Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature International Aid

Innovative financing of health care

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 04 November 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4235
  1. Tatum Anderson, freelance journalist
  1. 1London
  1. tatum.anderson{at}

    With national budgets stretched, countries are trying to find new ways to fund aid to developing countries, Tatum Anderson reports

    Morocco’s airline travellers will soon be contributing to the cost of drugs to treat malaria and antiretrovirals to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV and treat infected children after a new tax on flights is introduced. Morocco joins over 30 other countries that collect taxes on airline tickets (Norway also contributes part of its tax on carbon dioxide emissions). So far, the $1.2bn (£75m; €80m) raised has enabled aid agencies to negotiate up to 70% discounts on drug purchases and buy more drugs for people who cannot afford them.

    This levy is one of numerous novel methods to raise money for health interventions in developing countries that have captured the imagination of countries around the world. “Innovative financing is the new architecture for development,” said Phillippe Douste-Blazy, UN secretary general’s special adviser on innovative financing and chairman of Unitaid, the Geneva based agency that manages the levy.

    France’s President Chirac inspired the air tax and the UK has spearheaded a few innovative financing schemes of its own, including one that borrows money from bond markets to subsidise the cost of childhood vaccines in 72 of the world’s poorest countries. And a World Health Organization working group is consulting on some 92 mechanisms that could be used to fund research into diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries. Another, on innovative funding for non-communicable diseases, will begin next year.

    Last year world leaders set up a taskforce, chaired by UK prime minister Gordon Brown and World Bank president Robert Zoellick, to examine ideas for innovative financing of health systems. At the UN General Assembly in September the taskforce announced schemes to fund improvements in maternal and child health. They have committed …

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