"If you add up all the aid that all OECD countries have given since they started counting it in 1960, and then assume that the only thing that this aid has achieved was the eradication of smallpox, then the whole thing would still be a bargain, costing less than half what the UK National Health Service spends on average to save a life."

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Pharmaceutical companies do not have many fans among development workers.

This is a shame, because the development of effective pharmaceuticals has been one of the most transformative new technologies of the last century, increasing life expectancy and the quality of… Continue reading

This week I attended the inauguration a new Marie Stopes family planning clinic in Woldia in northern Ethiopia. Together with yesterdays announcement by the UN of a new "Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health", Every Woman, Every Child, this has led me to reflect on the importance of family planning and maternal health in Ethiopia and in other developing countries.  There is huge unmet need for family planning here in Ethiopia which, if met in full, could both directly improve the lives of many families in Ethiopia, and result in a substantial increase in incomes per head.  A decade of sustained access to modern contraception could have increase incomes per head in Ethiopia by roughly the same amount as the whole of today's international aid to Ethiopia.  The new UN strategy, Every Woman Every Child, isn't really a strategy, but it is a welcome restatement of the importance of the health of women and children. It is shocking that it is almost completely silent on abortion. (Here in Ethiopia, unsafe abortion is responsible for a third of maternal deaths.)

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An interesting Economist article about the uses of prizes to promote innovation is a missed opportunity to explain the economic logic of prizes for innovations for developing countries. The reported comments by Tachi Yamada at the Gates Foundation about the value of market success do not seem to take account of the shortcomings of the system of patents and markets when it comes to developing drugs for diseases that mainly affect developing countries, nor to the problem of ensuring access in developing countries for new drugs.

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