A new “global health” directorate has been set up in Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office in a bid to deal with the current pandemic and reduce risks posed in the future.
Although the UK maintains a worldwide reputation as a leader in health, it has faced criticism for focusing “too much” on the Covid-19 pandemic at the expense of other serious health crises.
The Daily Telegraph reports that bringing down the huge numbers of preventable deaths of mothers and babies around the world is also “at the top of the to-do list” for the new directorate.
Wendy Morton, the FCDO minister covering global health, told The Telegraph the UK was already a“ force for good” in global health. For example, the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called for a ceasefire at the UN Security Council earlier this week to allow the world’s most vulnerable to get coronavirus vaccines.
She said the FCDO’s new, dedicated global health directorate “brings development and diplomacy together” to drive this global effort to end the pandemic, but also to strengthen co-operation on other vital issues such as ending the preventable deaths of mothers, new-born babies and children.
She said it would also work to help to “strengthen” the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WHO itself has faced criticism about its reponse to the pandemic while concerns have also been raised about its political influence.
The UK is already the second biggest state donor to global health spending across the world, although last year the aid budget was cut from 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5%, taking the total available down to around £10bn.