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People are generally healthier than ever before. Despite this, millions of people still suffer from preventable diseases. People living in poverty are particularly vulnerable. Sida funding helps to strengthen healthcare systems, sexual and reproductive health and rights and maternal and child health.

Progress has been made

Improved health and life expectancy

People are living longer and in better health, according to statistics from the World Health Organization. This is partly due to efforts to reduce poverty and combat communicable diseases, as well as progress in reducing maternal and child mortality rates.

Decreased maternal and child mortality

The percentage of children dying before their fifth birthday has been more than halved between 2000 and 2018. Maternal mortality decreased by 38% between 2000 and 2017, according to the World Health Organization.

Progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS

Great strides have been made in the fight against HIV and AIDS. AIDS deaths have halved compared to 2010. Today, 25 million of the 38 million people living with HIV have access to protease inhibitors compared to only 6 million in 2009, according to UNAIDS.

Challenges remain

Unequal access to health care

Only between a third and half of the world’s population has access to basic healthcare. Access is unequal both within and between countries and regions, according to WHO. 

Infectious diseases

While the fight against the major communicable diseases HIV, tuberculosis and malaria is heading in the right direction, millions of people are still infected every year. According to the World Health Organization some 10 million people contracted tuberculosis in 2019, most of them living in Southeast Asia and Africa.

Maternal death and pregnancy-related death

According to Unicef a woman or newborn child dies during childbirth every eleven seconds, most of them in low and low-to-middle income countries – lives that could have been saved with basic knowledge and good healthcare. Every year, 25 million women undergo an abortion in unsafe or dangerous conditions.

Sida's work with health

Since the turn of the millennium, considerable progress has been achieved in the field of health. Thanks to new knowledge, technologies and methods we have been able to prevent and cure disease and alleviate suffering as never before, thus increasing quality of life.  

Despite this, every year millions of people fall sick with diseases that are preventable and curable. The health situation is of greatest concern in low and low-to-middle income countries. Infectious diseases strike more severely against those who live in poverty, while increasing numbers of people in low-income countries are now developing lifestyle-related, non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer. 

The impact of COVID-19 is not limited to those who contract the disease, it also exerts tremendous pressure on national health services and displaces basic healthcare interventions. This threatens to undo many of the advances in healthcare, such as reduced maternal mortality. 

Strengthened healthcare systems

Many people around the world are unable to access good healthcare when they need it, whether because the nearest clinic is too far away, because there are not enough doctors or because care is simply too expensive. People living in poverty, in war zones or in remote rural areas and those who belong to minority groups are especially hard hit. 

Dealing with communicable and non-communicable diseases places enormous strain on the healthcare services of many countries.

Access to health care

In many places, people must pay a large percentage of the cost of treatment from their own pockets, meaning that many people who live in poverty are unable to seek care when they need it. The Clinton Health Access Initiative works to ensure that people in countries including Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zambia and Malawi are able to access the healthcare they need, among other things by instituting universal health insurance to increase access to basic healthcare at a reasonable price.

Clinton Health Access Initiative web page

Health care in war-torn Myanmar

After decades of military rule, Myanmar’s healthcare system is in serious disarray. The Access to Health Fund, administered by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), is rebuilding and reinforcing Myanmar’s healthcare system, especially in war-torn areas. The Fund is focused on ensuring that those suffering from tuberculosis, malaria or HIV and pregnant and breastfeeding women can access good quality healthcare. 

About the Access to Health Fund on the UNOPS web page

Maternal and child health

Despite significant progress, approximately 2.8 million women and babies die during childbirth every year, according to Unicef. The majority of these lives could be saved by basic knowledge and good healthcare. The vast majority of deaths during childbirth occur in low and low-to-middle income countries.

Unicef web page

Education for midwives in Somalia

Somalia is among the most dangerous countries in the world for women to give birth in. Very high birth rates – on average, a Somali woman will have 6.9 children – female genital mutilation and a lack of qualified maternity care are among the causes. Almost one in every ten infants die before reaching their first birthday. Sida’s support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) helps to train midwives and to strengthen the system for educating and licensing midwives. Save the Children distributes nutritional supplements to malnourished children and gives children lifesaving vaccinations.

About the work in Somalia on the UNFPA web page

Care and nutrition for women and children in Uganda

The West Nile subregion of northwest Uganda has a particularly high infant mortality rate. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works to provide pregnant women, mothers and children in the district with the care and nutrition they need. 

About the project on the Unicef web page

Mental health

Those living in war zones or as refugees, the victims of violence and gender-based violence, the oppressed and persecuted and those living with other types of trauma often suffer from mental disorders. Despite the enormous scale of mental ill health, it is only during recent years that it has been recognised as a threat to global health and wellbeing.

Psychosocial support in Gaza

In the Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip, despair and depression are commonplace. Sida supports the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) in Palestine to provide people with psychosocial support and contribute to strengthening the mental healthcare system.

GCMHP web page

Free-of-charge therapy for LGBTQI people

LGBTQI individuals all over the world are subjected to physical and psychological violence, discrimination and gross indignities. As a consequence of this oppression, many LGBTQI people live with mental illness. Through the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights (RFSL), Sida supports the Ukrainian organisation Insight, which provides free-of-charge therapy for LGBTQI people.

Preventive healthcare

Ill health is often rooted in causes beyond the control of the healthcare sector: environmental pollution, inadequate road safety, antimicrobial resistance or natural disasters to name but a few. The majority of fatalities among infants are due to a lack of water and sanitation. It is also well known that if girls around the world were educated to upper-secondary level, child mortality could be halved. When it comes to non-communicable diseases, it is estimated that half of all cases could be prevented by a change of lifestyle. 

This is why Sida works within various thematic areas and supports collaboration between stakeholders from various areas in order to prevent ill health in a holistic manner.

Scope and governance of Sida’s work with health

In 2019, Sida’s health-related funding totalled just over SEK 2.3 billion, 9% of Sida’s total disbursement. Sida has identified three areas of priority for health-related aid:

  1. Strengthened healthcare systems
  2. Maternal and child health
  3. Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)

Updated: 5 August 2021