Unequal access to health care is a major factor in keeping people in poverty, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said in a press release issued at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday.
UNAIDS called health a right and urged governments to guarantee everyone access to health care. The release stated that at least half of the world’s population currently lacks access to essential health services.
Nearly 100 million people each year are pushed into extreme poverty — living on $1.90 or less a day — due to health care costs, according to a 2017 study from the World Bank and the World Health Organization.
“The right to health is eluding the poor and people trying to lift themselves out of poverty are being crushed by the unacceptably high costs of health care,” Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS, said in the press release. “The richest 1% benefit from cutting-edge science while the poor struggle to get even basic health care.
Lack of health care affects already-marginalized populations, such as women and migrants. AIDS-related illnesses are the biggest killer of women of reproductive age in sub-Saharan Africa, according to UNAIDS.
Every year 100 million people are pushed into extreme #poverty paying for health care. That’s three people every second. Health cannot be a privilege of the rich. It is a human right that belongs to all. #HealthForAll#WEF2020#WEF20#Davos2020#SDGs#UHC#FightInequalitypic.twitter.com/OJC1BO7hx1— Winnie Byanyima (@Winnie_Byanyima) January 21, 2020
"Publicly financed health care is the greatest equalizer in society," Byanyima said. "When health spending is cut or inadequate, it is poor people and people on the margins of society, especially women and girls, who lose their right to health first, and they have to bear the burden of caring for their families."
The press release called unequal access to health care “a political choice,” noting that many countries, such as the United States, do not invest a large sum of money, in proportion to their gross domestic product, on health services. It also cited corporate tax avoidance and profit shifting as a major impediment in developing nations being able to invest in health care, with developing countries losing between $150 and $500 billion each year due to these corporate practices.
Securing good health and well-being for all is currently one of the UN’s top sustainable development goals, and the organization has called for universal health care for all by 2030.
Extreme poverty has come under the spotlight at Davos this year. On Tuesday, Priyanka Chopra Jonas called on the world’s billionaires to “Give While You Live,” by donating a greater share of their wealth in order to combat global poverty. And a recent report from Oxfam International found that the world’s billionaires now have as much wealth as over half the population.