World must develop new model to answer health needs, Vatican official says


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Vatican City, Jul 15, 2009 / 11:06 am (CNA).- Two days after Pope Benedict XVI released his new social encyclical, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi spoke to the U.N.'s Economic and Social Council about the need to increase efforts worldwide to help the poor and hungry in the face of the financial crisis and the H1N1 pandemic. This response should involve a "new model of global development centered on the human person rather than profit," he said.

Archbishop Tomasi began his address to the High-Level Segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) by describing the perfect storm of global events that threatens to trap "an additional 53 to 65 million people in extreme poverty" in 2009.

The Holy See's permanent observer in Geneva said, "the financial and economic crisis that greed and lack of ethical responsibility have brought about" has been further exacerbated by the influenza virus A-H1N1.

Citing predictions by the World Bank, Tomasi noted the spike in people threatened by extreme poverty and that the number of people chronically hungry is expected to "exceed one billion, 800 million of whom live in rural areas."

Although the temptation for countries is to "reduce public services for a short-term benefit against the long-term human cost," the archbishop urged that "aid for development should be maintained and even increased as a critical factor in renewing the economy and leading us out of the crisis."

Archbishop Tomasi also pointed to the disparities in health care between countries as well as the treatment of racial and ethnic groups. "Tragically, women continue in many regions to receive poorer quality health care," he said.

"The Catholic Church," noted the permanent observer, "sponsors 5,378 hospitals, 18,088 health clinics, 15,448 homes for the elderly and disabled, and other health care programs throughout the world, but especially in the most isolated and marginalized areas."

Yet "faith-based organizations do not receive an equitable share of the resources designated to support global, national and local health initiatives," he said.

Calling for more that the "mere quantitative tracking of aid flows and the multiplication of global health initiatives," Tomasi advocated for "access to primary health care and affordable life-saving drugs." "In an increasingly interdependent world," he noted, "even sickness and viruses have no boundaries, and therefore, greater global cooperation becomes not only a practical necessity, but more importantly, an ethical imperative of solidarity."

"However," the Holy See's observer stressed, "we must be guided by the best health care tradition that respects and promotes the right to life from conception until natural death for all regardless of race, disability, nationality, religion, sex and socio-economic status."

Tomasi closed his speech by saying the Holy See delegation believes "an ethical approach to development is needed which implies a new model of global development centered on the human person rather than profit, and inclusive of the needs and aspirations of the entire human family."