burmese child“The biggest crisis the world is facing is the glaring inequalities in access to health care between the rich and the poor,” stated Dr. Philippe Douste-Blazy, Chairman of the Millennium Foundation, United Nations Under-Secretary and Special Advisor for Innovative Finance for Development.  As a result of the global financial crisis, small countries are suffering even more.

In an effort to remedy the situation, the United Nations announced yesterday the launch of Massive Good, a program that will ask travelers to make a small, voluntary contribution when purchasing an airline ticket.  This option will be initially be available through any of the three major airline ticket distributors — Amadeus, Travelport and Sabre Holdings Corp.

As described by Philippe Douste-Blazy, who led the development of this product, “This new program will be the first global voluntary citizen contribution system, and it comes at a very important time.”

When the program rolls out in January, it will include participation from the U.S. and several European countries, including Britain, Germany, Spain and Switzerland.  Projected numbers indicate that this initiative could raise $1 billion in 4 years, with only 5% of the funds collected going towards administrative expenses.

The process will be simple; when travelers are booking a flight through participating travel sites (not directly through airlines) they will be asked if they want to contribute $2.00 towards the fund.  The funds collected will be directed to a group affiliated with the World Health Organization, UNITAID, whose mission is to “contribute to scaling up access to treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, primarily for people in low-income countries, by leveraging price reductions for quality diagnostics and medicines and accelerating the pace at which these are made available.”

The governments of Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom launched UNITAID in September 2006 and pledged to fund the initiative through airline taxes and other contributions.  Currently there are 29 countries participating in this program (most are in Africa) that uses the donations to provide the equipment, vaccines and medicines necessary to reduce childhood mortality rates, improve maternal health and have a positive impact on the overall well-being of the general population in poverty-stricken nations.  It will be interesting to see how membership increases once this initiative expands in January with the availability of the voluntary contribution plan.  And if the program is well received, maybe the airlines themselves will add the necessary contribution engine to their sites.

Next year as you plan for your relaxing vacation, holiday visit or business trip, remember this message from Dr. Bernard Salome, Managing Director, Millennium Foundation, “Our message is quite simple:  you can help change the world one click at a time from where you are sitting and join a movement that will do MASSIVE GOOD.”


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