Food aid reforms came under the spotlight last month when the Obama Administration announced its Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
The changes are important to humanitarian response. Oxfam America estimates that reforms to food aid procurement laws could speed up crisis response by 14 weeks and reach an additional 17.1 million people. For a crisis like the 2010 drought in the Horn of Africa, that improved response time could have saved thousands of lives.
“The current approach to food aid can become, at times, an impediment to its very own mission,” said USAID Administrator Raj Shah.
Humanitarian groups were mostly supportive in response and contractors were unhappy that changes would affect their business. What looked like positive momentum for reform is starting to slow down as both houses of Congress take a look at the Farm Bill and food aid reform both in and out of the United States.
“The agriculture industry in the Midwest sees this as a threat to exports, which is ridiculous,” said former USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios to Businessweek, a supporter of food aid reform during his tenure with the Bush Administration. Continue reading →
I’m not sure I totally buy the claim that nearly all of these displacements are due to disasters driven by climate change, but it’s still an interesting map. As the Guardian reports:
More than 32 million people fled their homes last year because of disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes – 98% of displacement related to climate change. Asia and west and central Africa bore the brunt. Some 1.3 million people were displaced in rich countries, with the US particularly affected. Floods in India and Nigeria accounted for 41% of displacement, according to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre and Norwegian Refugee Council
This is a nice, reasoned rebuttal by to a recent NY Times column by a former aid worker in Haiti who complained about how unproductive her work there had been.
The NYTtimes op-ed repeats a popular, and increasingly tired, refrain that tends to accompany the standard story line about how screwed up Haiti is thanks, in part, to the humanitarian ‘industry’ having swarmed the place. Jennifer Lentfer of Oxfam, who is always perfectly willing to call out worthless humanitarianism, felt compelled to respond and point out that some of the aid and development projects in Haiti are actually doing good.
I don’t know what Nora Schenkel was talking about in the New York Times on Wednesday in her personal essay, ” I Came to Haiti to Do Good…,”. The former aid worker argues that Haitians are stuck in a cycle of dependency, fueled by inequalities perpetuated by the aid industry.
Water under threat globally(VOA) – Scientists say a new geologic epoch has begun whereby humans are causing major damage to global water systems. They warn of a planetary transformation comparable to the retreat of the glaciers more than 11-thousand years ago.
Iraq car bombs kill dozens(BBC) – At least 60 people have been killed and many others injured in a series of car bomb attacks in central and southern Iraq, officials say.
Before You Buy That T-Shirt (NYTimes) – The deaths and injuries of thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh raise the question of how American and European consumers might assert their power to change appalling factory conditions half a world away.
Rebels and army clash in DR Congo’s Goma (Al Jazeera) – Congolese soldiers have clashed with rebel fighters for the first time in six months in the city of Goma, on the border with Rwanda and just days before the arrival of the UN Secretary General.
Welcome to the Humanosphere podcast, our weekly look at the world of global health and development. Tom and I begin with a discussion on the headlines – from the UN asking us to eat more bugs to the refusal of most American retailers to sign a pact improving worker safety overseas.
Our featured guest this week is Nick Kristof, a Northwest native (grew up on a farm in Yamhill, OR), prize-winning columnist for the New York Times and, for many, the voice of the humanitarian movement. Tom talked with him by phone earlier this week, before he spoke in Seattle.
Nick Kristof inspires at Seattle Biomed’s Passport to Global Health celebration 2013
The renowned New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, a Pacific Northwest native (who with his daughter is hiking a big chunk of the Pacific Crest Trail this summer), was in Seattle this week to speak at Seattle Biomed‘s annual Passport to Global Health celebration.
I had a brief conversation with him, mostly about Being Nick Kristof, on our weekly podcast and in the transcript below.
Kristof is, for many, the voice of the humanitarian movement. Not surprisingly, he gave a rousing, moving talk Thursday evening for the Seattle Biomed crowd in which he emphasized the stunning progress that has been made in global health over the past few decades. He also spoke on the danger posed for sustaining this success story due to public apathy and the mistaken sense that the fight against poverty is too overwhelming, a ‘hopeless’ task.
“That’s one of the biggest misconceptions out there,” he said. “The sense that it’s hopeless.”
The Guardian reports that Hans Rosling, the celebrated scientist who has made data cool, doesn’t actually like data that much:
“I don’t like it. My interest is not data, it’s the world. And part of world development you can see in numbers. Others, like human rights, empowerment of women, it’s very difficult to measure in numbers.”
Rosling is strikingly upfront about the limitations of data. Sometimes, the problem is that different countries measure things – like unemployment – in different ways, he says. In other cases, there are real uncertainties in the data that must be assessed: child mortality statistics are quite precise, whereas maternal mortality figures are not; global poverty measurements are infrequent and uncertain.
Still, Rosling does make boring and complicated numbers easy to understand, fun … and cool. Here he is on climate change and population growth:
The Washington Post’s chief policy wonk blogger Ezra Klein has published his conversation with Bill Gates about global health. Most of the discussion is focused on exploring how the Gates Foundation attempts to use data and better metrics to improve the fight against diseases of poverty.
Ezra Klein: Your Foundation is known for taking a particularly data-driven approach to its work. So how do you know what’s actually working when you’re in failed states with very little data-collection capacity?
Bill Gates: Of all the statistics in health, death is the easiest, because you can go out and ask people, “Hey, have you had any children who died, did your siblings have any children who died?” People don’t forget that. If you say to them, “Did your kids get vaccines or not,” they might have done it and not remember, or they might think, “Oh, this person wants me to say yes, maybe I look bad if I don’t say yes.” Death is something we really understand extremely well.