Tom Murphy


Tom Murphy is a Boston-based reporter for Humanosphere. Tom is a prolific writer-blogger and editor of the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy(at)

Author Archives: Tom Murphy

When disaster strikes, the private sector plays a role too | 

A Syrian refugee woman completing her shopping in Amman, Jordan, using food vouchers provided by WFP.
A Syrian refugee woman completing her shopping in Amman, Jordan, using food vouchers provided by WFP.

The international organizations that are the first to act when disaster strikes were called out last week by the UK branch of Doctors Without Borders. One group spared the criticism is the private sector. That is because, until recently, they were not really thought of as an important player.

That is changing. Companies like Ikea, Coca-Cola and Google are now a contributing to relief efforts following a crisis, and making a profit while at it. They are not only working with the relief groups on the ground, but on their own and with small businesses in different countries.

The involvement of business in humanitarian assistance is not all that new. Local businesses will sell food, water and other supplies in the wake of a disaster. However, nobody really knows how much the private sector is contributing. There is no comprehensive accounting in what happens, just case studies and anecdotes.

The growing involvement and the gap information warrants some attention, say Steven Zyck and Randolph Kent of the UK-based think tank the Overseas Development Institute.

“The private sector’s technical expertise and resources offer great opportunities to innovate and improve services, while humanitarian agencies continue to have leading insight into what types of aid are needed and how to reach people in remote communities,” said Zyck, based on a research he conducted with Kent.

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News in the Humanosphere: 100 AIDS Researchers and Activists among 298 Killed in MH17 Downing | 

Simon Boddy

This is absolutely tragic news for the entire global health community, in light of the deeply tragic news of the downing of MH17. “About 100 of the 298 people killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash were heading to Melbourne for a major AIDS conference, conference attendees have been told. Delegates at a pre-conference in Sydney were told on Friday morning that around 100 medical researchers, health workers and activists were on the plane that went down near the Russia-Ukraine border, including former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange…Organisers of the International AIDS Conference, due to begin in Melbourne on Sunday, have not released numbers, but did confirm expected attendees were among the dead.” (SMH)

Israel Launches Ground Invasion of Gaza…Meanwhile, four more children were killed in air strikes and journalists were told to evacuate a popular hotel. Earlier yesterday, Hamas ended a six hour humanitarian pause in the fighting. “Israel began a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip on Thursday night, saying it would target tunnels that infiltrate its territory after cease-fire talks failed to de-escalate the air war that has raged for 10 days. The military released a statement at 10:39 p.m. saying the goal of the operation was to “establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continuous indiscriminate terror.” (NYT )


The Health Sector estimates that about 206,000 people in Darfur are unable to access health services due to the suspension of Red Cross activities and withdrawal of support to health facilities by NGOs. (OCHA)

The UN Security Council warned it is ready to consider “appropriate measures” against warring parties in South Sudan if they do not stop the violence in the world’s youngest nation and negotiate a transitional government. (Reuters)

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As DC fights over immigration, a documentary shows reality from the front lines | 

Latin American migrants ride on a train through Mexico towards the US border.
Latin American migrants ride on a train through Mexico towards the US border.
Marc Silver

The debate over immigration is once again taking off in the United States. The sudden influx of more than 57,000 children having illegally entered the US sparked calls for immediate action by all sides. President Obama, for his part, went to Congress with an appeal for $3.7 billion in emergency funding that will provide support for the children and speed up the deportation process.

While all sides try to find common ground for agreement, a new documentary enters the conversation at an important time. Who is Dayani Cristal? depicts the consequences of an increased US border presence and wall building to stem the flow of illegal immigration. Rather than give up, people are turning to Arizona’s vast desert to seek a better life for themselves and their families.

The erection of walls and provision of border patrol has not deterred people from continuing to find a way to get into the US. It is estimated that 11 million people entered the US unauthorized in 2013. Nearly half of the adult immigrants are parents of young children. Some 2,000 bodies have been found in the Arizona desert over the past decade.

Roughly 700 of those have yet to be identified. Bodies are found in poor condition and often times with out any official identification. This is done for the sake of protection, but makes it hard to know who the person was.

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News in the Humanosphere: New AIDS Data Brings Some Positive News | 

Sign posted near the Simonga school, in Zambia.
Sign posted near the Simonga school, in Zambia.
John Rawlinson

Ahead of next week’s big International AIDS Conference in Australia, UNAIDS released a report demonstrating that new HIV infections and deaths were decreasing, putting in prospect the an end to the epidemic in by 2030. Key data from the report:

  • New HIV infections have fallen by 38% since 2001.
  • Worldwide, 2.1 million people became newly infected with HIV in 2013, down from -3.4 million in 2001
  • New HIV infections among children have declined by 58% since 2001.
  • Worldwide, 240,000 children became newly infected with HIV in 2013, down from 580,000 in 2001.
  • AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 35% since the peak in 2005.
  • 19 million of the 35 million people living with HIV globally do not know their HIV-positive status.
  • 90% of sub-Saharan Africans who learn they are HIV positive seek treatment.

