Education And Debate

Health and development in the Arab world: which way forward?

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 22 May 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1141
  1. Samer Jabbour (, assistant professor1
  1. 1 Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon
  • Accepted 12 March 2003

International efforts to improve health and welfare often overlook Arab countries. Arab peoples aspire to make progress in these areas but are not empowered to bring about change.

Considering its resources, the Arab world has achieved less than expected in health and development. In fact, the consequences of war, sanctions, and occupation in Iraq, Sudan, and Palestine have resulted in regression rather than progression. What is being proposed to address this? Last year, there were two international events that directly concern health and development in the Arab world. The first was a high profile conference on public health for health policy makers in Beirut organised by the World Bank and the World Health Organization, during which a document on the public health situation and prospects was released.1 The second was the publication of the Arab Human Development Report 2002, cosponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development.2 Although both events painted a challenging picture for development in the Arab region, they identified different sets of impediments to progress, priorities for development, and solutions. A critical look at these events may help identify important steps towards improving health in Arab countries and propelling development.

Embedded Image

Iraqi children queuing for food: wars and sanctions have gravely affected public health and development in one of the richest Arab countries


Arab Human Development Report

The Arab Human Development Report 2002 is the first report from the United Nations Development Programme that concerns a single region. It was written by a group of Arab intellectuals and experts with known concern for the Arab world. They used old and new methods to summarise data from different resources into indices that are compared with other regions.

General development

The Arab world, despite its wealth and natural and human resources, fared …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription