Study shows global health funding steady, not always focused on biggest burdens | 

It’s fair to say that global health has been at the spearpoint of the aid and development agenda for the last 15 years or so, as funding for initiatives aimed at curbing AIDS, malaria, TB and other select diseases of poverty has swelled over the past decade and a half.

But funding has leveled off over the past few years, due to the global economic crisis and perhaps also to a re-thinking of the international anti-poverty agenda. A new report on Financing Global Health from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation documents this transition (subtitle: Transition in an Age of Austerity) and includes some great visual illustrations of what’s going on.

Global Health Financing IHME
IHME

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Income growth is great, just not for reducing child undernutrition | 

Nurse in Somalia measures child for malnutrition signs.
Nurse in Somalia measures child for malnutrition signs.
Enough / Laura Heaton

One out of every four kids in the world were not growing at the right rate (stunted) in 2011. That is a decrease by one-third over the past two decades. Similar improvements have been made on reducing the number of underweight children, but millions are still at risk.

The solution to the underlying problem of undernutrition in children sounds easy enough. Kids need nutritious foods to provide the vitamins, minerals and calories to help them grow and stay healthy.

Food access can be a barrier, but money is needed to buy it. Hence, the reason for giving food aid or vouchers to people who are struggling. Therefore, it stands to reason that improving the economy of a country can lead to the income increases that will allow families to buy food for their children.

That is what is supposed to happen. The thing is, it doesn’t.

Evidence from 36 countries shows that an improving economy does not help to reduce childhood undernutrition. A paper, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, looked at 121 Demographic and Health Surveys from 36 countries between 1990 and 2011.

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Time for a new narrative on Rwanda | 

Analysis

Woman and child tilling the field
Woman and child tilling the field
Tom Paulson

For some, Rwanda is beautiful, a story of amazing recovery and rebuilding. For others, Rwanda is creepy, a story of ongoing Western-sanctioned political repression and murder.

In other words, Rwanda is complex. Incredibly complex, with some deep wounds that have not yet healed. And it’s perhaps time the humanitarian community moves beyond the simplistic depictions of the country, if only to make sure that what progress has been made can continue.

In 2011, I joined a dozen or so journalists with the International Report Project filing into a government building in Kigali, Rwanda. We were there to report on what many in the aid and development community were calling ‘Africa’s success story’ and given brief instructions on how we were to interview President Paul Kagame. One question per person and no video.

So, of course, I surreptitiously set up my SLR camera to take video. Kagame soon joined us and greeted each of us warmly, speaking softly like a genteel professor. Continue reading

Genocide anniversary reignites French-Rwandan political tensions | 

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center-left, light a memorial flame at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center-left, light a memorial flame at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
AP Photo/Ben Curtis

“The genocide we remember today –  and the world’s failure to respond more quickly – reminds us that we always have a choice,” said US President Obama in a statement marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, today.

“The horrific events of those 100 days – when friend turned against friend, and neighbor against neighbor – compel us to resist our worst instincts, just as the courage of those who risked their lives to save others reminds us of our obligations to our fellow man.”

Rwandan President Paul Kagame lit a flame at the ceremony that will burn for the next 100 days, in what was reportedly an emotional commemoration. It represents the period of time when an estimated 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis, were killed by Hutu soldiers.

Notably absent from the day’s events was France. France canceled its participation in today’s genocide commemorations in Rwanda after the nation’s leader accused the country of being directly involved in the genocide.

The Kagame-led government has remained critical of France for its role in the genocide. Accusations include helping the Hutu soldiers who carried out the atrocities in 1994 escape. There have been further allusions made regarding the fact that France helped to train the Rwandan military prior to the genocide.

“The Western powers would like the Rwanda is an ordinary country, as if nothing had happened, which have the advantage to forget their own responsibilities, but it is impossible. Take the case of France. Twenty years after, the only eligible reproach in his eyes is that of not having done enough to save lives during the genocide,” said Rwandan President Paul Kagame in an interview with Jeune Afrique, conducted in French.

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Hero of Hotel Rwanda warns of ‘simmering volcano’ in his country | 

Paul Rusesabagina actually sounds a bit like Don Cheadle, the actor who played him in the movie Hotel Rwanda – a 2004 film that greatly expanded public recognition of the genocide a decade earlier in the east-central African nation, an event that killed perhaps a million people.

