The World Bank and World Health Organization on Thursday warned donors and developing countries that cuts in health spending in the financial crisis could cost lives and roll back progress on healthcare.
"This financial crisis could unravel many of the hard-fought gains in health over previous decades unless we all hold the line on the flow of development aid and health spending," said Joy Phumaphi, World Bank Vice President for Human Development.
Phumaphi, who is also Botswana's former health minister, warned that cutbacks in health could lead to "lost lives and lost years in health" since it could take up to 10 years for health services to recover.
Phumaphi was speaking at a meeting organised by the International Health Partnership which brought together health ministers, health practitioners and NGOs.
The partnership was launched in 2007 by the World Bank and WHO, aimed at speeding up the implementation of health systems in the partner countries.
Some 24 countries are now part of the initiative, including Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda.
"We urge our development partners to work with us to find ways to maintain and scale up support in these difficult economic times," said Ethiopian Health Minister Tedros Ghebreyesus.
Britain and Norway said they remained committed to development aid.
Britain said it was targeting spending on 0.7 percent of its gross national income on development aid by 2013, while Norway said it would maintain one percent of its gross national income on development aid.