A sign outside a Ghana health clinic urging people seek care early.
Experts in the fight against poverty, like anyone, can sometimes miss the forest for the trees.
That may be happening in the increasingly heated debate swirling around the global movement for Universal Health Coverage. The gist of this global push, led by folks at the World Bank, Rockefeller Foundation and others, is to ensure everyone around the world has access to basic and preventative health services.
Now, people disagree on what is precisely meant by the term ‘universal health coverage,’ aka UHC, but the assumption is that increasing access to essential health care will improve health outcomes and also economic stability – especially for the poor.
Sounds like a good assumption, eh? Not so fast.
Experts in health policy, aid and development say there is insufficient evidence to support the claim that simply increasing access to services improves health outcomes. Which services are we talking about? What outcomes are the best measures? What do we mean by access? Experts say we need to better define terms and test assumptions before taking steps to improve access to health. Continue reading →
I wrote about this documentary “An African Election” last May when I saw it and talked with its director, Jarreth Merz, at the Seattle International Film Festival.
It’s an amazing film and it’s finally available on Netflix. I highly recommend it. As I wrote about it last year:
The movie is about a power struggle, a struggle for democracy, in the fairly stable and economically rising West African nation of Ghana. Contrary to what you might expect from its title (and your preconceptions about African politics), it’s not really an expose of corrupt politicians or another one of those films that makes you feel hopeless about Africa.
On the contrary; this film inspires!
It is a gritty look at African politics in action, and at a hard-won African success story. It gives you great hope for Africa, and perhaps even that Americans will someday feel as passionate about freedom and democracy.
Here is a list of this and three other African films of note at LA’s Pan African Film and Arts Festival from ONE.
Remember the poverty trap? Countries stuck in destitution because of weak institutions put in place by colonial overlords, or becausse of climates that foster disease, or geographies that limit access to global markets, or simply by the fact that poverty is overwhelmingly self-perpetuating. Apparently the trap can be escaped.
Zambia and Ghana are specifically celebrated in the article as having risen rapidly from “low-income” toward “middle-income” status, according to new World Bank country classifications.
Low-income means countries in which people make less than $1,005 per year (why that extra $5?). Lower middle-income countries where people make between $1,006 and $3,975 per year and upper middle-income countries are those where people make $3,976 and $12,275 annually.
So what’s the behind this rapid progress? The authors provide three key perspectives:
1. Foreign aid, public and private investments to poor countries actually work.
2. The World Bank country criteria may not be measuring poverty accurately since many of those people living in poverty live in middle-income countries.
3. Fighting poverty is becoming increasingly a matter of domestic politics, a recognition of and public intolerance for inequity.
Wow, I wish I could have alerted everyone I know to go see this documentary. I saw it last week (on its final day) at the Seattle International Film Festival. I hope it sees wide distribution soon.
The film is An African Election. You and your friends should request it on Netflix and press for U.S. distribution. It’s amazing.
The movie is about a power struggle, a struggle for democracy, in the fairly stable and economically rising West African nation of Ghana.
Contrary to what you might expect from its title (and your preconceptions about African politics), it’s not really an expose of corrupt politicians or another one of those films that makes you feel hopeless about Africa.
The election does turn out to be a messy business, with hints of corruption and attempted vote-rigging (kind of like a smaller, African version of Bush v Gore 2000), but An African Election ends up being one of the most thrilling, visceral and inspiring movies about politics I have ever seen.
It’s a success story. It makes you believe in democracy again.
Here’s a trailer:
The film was directed by Jarreth Merz, a Swiss born actor, director and producer who grew up in Ghana, Germany and Switzerland and speaks five languages fluently. I talked with Merz briefly at the Harvard Exit theater. He initially sought to document the 2008 Ghanaian presidential election and had no idea that his film would take on the qualities of a Hollywood thriller.
“Frankly, I thought it could be boring,” Merz said. Originally, he and his crew just figured it would be an informative documentary about one African nation where political stability today is the norm. “But then things started heating up… It was pretty hairy at times.”
I won’t go into the details. Suffice it to say I guarantee you will not be bored. Merz and his crew’s view of the power struggle was both on the streets and within the inner sanctum. At one point in the film, you can truly feel what it is like to be poised on the cliff edge of a civil war. It’s intense.
“Ghanaians have a very acute sense of politics,” said Merz. Ghana was the first African colonial state to gain independence in 1957, he said, and are avid protectors of their democracy.
Go see An African Election. Maybe it will even make us into avid protectors of our democracy.
NOTE: Merz says it will be released theatrically in Britain next fall. Educational institutions can request it through the Cinema Guild. But the best bet is for you to start making noise about wanting it released in the U.S. on Netflix, Facebook or whatever.
Last week, Interpol coordinated police raids throughout East Africa — in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda — seizing 10 tons of counterfeit drugs and arresting some 80 people. The operation, dubbed Mamba III (in case it’s ever made into a movie, I guess), was done in cooperation with the World Health Organization’s International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT). Continue reading →