population of the United States,” said the ONE Campaign’s CEO Gayle Smith. “We’ve shown that we can do this, and to slow down — or step back — at this critical juncture would be to leave progress on the table.”

And there remains progress to be made: the report found, for example, that about 7,000 people a day still die of AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria, mostly in Africa's poorest countries.

New financing tools

At the start of the 21st century, new international organizations such as Gavi the Vaccine Alliance and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, backed by Bon0's ONE Campaign, were created to ramp up financing to improve health in the world’s poorest countries.

The report from ONE says that at least 669 million people worldwide would have needlessly died between 1990 and 2016 from some of the most deadly infections and preventable diseases.

It gives credit to the largest donors: the United States saved 219 million lives; the U.K., 46 million; Germany, 28 million; France, 25 million; the Netherlands, 17 million; Canada, 16 million; and Italy, 8 million. Private and foundation spending is credited with saving 87 million of the 669 million lives.

"But progress will not continue, and could be reversed, without radical new commitments, activism and innovation," the ONE Campaign said in a statement.

Most African nations saw gains in life expectancy between 2000 and 2015, a stark contrast from the “lost decade” of the 1990s, the report said.

On the flip side, in 2016, it said, nearly 1 million people died from HIV/AIDS globally, another 1.9 million people became newly infected with the disease and about two-thirds of these deaths and new infections occurred in most of Africa.

"Worryingly, the ambition of some world leaders has atrophied in recent years, and the intensity of civic activism has waned," the report said. "We are severely off track for key 2030 health targets in the countries at greatest risk."