By Peter Gumbel/Paris Friday, Sep. 18,
(01) Starting next January, whenever you buy an airline ticket
at a travel agency or online, there’ll be a new question to answer
before you hand over your credit card: Would you be willing to
donate $2 to help fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in
Africa? It sounds like a small step, and many airline travelers,
already irritated by compulsory surcharges for fuel, baggage
and wider seats, may simply ignore it. But behind this call for a
voluntary contribution is an unprecedented worldwide effort to
make up a shortfall in official government aid to poor countries – a
shortfall exacerbated by the world financial crisis.
(02) The initiative is the brainchild of Philippe Douste-Blazy.
He runs an agency called UNITAID that is attached to the World
Health Organization and already channels funds to fight disease in
poor countries. UNITAID was founded in 2006. Its $400 million
annual budget is funded by Britain, France, Norway, Brazil, and
Chile. Douste-Blazy is now trying to turbo-charge those efforts
by bringing in private donations. He’s set up a foundation linked
to UNITAID that will collect the voluntary airline-ticket levy and
distribute it to key players in the field of medical assistance in
Africa and elsewhere. Recipients will include the U.N. children’s
agency UNICEF and the Clinton foundation. As well as targeting
HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, the money will also be spent
on improving maternal health and reducing child mortality.