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UN Launches Initiative to Help Tackle Health Problems in Developing Countries


Travelers in the United States will now be able to help reduce health problems - including malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS - around the world with a simple $2 donation when they purchase plane tickets, rent a car or book a hotel room. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the unique initiative on Thursday.

With a simple click on a computer mouse travelers will now be able to contribute $2 to the MASSIVEGOOD campaign to save lives.

Mr. Ban said the individual contributions may be small, but the thinking behind it is big. "Through this partnership between U.N. agencies and the travel business, ordinary people will have the opportunity to do massive good for global health," he said.

All contributions will go to the U.N.-funded UNITAID, which purchases medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Those three diseases kill nearly 4.5 million people each year.

With only five years to go until the Millennium Development Goals target date of 2015, the health-related goals are lagging most. Among them are improving maternal health, reducing child mortality and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton helped Mr. Ban launch the MASSIVEGOOD program. The U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti said he thinks the initiative will catch on around the world and save millions of lives.

"And this is basically an institutionalized version of what we saw happen after the Haiti earthquake, where people were texting in $10 or $5 in Canada, in the automatic systems. These systems, I predict, will empower ordinary people to change the future of the world in ways that we can only begin to imagine," he said.

The initiative is the brain child of former French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, who heads UNITAID. It builds on a similar program started in France in 2006, that instituted a "microtax" on airplane tickets. That idea spread to 16 countries and raised more than $1 billion.

Traveler contributions to the MASSIVEGOOD campaign are voluntary. Thursday's launch in the U.S. will soon be followed in Europe and elsewhere.

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