58th ASSEMBLY OF THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO)
STATEMENT BY CARD. JAVIER LOZANO BARRAGÁN
I am pleased to convey to the World Health Organization the cordial greetings of the new Pope Benedict XVI. His Holiness is deeply concerned by the world's health problems. He offers all his support and help to the global effort to obtain health for all, especially the most defenceless, with priority to topics that cause us the greatest concern today and to the health of mothers and children above all.
Unfortunately, diseases and infectious diseases in particular are most virulent in the poorest countries which, precisely because of their poverty, have no resources with which to obtain the medicines that thanks to technological progress could easily provide a cure for some of them.
As a matter of fact, infectious illnesses account for the death of 17 million people each year, 90 percent of whom live in developing countries.
For example, 95 percent of those infected with AIDS have no money to pay for antiretrovirals. Today on the market of some of these countries it is impossible even to find the medicines necessary to treat the so-called "diseases of the poor", such as, for example, tuberculosis, malaria, smallpox, dengue haemorrhagic fever, leishmaniasis, certain forms of meningitis, sleeping sickness, etc.
Recently, at the end of the 20th century, only 13 of the 1,223 new medicines put on the market in the 22 years between 1975 and 1997 were for the treatment of infectious tropical diseases. The total cost of medicines throughout the world is estimated at between $50 and $60 billion (U.S.) annually, and only 0.2 percent of this sum is allocated to the treatment of respiratory ailments, tuberculosis and diarrhoea infections.
These diseases are thought to be the cause of 18 percent of the deaths across the world (cf. Médecins sans frontière, www.accessmed.sf.org).
Together with these health problems, with special reference to mother and child health, it is appalling to note that out of 211 million new human beings conceived, there are 46 million induced abortions, 32 million die prematurely or at birth, and only 133 million are born and survive (WHO, The World Health Report 2005, Make every mother and child count, 48-52).
Mr President, aware in the Holy See of these and similar problems, Pope John Paul II set up "The Good Samaritan" Foundation to help the neediest sick in the world. The new Pope Benedict XVI has been pleased to ratify this Foundation.
We are complying with its initial aim by purchasing medicines for the neediest. To date, we have been able to assist sick people in 11 countries in Africa, one in Asia and another in Latin America; 26.7 percent of the care centres for the sick with HIV/AIDS in the world are served by the Catholic Church.
In this way we desire to cooperate in some way with the great task that the WHO is carrying out, and in this health context, to contribute our endeavours to helping in particular the poorest and neediest.