Negative view of foreign aid for health is based on flawed analysis: experts

May 8, 2012

The evidence underlying the current widely-held view that foreign aid for health in a recipient country leads to a displacement or diversion of government funds from that country's health sector is unreliable and should not be used to guide policy, according to experts writing in this week's PLoS Medicine.

Rajaie Batniji and Eran Bendavid from Stanford University, USA question the robustness and validity of a previous analysis (by Lu and colleagues, which was published in The Lancet in 2010) on which the current scepticism towards is based and which, according to the authors, is referenced frequently in conversations with decision-makers at aid agencies as a cautionary note about foreign aid for health.

The authors argue: "while in some settings aid likely is displaced from the health sector, we call into question the assertions that donor health funds are being systematically displaced and misused."

The authors re-analysed the data from The Lancet analysis using a different and found that after spurious results (outliers) and other factors reflecting the real world situation (such as how donors interact with governments) were taken into account, there was no straightforward between government spending on health and foreign aid for health, thus challenging the previous findings.

Batniji and Bendavid say: "In sum, any linear relationship that exists among the data is too tenuous to be a basis for policy."

They continue: "Of course, some displacement of aid from the health sector may occur. It would be rational for governments seeking to improve the distribution of limited national resources, and seeking to avoid interruptions in health service provision with annual fluctuations in aid, to avoid a rapid rise in health sector spending. However, our findings should relieve donors of the need to make unrealistic demands on recipient governments, and of the pressure to divert resources to NGOs."

Explore further: Getting aid to where it is needed

More information: Batniji R, Bendavid E (2012) Does Development Assistance for Health Really Displace Government Health Spending? Reassessing the Evidence. PLoS Med 9(5): e1001214. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001214

Related Stories

Getting aid to where it is needed

July 4, 2011

In the early 2000s, the international aid community started to fund health programs through Global Health Initiatives (GHIs) which provide aid and support for tackling infectious diseases, and for implementing immunization ...

Recommended for you

Big Data can save lives, says leading cancer expert

May 16, 2016

The sharing of genetic information from millions of cancer patients around the world could be key to revolutionising cancer prevention and care, according to a leading cancer expert from Queen's University Belfast.

New soap to ward off malaria carrying mosquitoes

May 13, 2016

(Medical Xpress)—Gérard Niyondiko along with colleagues Frank Langevin and Lisa Barutel has posted a project on the crowd source funding site ulule for a product called Faso Soap. They claim the soap can cut in half the ...

Smartphones uncover how the world sleeps

May 6, 2016

A pioneering study of worldwide sleep patterns combines math modeling, mobile apps and big data to parse the roles society and biology each play in setting sleep schedules.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.