Press Conference on ‘MASSIVEGOOD’, Innovative Health Financing Initiative

4 March 2010

Press Conference on ‘MASSIVEGOOD’, Innovative Health Financing Initiative

4 March 2010
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on ‘MASSIVEGOOD’, Innovative Health Financing Initiative

Starting today, travellers in the United States purchasing tickets, booking a hotel room or renting a car online can save a child from malaria with five clicks of the mouse, organizers of the new micro-contribution initiative “MASSIVEGOOD” said today.

Addressing a Headquarters press conference sponsored by the Permanent Mission of France, Bernard Salomé, Managing Director of the Millennium Foundation for Innovative Finance for Health, said travellers buying tickets from participating travel agents could make a minimum contribution of $2 towards global health causes with one click.  Five clicks, the equivalent of $10, bought an insecticide-treated bed net, while 25 clicks was enough to pay for a year’s worth of HIV medication for one child, he explained.

Launched today by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, MASSIVEGOOD was an offshoot of UNITAID, a mechanism developed by Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom, said Mr. Salomé, who was accompanied by Philippe Douste-Blazy, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Innovative Financing for Development; Ray Chambers, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Malaria; Jorge Bermudes, Executive Secretary of UNITAID, an international facility for the purchase of drugs to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis; Julian Schweitzer, Vice-President of the World Bank’s Human Development Network; and William Maloney, Chief Executive Officer of the American Society of Travel Agents.

Mr. Douste-Blazy said the aim of MASSIVEGOOD was to use innovative methods – alongside the existing “air tax” on tickets currently levied in France, among a handful of other countries -- to raise funds for purchasing drugs.  UNITAID had earlier created the Millennium Foundation to handle private donations and would receive all the proceeds raised during the first year of the new initiative.  UNITAID had raised $1.5 billion in three years, 65 per cent of which had come from its micro-tax scheme on air tickets, he added.

Noting that 16 Heads of State or Government had so far declared an intention to levy the air tax as well, Mr. Douste-Blazy said that funds raised by UNITAID helped finance programmes run by institutions such as the Clinton Foundation.  Those resources supported three out of every four children receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS in addition to paying for bed nets treated with insecticide to prevent malaria and treat tuberculosis.

Mr. Chambers pointed out that the use of mosquito nets had reduced by half the number of malaria deaths in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Zambia, and by 100 per cent on the island of Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania.  With enough bed nets and medicine, there was hope that malaria deaths could be brought down to zero by 2015.  The global economic crisis was straining donor countries, leading to declining official development assistance (ODA) and making it ever more necessary to rely on new sources of financing.

Mr. Douste-Blazy explained that innovative financing primarily meant raising money through taxes or voluntary contributions, noting that the idea of a global lottery was yet to be developed.  Recognizing that not all Governments found it easy to levy new taxes, the creators of the air tax had seized on the idea of a one-click button to facilitate “micro-contributions” on travel websites.

He said MASSIVEGOOD would also be launched in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Austria and Switzerland between now and July.

Mr. Salomé emphasized that funds raised through the air tax, and voluntary contributions via MASSIVEGOOD, were not meant to replace those collected by major health fundraisers such as the World Bank, the Global Fund and others.  The money raised by MASSIVEGOOD represented an addition to those more significant pools of funding, and was expected to bring in between $600 million and $1 billion in four years, according to analysts at McKinsey and the Gates Foundation.

Mr. Bermudes said UNITAID had helped bring down the prices of major health commodities and triggered the invention of new medicines.  Mr. Schweitzer added that the eventual goal was to raise cost-effective interventions to address a mix of concerns, from lowering blood pressure to providing micronutrients for battling anaemia.  “Hopefully we’ll be able to make a dent in the real problem, which is the 500,000 women who are dying unnecessarily every year during childbirth from multiple causes -- malaria, HIV, high blood pressure, anaemia,” he said.  “I think all of these things have to be considered as a package.”

Mr. Maloney, whose trade association has members in more than 120 countries, said modern travellers were no longer passive observers but active participants in the welfare of the people they visited.  Most tickets were bought through travel agents, which made them ideal points of engagement, he pointed out.

Asked whether reports of tuberculosis in New York City were on UNITAID’s radar, Mr. Bermudes replied that 85 per cent of funds continued to be directed at low-income countries.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.