The British have decided to drastically increase their foreign health funding and vow to spend five times their most recent investments in addressing diseases in poor nations across the globe. The country’s International Development Minister, Stephen O'Brien announced the increase in spending on researching Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) from $78 million to $380 million in the next four years. NTDs, like river blindness and elephantiasis, affect one billion people and kill a half million every year.
As part of Britain’s global push to eradicate diseases, NTDs typically take a backseat to malaria and HIV, which are prone in the same environments where the funding will be most effective. Although the monetary goal is less than one percent of Britain’s national health service budget of $164 billion, health experts say it will help as many as 140 million people worldwide, especially throughout rural Africa. In tandem with the money comes donations of free drugs from pharmaceutical companies and attention from NGOs that will discuss this at an international conference to take place in London on January 30.
While it is admirable that Britain is taking a lead role in the fight against NTDs, should we laud these actions without acknowledging the role in which British colonialism played in keeping many of these countries impoverished in the first place? And will these efforts create an increased since of loyalty to the UK in these poor nations who may simply be receiving a bit of guilt-based reparations via medicine and research?