Colonialism Through Global Health

How does the Global Health system contribute to the growing crisis of widening inequality and extreme wealth concentration? How can Global Health policies and programmes be redesigned to prevent impoverishment and mitigate social inequality?

Although much of the Global Health machinery is focused on tackling diseases and ill health, parts of the global health system are contributing to a broader pattern of excessive profiteering and wealth accumulation. The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially eye-catching as an example of how vaccines has not only resulted in inequitable access to vaccines, but also vast amounts of health extraction. According to Forbes, the pandemic created 40 new pharmaceutical billionaires. Oxfam estimates that pharmaceutical companies have been making over $1,000 a second in profit from vaccines alone and charging governments up to 24 times more than it would cost to produce vaccines on a generic basis. At the same time, these companies have been evading their tax responsibilities by using tax havens and aggressive tax practices. Another example of profiteering from the health sector has been private finance initiatives of the kind that virtually bankrupted Lesotho’s health budget.  

The ability of corporations and private investors to gouge excessive profits from the health sector is the result of multiple failings across the wider global political economy. One of the critical enabling factors has been the legitimacy given to such actors by the Global Health community by endorsing corporate social responsibility projects and inviting their participation in public private partnerships even while they behave unethically and anti-socially. 

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