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Saturday, April 25, 2009

World Bank triples funds for healthcare amid crisis

Sat Apr 25, 2009 10:52am EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The World Bank is set to triple healthcare spending in developing countries to $3.1 billion this year amid signs governments are cutting funding in the midst of a global economic crisis.

A new World Bank report said it would increase its healthcare funding from $1 billion last year, with evidence already that some governments are facing difficulties in affording HIV/AIDS drug therapies.

Preliminary findings from a March 2009 World Bank survey in 69 countries, which offer treatment to 3.4 million people on anti-retroviral treatment, shows that eight countries now face shortages of anti-retroviral drugs or other disruptions to AIDS treatment.

Some 22 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and Central Asia, and Asia and Pacific are likely to have difficulties in providing anti-retroviral drugs over the course of the year.

HIV/AIDS prevention programs are also in jeopardy, with some 34 countries, representing 75 percent of people living with HIV, feeling an impact on prevention programs that target high-risk groups, including sex workers and drug users.

The World Bank also said it was doubling financing for health education this year to $4.09 billion.

The Bank's announcement comes amid an outbreak of a deadly swine flu in Mexico and the United States, which on top of a recession could be devastating to developing economies.

The World Bank this week said it was boosting investment in countries' social protection programs to $12 billion for 2009-10, including for so-called targeted assistance that offers poor families cash in return for sending kids to school and to mothers who take their children for regular checkups.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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