Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: A new World Bank report warns that healthcare systems worldwide are struggling to cope with sharply rising cost, even as countries scramble to deal with the HIV/AIDS crisis and are faced with the possibility of human bird flu pandemic. And the enormous health gap between rich and poor countries persists.

Despite an unprecedented global focus on health as a humanitarian and national security issue, and dramatic increases in development aid for health, three million people died of HIV/AIDS last year alone. The average life expectancy in Africa is now 47 years. Without the ravages of HIV/AIDS, it would be 62.

Tuberculosis is curable with low-cost drugs, and yet 5,000 people die everyday; the same is also true of malaria which daily takes 3,000 lives, mostly of youngsters.

The new report Health Financing Revisited - A Practitioners Guide raises serious concerns about global efforts to expand the reach of healthcare systems to improve the health of millions of the poorest people by 2015, as called for in the Millennium Development Goals.