Donor assistance was integral to the success of at least half of the cases in Millions Saved, and these donors can now claim a resounding public health victory. The international community has provided grants, development loans, and contributions of expertise and drugs. Steady, adequate funding from donors helped ensure that the programs were sustained long enough to have a major impact, ultimately saving millions of lives.
The payoffs to donors have been huge. Eradicating smallpox from the globe cost the donor community less than $100 million; the United States, the campaign’s largest donor, saves its total contribution every 26 days because it is not spending on treatment or vaccine. The economic rate of return in the onchocerciasis program has been estimated to be 17 percent – a yield that is comparable to investment in the most productive sectors, such as industry, transportation and agriculture.
While donor investments in health do not always yield such resounding benefits, these cases show the proven potential for donor dollars to save individuals, communities and entire nations from the devastation of preventable disease and death. This is the type of impact that taxpayers in wealthy countries want to see from foreign assistance budgets: major improvements in the well-being of poor citizens.
The range of donors that have supported the interventions in Millions Saved is vast. Pharmaceutical companies have donated antibiotics and vaccines through innovative public-private partnerships. Multilateral aid agencies and UN agencies have broken through institutional and bureaucratic walls to work effectively and collaboratively to achieve large-scale health success. The US, Japan and European countries have contributed foreign assistance. And non-government agencies and foundations have provided integral leadership, expertise and funding.