A lot of people make the mistake of assuming that poverty and disease in other nations is not our problem, after all, how can what is happening over there impact us over here? It seems that the only reason for aid and assistance in diseased and blighted areas globally is a humanitarian or ethical one.
However, there are some very pragmatic reasons (and not just ethical ones) why we should work to eradicate disease and improve healthcare globally -- because not doing so directly impacts us in the West. Here are just four such reasons:
1. Disease Knows No Borders. Diseases do not keep to geographical borders nor limit themselves to particular locales. This has always been the case -- remember that the Bubonic Plague started with a flood in China, and SARS (which is back in the news) has also traveled across continents to arrive on our shores. Treating diseases at their points of origin protects all of us in the long run.
2. Disease Impacts Economies. Consider that a lot of the factory and production work as well as crops and food products come from different parts of the globe. A simple outbreak of just the flu could be deadly in communities with no access to basic antibiotics, resulting in a hefty chunk of the workforce becoming ill and bringing production and harvesting to a standstill. This directly impacts our supply of goods and the prices escalate accordingly. Everyone (including us) loses.
3. Diseases Mutate. Diseases often mutate into hardier strains that are more resistant to medications. It is important to counter potential diseases in their infancy before they have a chance to mutate. A disease that may not pose a threat to anyone in the West is often ignored, but that disease can, if left untreated, mutate into different strains that are resistant even to modern medicine. A lack of attention to early incidents of AIDS led to a mutation and strain that to this day eludes successful treatment.
4. Disease Causes Political Chaos. The rampant spread of a disease promotes instability in many regions. Blame is thrown about and inevitably sides start blaming one another while claiming they each have access to treatment or a cure (often a false promise). The resulting political unrest can be deadly and violent in many cases. In this day and age, instability in one nation promotes to instability in many given how we are all economically connected.