All major news outlets, as well as the US Presidential candidates, have been focused for the last ten days on the credit crisis that has rocked financial institutions worldwide, and rightly so: it looks as though the world is facing a deep economic recession, if not a full-blown depression. Experts are baffled by the exact causes of the upheaval, and the effectiveness of radical remedies (in the form of multi-billion dollar cash injections to banks) is not yet known.
From a developing world perspective, there is a terrible irony to all this. For decades, developed countries and international financial institutions (like the International Monetary Fund) have preached financial responsibility and restraint to low-resource countries, and complained bitterly about local corruption and mismanagement. Now the shoe is on the other foot, as an unregulated culture of excessive risk-taking and speculation in the world's more affluent countries leads global financial markets to implode.
Unfortunately, those living in low-income countries will probably not have much time to take pleasure in this vivid display of hypocrisy. The financial crisis could very well spread
to low-income countries, and affect them disproportionately, since many of such countries were economically fragile already and most are dependent on international loans. Given the known links between economic indicators and health, it seems likely that if the economic crisis spreads, some developing countries may experience greater morbidity and mortality as a result of the irresponsible actions of far-away people from the 'richer North.' That kind of potential harm is rendered invisible by the media, which generally sees 'bad consequences' of the financial meltdown in terms of potential rises in unemployment in North America and Europe, not increased disease and death elsewhere.