According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health and development are closely interlinked. Better health is central to human happiness and well-being. It also makes an important contribution to economic progress, as healthy populations live longer, are more productive, and save more.
WHO believes that since many countries experience similar health challenges and concern, cooperation among countries is an effective tool to strengthen, share and accelerate health development within countries and across regions. It involves creating, adapting, transferring and sharing knowledge and experiences to improve health – while also making the most of existing resources and capacities.
Non-Aligned Movement, being the largest organization that voices the concerns of the developing nations, has called on Member States to improve health facilities. At the same time, NAM has reaffirmed the importance of regional cooperation with regards to promotion of health.
NAM has welcomed the evolving partnerships between a variety of stakeholders at the local, national, regional and global levels aimed at addressing the multifaceted determinants of global health and the commitments and initiatives to accelerate progress on the health-related internationally agreed development goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals.
Many NAM Member States have entered into health cooperation programmes. Some recent examples of such health related programs are discussed in this article. In September 2018, NAM Member States of Tunisia and Equatorial Guinea signed an Executive Programme For Health Cooperation. This programme is meant to scale up cooperation and partnership in medical training, hospital management, pharmaceutical industry and medical devices. It is also geared towards promoting the exportation of healthcare services and accommodating patients from Equatorial Guinea in public and private facilities in Tunisia in such medical specialities as nephrology and cardiology.
In August 2018, the signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Indonesia on health cooperation was approved by the Indian Union Cabinet. The MoU covers the following areas of cooperation: 1) Research and development, active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and IT-based medical equipment; 2) Human Resource Development; 3) Health services; and 4) Any other area as may be mutually agreed upon.
One of the best examples of healthcare cooperation among NAM Member States is between Cuba and South Africa. Cuba and South Africa’s bilateral agreements date as far back as 1996 when the Health Ministry, through a bilateral agreement with the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba, initiated cooperation in the health field. The cooperation, known as the Nelson Mandela-Fidel Castro Collaboration, consists of three elements, including the undergraduate training programme; recruitment and exchange of health professionals and academics; and exchange in biotechnological and innovation in health.
The programme was established with the aim to address the shortage of health professionals in South Africa, particularly in underserved and rural areas. The outcome of this Nelson Mandela/Fidel Castro (NMFC) Medical Collaboration Programme evidenced by the increasing number of graduates since its inception in 1996 has assisted to improve access to qualified health professionals who serve in the most under-resourced parts of the country. There are approximately 900 fourth-year medical students from South Africa who are studying in Cuba, who are expected to return to the country in their final year in 2018.
It may be mentioned here that Cuban healthcare system is regarded as one of the best in the world. Thus, Cuba has extended cooperation in the health sector to a number of countries. In 2017, the governments of Cuba and El Salvador signed an agreement for specialists from the Pedro Kouri Tropical Medicine Institute (IPK) to share a Master’s degree program in Epidemiology with 35 professionals from that Central American nation. As per the Agreement, Cuban specialists will teach the Salvadoran specialists in the areas of clinical, environmental health, services and research for two years with financing from the Spanish Cooperation for Development Agency.