A new report from the World Health Organization revealed that thousands of people die daily for lack of basic things like vaccines and clean drinking water.

Twenty-four thousand people die each day because they lack basic care, the Boston Globe reported. That amounts to 8.8 million lives lost needlessly each year to preventable diseases, infections and childbirth complications.

The Globe noted that this number roughly represents the population of New York City, or of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine combined.

The WHO, which assesses the health of people of all nations, said in a release that it hopes these statistics will draw attention to the differences that simple health care can make for those without it.

Bill Foege, a leading global health figure and advisor to Microsoft founder Bill Gates, a major health care philanthropist, told the Globe that there are two basic barriers to improving health care worldwide—poverty and lack of contribution by others.

“We don’t apply what we know,” Foege said. “You can take anybody on a global health team, set them any place in Africa, and they will do OK.”
Poverty is also a very real reason for these needless deaths.

“If you force me to live on a dollar a day in that African village, I couldn’t afford the firewood to boil water,” Foege told the Globe. “I couldn’t afford to put screens on the doors to keep out mosquitoes.”

Half the world today receives good health care, according to the WHO.
When the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health issued its findings on the number of preventable deaths, it concluded that the way to prevent future needless deaths doesn’t only lie with “discoveries” today.

“It’s more about getting tetanus shots for children; training more midwives; providing safe drinking water to more villages; and a few dozen other measures that most Americans take for granted,” the Globe reported.

Of the 17.7 million people who die annually from infectious diseases and maternal and perinatal conditions, half could have been saved, according to the WHO.

Gates challenged the scientific community on Jan. 27, calling on it to solve some of the biggest world health problems. And Gates is willing to put his money where his mouth is, offering $200 million in grant money to researchers who come up with the best ideas, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.

“Of the 1,500 new medicines that have been approved in the last 25 years, only 20 of those have related to the diseases of developing countries,” Gates told the Post-Intelligencer. Gates also said that about 90 percent of the world’s research funding is spent on just 10 percent of the world’s health problems and mostly those problems afflicting residents of wealthy countries.

Gates told the Post-Intelligencer he considers this an unacceptable “market failure” and has devoted a considerable portion of his personal wealth to correcting it.

The Globe reported that what makes the WHO data so shocking is that these men, women and children would have survived if they had lived in the United States.

Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.

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