Health officials of 33 Western Hemisphere countries moved yesterday toward agreement on a plan to cut infant mortality, extend life and wipe out several diseases by the year 2000.
Doubling the clean water supply, quadrupling sewage disposal and starting huge vaccination and medical care programs are some of the plan's goals.
The 33 nations have agreed to work toward "health for all by the year 2000," a goal the World Health Organization (WHO) set last year.
Health officials of the 33 nations have been meeting this week as the directing council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO's regional body. Next Monday, they are expected to adopt their plan, which includes "strategies" to achieve WHO's goal even in the hemisphere's poorest nations.
Achieving this, said Dr. Victor Acuna, PAHO director, will require many sacrifices and much "political will" to "struggle against disease, unhealthy environments and social inequality."
Acuna cited World Bank figures showing that in Brazil and Peru 40 percent of the population receives 7 percent of the income.
"We have a major problem of malnutrition," he said.
"We realize that only political decisions" can correct such conditions, Acuna told reporters.
But health measures can make vast differences. In the past 10 years, safe, piped drinking and cooking water has been brought to 60 percent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean, and sanitary sewage disposal to 26 percent, compared with 46 percent and 22 percent, respectively, in 1970.
Infant mortality was cut from an average of 64 to 45 deaths per 1,000 live births, and average length of life was extended from 61.3 to 65.2 years.