CIA Transnational Health and Economic Activities - Economic, Social, and Political Impact

Economic, Social, and Political Impact

The persistent infectious disease burden is likely to aggravate and, in some cases, may even provoke economic decay, social fragmentation, and political destabilization in the hardest hit countries in the developing and former communist worlds, especially in the worst case scenario outlined above:

  • The economic costs of infectious diseases—especially HIV/AIDS and malaria—are already significant, and their increasingly heavy toll on productivity, profitability, and foreign investment will be reflected in growing GDP losses, as well, that could reduce GDP by as much as 20 percent or more by 2010 in some Sub-Saharan African countries, according to recent studies.
  • Some of the hardest hit countries in Sub-Saharan Africa—and possibly later in South and Southeast Asia—will face a demographic upheaval as HIV/AIDS and associated diseases reduce human life expectancy by as much as 30 years and kill as many as a quarter of their populations over a decade or less, producing a huge orphan cohort. Nearly 42 million children in 27 countries will lose one or both parents to AIDS by 2010; 19 of the hardest hit countries will be in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The relationship between disease and political instability is indirect but real. A wide-ranging study on the causes of state instability suggests that infant mortality—a good indicator of the overall quality of life—correlates strongly with political instability, particularly in countries that already have achieved a measure of democracy. The severe social and economic impact of infectious diseases is likely to intensify the struggle for political power to control scarce state resources.

As a major hub of global travel, immigration, and commerce with wide-ranging interests and a large civilian and military presence overseas, the United States and its equities abroad will remain at risk from infectious diseases.

  • Emerging and reemerging infectious diseases, many of which are likely to continue to originate overseas, will continue to kill at least 170,000 Americans annually. Many more could perish in an epidemic of influenza or yet-unknown disease or if there is a substantial decline in the effectiveness of available HIV/AIDS drugs.
  • Infectious diseases are likely to continue to account for more military hospital admissions than battlefield injuries. U.S. military personnel deployed at NATO and U.S. bases overseas, will be at low-to-moderate risk. At highest risk will be U.S. military forces deployed in support of humanitarian and peacekeeping operations in developing countries.
  • The infectious disease burden will weaken the military capabilities of some countries—as well as international peacekeeping efforts—as their armies and recruitment pools experience HIV infection rates ranging from 10 to 60 percent. The cost will be highest among officers and the more modernized militaries in Sub-Saharan Africa and increasingly among FSU states and possibly some rogue states.
  • Infectious diseases are likely to slow socioeconomic development in the hardest-hit developing and former communist countries and regions. This will challenge democratic development and transitions and possibly contribute to humanitarian emergencies and civil conflicts.
  • Infectious disease-related embargoes and restrictions on travel and immigration will cause frictions among and between developed and developing countries

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