Policy

Health in developing countries

Issue

Globally, people’s health is improving. Since 1990, with a significant contribution from UK development programmes, the number of children dying from preventable causes has fallen from around 12.7 million a year to around 6.3 million about 17,000 fewer children died each day in 2012 than in 1990. In this period, the number of girls and women dying during pregnancy and childbirth has fallen from 543,000 a year to 289,000.

Yet there is still much to be done. The poorest people in the world’s poorest countries suffer the most from ill health, and women suffer more than men. Much of this suffering could be prevented by using existing treatments and by applying the latest knowledge about what works.

The challenge is to get these treatments to the people who need them the most - the poorest, the most marginalised, and those in fragile or post-conflict states. We want to speed up progress in improving people’s health.

Actions

We work with governments and health organisations to improve healthcare systems in the poorest countries, including supporting the development of drugs and vaccines.

We work to make it easier for poor people to get access to and use healthcare services when they need them.

We will improve children’s health, saving 250,000 newborn babies’ lives by 2015.

We will improve reproductive, maternal and newborn healthcare. From 2010 to 2015, we will spend an extra £2.1 billion on women’s and newborn health. We aim to save the lives of at least 50,000 women in pregnancy and childbirth.

We will help halve malaria deaths in at least 10 of the worst affected countries by 2015.

We will help halve the number of cases of and deaths from tuberculosis (TB) by 2015, compared to 1990 levels.

We are working with partners to immunise millions of children every year from killer diseases.

We will help control or eliminate 7 major neglected tropical diseases – improving the lives of 140 million people by 2015.

We are improving health services to prevent and treat non-communicable diseases, including heart disease, cancers, diabetes and mental health problems.

We will reduce new HIV infections; improve diagnosis, treatment and care of HIV and AIDS; and reduce stigma and discrimination towards people with HIV and AIDS.

We fund research to solve global health problems that threaten the lives of millions of people around the world.

Background

We have committed to reducing maternal mortality, improving maternal health and combating HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases in developing countries as part of the Millennium Development Goals, a series of targets agreed at the UN in 2000. 3 of these goals are about improving health by 2015.

The Millennium Development Goal to improve maternal health is one of the targets that is least likely to be achieved. Around 2.8 million babies still die every year before they are a month old, accounting for 44% of all deaths in children under 5 years of age. Three quarters of all newborn deaths occur in the first week of life.

In 2013/14 the UK spend on malaria was £536 million. This has been calculated using the methodology detailed in the Malaria Framework for Results.