A humanitarian pause for Gaza? Israel has agreed to a UN-brokered six hour ceasefire from 10-3pm today to allow humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza. As of press time it was unclear where or not Hamas would agree. In the meantime, Israeli officials strongly signaled that a ground invasion was likely. (NYT)

A new global index takes an outward turn by comparing how much good countries create in the world. Surprisingly, Ireland comes out on top. (Humanosphere )


West Africa: Since the Ebola outbreak began last March, more than 600 people have died. This mounting death toll is presenting families and health authorities with a grim new problem: What do you do with the bodies? (NPR)

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John Oliver explains how the US contributed to Uganda’s anti-gay law | 

As we’ve covered before, the development of the harsh anti-gay law in Uganda can be attributed to people from the United States. Most notable is Massachusetts-based pastor Scott Lively. His actions in Uganda have led to a court case against him for his contributions to an environment of hate in Uganda.

Unfortunately, we are not nearly as funny as John Oliver. Fortunately for everyone, The comedian of the HBO show Last Week Tonight took on the issue in his own comedic-explainer style.

“Africa isn’t just where we send our losing team’s Super Bowl Shirts, it’s also now where we send our losing political philosophies,” he says in a nod to World Vision’s much maligned program that distributes the clothing of the losing Super Bowl team, each year.

Watch below:

and see his continued conversation with Ugandan Transgender activist Pepe Julian Onziema:

Meet the world’s ‘goodest’ country: Ireland | 


There are countless indices that compare every country against each other. We used some of them to compare the countries competing in the World Cup, last month. All have one thing in common, they look internally. Countries are compared on transparency, corruption, well being, economy and more.

How do the same countries perform beyond their borders? Who is making the world a better place?

That is the very question the Good Country Index seeks to answer. It determines the ‘goodest country’ by determining how each performs on international peace, trade, climate, equality and more. Like other indices, European countries come out on top, but the number one overall is a bit surprising. It is not a Scandinavian nation, rather it is the small island country of Ireland. Its contributions in areas of Science & Technology and Prosperity & Equality carry it to just beat out Finland.

On the bottom of the list are Iraq, Vietnam and Libya. Though the news is not all bad for the three countries. There are areas where they are contributing a lot of good to the world. Vietnam does well in the category of Culture.

“It’s time to stop telling our governments we want to live in a successful country. We need to demand to live in a good country,” says Simon Anholt, creator of the index. “A good country manages to reconcile good governance at home with a real and constant contribution to the greater good of humanity and the planet”

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News in the Humanosphere: The World Bank Gains a Competitor | 

Leaders from Brazil, India, Russia, China and South Africa during their meeting in Russia last September.
Leaders from Brazil, India, Russia, China and South Africa during their meeting in Russia last September.
Blog do Planalto

The BRICS Build a New international development bank…”The leaders of the five BRICS countries have signed a deal to create a new $100bn development bank and emergency reserve fund. The Brics group is made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.The capital for the bank will be split equally among the five participating countries. The bank will have a headquarters in Shanghai, China and the first president for the bank will come from India.” (BBC)

Horrific bombing in Afghanistan…At least 89 people were killed in a car bomb attack in a remote town in eastern Afghanistan. This was the worst since attack since the toppling of the Taliban in 2001.It comes as the USA helped broker a deal to end Afghanistan’s election stand-off. “There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, and the Taliban issued a statement denying involvement, saying they “strongly condemn attacks on local people.” Several other insurgent groups operate in Afghanistan. The U.N. mission in Afghanistan said initial reports “suggest that the attacker prematurely detonated after police detected the explosives in his vehicle.” (AP)


At least 26 people were killed when suspected Islamist Boko Haram militants stormed a village in northeast Nigeria and a government warplane opened fire to repel the attackers, local residents and a security source said. (Reuters)

The death toll from an Ebola outbreak in West Africa has risen to 603 since February, with at least 68 deaths reported from three countries in the region in the last week alone, the World Health Organisation said. (Reuters)

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Africa sees $58 billion leave the continent each year | 


The amount of money calculated to go into sub-Saharan Africa each year is less than the money that is sent outward. A new report published by Health Poverty Action and a dozen other partners, shows that $192 billion in total is lost due to tax havens, multinational profits and illegal logging. Which much of the conversation about the region focuses on the aid money sent in, the report seeks to re-frame what is discussed to include all of the money that goes not only in, but out of Africa.

“We are not trying to suggest that all of the inflows are good and that the outflows are bad,” said Natalie Sharples, Senior Policy Advisor for Health Poverty Action, to Humanosphere. ” The purpose of this is mostly to highlight the discrepancy between the figures.”

One of the most significant contributors are illicit financial flows. That is mostly money that is not taxed because it is held in off-shore accounts in friendly countries. These tax havens deprive an estimated $35.3 billion in money from remaining in the region. That is more than the $29.4 billion in aid given each year.  Ending tax avoidance would essentially double the amount of aid money in Africa by simply preventing it from leaving in the first place.

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