Stakeholders Plan New Strategies On Global Research For Health, Development
Even though the 3rd Global Ministerial Forum on Research For Health that took place in Bamako, Mali (November 16 -20) has successfully come to a close, the many effects of the meeting would continue to be subject of discussion as nations the world over search for new research technologies, financial resources and human capabilities to tackle emerging non-communicable diseases which are threatening to drain the gains of 60 years of World Health Organisation (WHO).
In this essay, Yinka Shokunbi captures the thoughts of the leaders and stakeholders who brainstormed on how to develop strategies, form new alliances across the globe to defeat the threatening global financial crisis, which could prevent funding of new researches.
For three consecutive days the ministers of health, science and technology, education, foreign affairs and international cooperation from across 59 countries of the world gathered at the International Conference Centre of Bamako, Mali, to examine critical issues around how research has impacted on the global health and disease patterns.
At various sessions during the event, representatives of various arms of government of the participating countries brought to the front burner areas that need the urgent attention of world leaders particularly as they affect tropical diseases as well as emerging trends in new disease pattern such as Bird-Flu, Dengue Fever, Lassa Fever, HIV/AIDS and those occasioned by natural disasters like the Tsunamis which are yet to manifest.
The attention was shifted for a while to how these would affect the wealth of the world "if attentions are not given appropriately to new research techniques, capabilities to do greater assessment of outbreaks in the shortest possible time to avoid spread, and to make accurate projections of likely disease outbreak in the event of any natural disaster liker the Tsunamis and volcanic eruptions," submitted David de Ferranti, President, Results for Development Institute, Washington, US.
According to Ferranti in a lead discussion on 'mobilising research for global health security', "we are just beginning to see the beginning of the financial crisis; we have not seen enough yet of its greater effect.
"When the big economies are catching cold and the rest of the world gets pneumonia, you can best imagine what would happen when these big economies eventually get pneumonia," he drew an analogy
Common in all the discussions was the germane issue of financing research for health and development particularly in developing nations, "which if not tackled seriously, would affect the achievements of the developed and super nations", noted Editor The Lancet, Richard Horton, at one of the ministerial discussions.
Explaining how the Global Fund (GF) has been preparing to improve on the global financing of research for health in a media encounter, Professor Rolf Korte, assistant director GF noted, "for the past two years the GF has been very transparent in all what it does and has been able to do a five-year evaluation of what the Fund has achieved in order to make a future progression on what it intends to do with applicants for funding."
Korte explained that the mechanism of funding country programmes on malaria, tuberculosis and HIV would depend on the how countries that receive grant "have judiciously spent the grants given for the purpose and make reports available for verification."
"There are self-set standards which are self-set assessments by countries and they would only get funding if their assessments fulfil these standards," he added.
Global Fund has thus been evaluating recipient countries to score performance and know if future grants are merited or not, explained Korte.
On the part of the International Development Centre for Research (ICDR), Canada, Christina Zarowski explained that the main purpose of the centre founded by Act of Canadian Parliament in 1970 is to support research for development and to fund products of research for development.
The centre has the privilege to provide fund for research institutions in developing countries as "80 per cent of our funding actually goes to support research funding and partnerships by Canadian organisation across the world.
However the bulk of our funding goes to support research institutes that stand on their own and can manage the funds she stated.
Because the bulk of the money comes from the government of Canada, when financial situations are tight (as experienced now), the centre is not necessarily starved of funds.
"But since the money comes from tax payers' money, accountability is highly essential ingredient to receiving grants from ICDR just as we emphasise that research grants be given only for works that support government's developmental policies and so our grants would go to government research institutes ", said Zarowski.
WHO is also concerned on how countries work out strategies to give priority to health burdens that are of paramount importance "as well as put mechanism in place to get funding without embezzling such funds", said WHO Assistant Director, Timothy Evans. "It is important that countries know and understand that financial crisis is no excuse for failing to research because the best of financial management occurs in crisis situations we are currently experiencing", he told Sunday Independent.
In the final call to action at the end of the forum, the leaders and all stakeholders agreed to ensure that all governments of the world devote at least two per cent of health budget to research.
"Research and innovation have been and will be increasingly essential to finding solutions to health problems, address predictable and unpredictable threats to human security, alleviate poverty and accelerate development", they argued.
The forum also urged all countries "to develop, set and enforce standards, regulations and best practices for fair, accountable and transparent research processes, including those related to ethical review and conduct, product development and manufacturing, quality and safety of patients care, the registration and result reporting of clinical trials, and open and equitable access to research data, tools and information."
International funders were equally called upon "to invest at least five per cent of development assistance funds earmarked for the health sector, to pursue innovative financing mechanism for research for health, and to allocate these funds according to country-led research strategies."
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