Or, well, I guess it’s more that Cheadle learned to sound a lot like Rusesabagina (which, for your information, sounds like Reh-sessah-ba-GEE-na).

It’s now been another decade and so the stories are coming out to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan genocide – an almost unimaginable tragedy in which ethnic conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis exploded across the Great Lakes Region of Africa, also affecting DR Congo, Burundi and Uganda as well.

Since then, Rwanda under President Paul Kagame has made stunning progress on all sorts of fronts – health, economics and infrastructure. Many leading humanitarian and aid organizations regard Rwanda as an amazing African success story and Kagame as a visionary leader.

Rusesabagina wants the world to recognize the other side of Rwanda – a nation that lacks many democratic and political freedoms due to the authoritarian nature of the Kagame government. In this podcast, we talk to this former hotel manager who put his life at risk to save some 1,200 people and whom Kagame once hailed as a hero – until Rusesabagina fell out of favor and had to flee the country.

Listen in (and feel the warm audio embrace of the Humanosphere).

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Visualizing the global burden of traffic deaths | 

CarCrashIt may be hard to believe, but traffic accidents and vehicle emissions kill more people worldwide than AIDS.

This past Monday, I had the opportunity to speak at a launch event for a new report about the burden of disease from road transport at the Overseas Development Institute in London.  The report, Transport for Health: The Global Burden of Disease from Motorized Road Transport, estimated for the first time early death and disability from air pollution and injuries from transport. The Global Road Safety Facility at the World Bank collaborated with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation to produce this study, which reflects the substantial contribution of Global Burden of Disease researchers around the world.

The report revealed that motorized transport causes more deaths globally than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria. In total, road transport caused more than 1.5 million deaths and 79.6 million healthy years of life lost annually. The figure below from the study shows how some of the most economically productive age groups in society have the highest rates of disease burden from road transport, primarily due to injuries. When it comes to vehicle emissions, children and the elderly are most at risk from dying early or being disabled by these pollutants.

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USAID hopes to boost innovation in development with new lab | 

Former Sec State Clinton at the USAID Innovation Lab launch.
Former Sec State Clinton at the USAID Innovation Lab launch.
Rob Baker

Innovation is the buzzword for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with the launch of its new Global Development Lab. The agency held an event, featuring former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to unveil its collaboration with 32 “cornerstone partners” including US universities, major corporations, foundations and nonprofits. It comes with a roughly $1 billion annual budget, marking a significant shift in US development priorities.

The new lab puts more emphasis on discovering and spreading solutions to the biggest challenges in international development.

“With breakthroughs that reach a global scale, we can really bring an end to global poverty,” said Lona Stoll, senior adviser to USAID Administrator Raj Shah, to Humanosphere. ”It gets us to development impact better, cheaper and more sustainability.”

Its creation is the realization of a recommendation included in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, carried out when Clinton was at the helm of the US State Department, to review the performance of the entire US  State Department. USAID’s head Raj Shah has talked a lot about the need to support innovation. He has made previous forays with programs such as Development Innovation Ventures.

Private-public partnerships are increasingly getting  attention for both their positive and negative potential. The lab features notable corporate partners: Cargill, Cisco, Citi, Coca-Cola, DuPont, GlaxoSmithKline, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Nike, Syngenta, Unilever and Walmart.

The event came on the same day that an attempt by the agency to create a Twitter-like platform in Cuba to spark civil unrest, was revealed by the Associated Press. It gave cause for concerns that US development policy was not purely humanitarian. Critics the public-private partnership rush are concerned with what the lab will actually accomplish.

“This preposterous idea that corporations will solve the world’s development challenges is so out of touch [with] reality that it would be comical if it were not for its disastrous consequences,” said Anuradha Mittal, the founder and executive director of the US-based Oakland Institute thinktank, to the Guardian.

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Video of the Day: 5 Myths about Immigration in the US | 

This video comes from the pro-immigration reform group FWD.us, so it should be said that it comes with a political and activist slant. The founders are some big names, including Bill Gates, Sean Parker and Mark Zuckerburg. It’s supporters include some more stars of the tech industry, one that admittedly would benefit from the easier migration of high-skilled workers.

Though limited in information, given its intent to support immigrants, it does knock down some major myths. Here are the five:

  1. It’s easy to gain legal status in the U.S.
  2. Undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes.
  3. Most new immigrants come from Latin America.
  4. DREAMers affect the U.S. economy negatively.
  5. Most immigrants are undocumented.

Watch the video to learn the facts.