G7 Health, which ended today in Milan, might be an opportunity to make a difference for the Italian presidency. While its political intentions are appreciable, the declaration does not require the commitment of the G7 countries to concrete and quantifiable financial investments and the implementation of an operational action plan that guarantees the implementation of all the initiatives reported.
Climate change, women’s health, resistance to antibiotics were the main themes of the Milan summit.
The good news is that, despite the differences in US positioning, the health impact of climate change and environmental degradation has been recognized. In fact, there are about 12.6 million deaths annually attributable to air, water and soil pollution, chemical exposure, climate change and ultraviolet radiation. The World Health Organization (WHO) points out that the deaths of 26% of children under the age of five are caused by pollution-related illnesses. Not to mention the number of so-called climate migrants that will reach 1 billion by 2050 without adequate measures.
As stated by the WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at the opening of the summit, we must increase investment in research and development to combat antimicrobial resistance, in particular tuberculosis (TB). With 1.7 million deaths in 2016, it is the world’s first killer among infectious diseases. If no urgent answers are found, in 2050, TB will account for a quarter of the deaths from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. We welcome the G7 initiative to politically support the organization of a UN high-level meeting on tuberculosis in 2018. Apart from the reference to the necessary support for UNITAID (an international organization that invests in the research and development of new drugs and diagnostic techniques accessible to the poorest countries), we note, however, with concern the absence of a political commitment on accessibility and control of the price of medicines for all diseases, in all countries.
A critical and transversal issue is women’s health: the urgency of tackling perinatal and maternal mortality and dealing with the malnutrition of pregnant women has been emphasized. But it is equally important to ensure access to health services, particularly sexual and reproductive health care, throughout the life cycle of women and girls who—as emphasized by the WHO Director-General—must be free to choose whether, when and with whom to have children. Access to services is also necessary to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and freedom from the violence to which one in three women on the planet is subjected. This would be possible thanks to the funding of multilateral actors such as UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), which unfortunately was not mentioned in the final declaration.
The reaffirmation of the commitments and objectives set in the previous G7 and G20, in connection with the 2030 Agenda: defeating polio and ending HIV / AIDS, malaria and TB by 2030, through full funding support of mechanisms such as UNAIDS, Global Fund, GPEI, UNITAID and GAVI, on which Italy is also asked for a broader commitment.
Health inequality should be fought both by promoting policies aimed at pursuing universal health coverage, and by strengthening national health systems to ensure treatment and prevention, defeating major epidemics and tackling health emergencies. This also means ensuring the right to health of migrants and refugees in the countries of origin, transit and destination, ensuring their physical and mental health and access to sexual and reproductive health services.
We reiterate that global health is a fundamental human right and that universal access to health services is a precondition for guaranteeing the right to health and a fundamental requirement for the sustainable development of each country.
We hope that the Canadian Presidency will place global health at the center of the agenda for the next G7 and that there will be funding initiatives, as was the case in past summits, to give concrete form to the political commitments made.
GCAP Italy, a coalition of dozens of organizations, trade unions and civil society movements, was represented in Milan by the Action Global Health Advocacy Partnership, Aidos, AiDS Observatory and Oxfam, together with Friends of Global Fund Europe and the International Health Observatory.
PRESS OFFICE: Serena Fiorletta