New York Times


More attacks and polio cases harm Pakistan’s eradication effort | 

Pakistani security officials and relatives of tribal police assigned to guard polio workers who were killed in bomb blasts, pray next to the bodies during their funeral, near Peshawar.
Pakistani security officials and relatives of tribal police assigned to guard polio workers who were killed in bomb blasts, pray next to the bodies during their funeral, near Peshawar.
AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad

The year is young, but Pakistan has already endured a serious of setbacks in riding itself of polio. Two new cases were confirmed over the weekend in Peshwar. Meanwhile, a bomb attack on a polio vaccination team left 11 dead and 12 wounded.

The fight against polio has been far more literal than figurative. Since December 2012, more than 40 people working with or for polio vaccination in Pakistan have died. The increase in cases of polio from 58 in 2012 to 91 in 2013 is attributed to the poor vaccine coverage in the country. Attacks on vaccine workers has only made it harder to reach young people.

Police vehicles carrying officers meant to protect polio vaccine workers were struck by a bomb on Saturday. A second bomb went off a few minutes later, when a new convoy was sent in response to the first attack. A firefight ensued between the surviving officers and the unknown gunmen.

“An Attack on security personnel providing security to Polio Teams is an attack against Humanity,” said the Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio, Aysha Raza Farooq, in a Facebook post following the attacks. “Such coward attacks and conspiracies against our goal of Polio Free Pakistan will further strengthen our resolve to stamp this menace out of the country.”

Continue reading

Are there trade-offs in feeding the world? | 


A world-wide hunger problem with a continuing growing population means that food is increasingly important.

Some 842 million people suffer from chronic hunger. That means one out of every eight people is food insecure.

More than 7 billion people are on the planet today. The additional population (roughly 10 billion by 2015), will largely come from low and middle-income countries where food security is greater issue.

In short, we will need more and better food. The future of farms is coming under increasing scrutiny.

“Already, the world’s farms take up an area the size of South America. By 2050, a global population of nearly 10 billion people will require roughly 70 percent more food. We have two options: Either we need to get more food out of the land we already farm, or we need to farm more land,” said Stephen Porder, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University, in the New York Times last week. Continue reading

Stigma faced by Ugandan women with breast cancer | 

Stigma, misinformation and poverty all conspire against women suffering from breast cancer, reports Denise Grady for the New York Times.

Her excellent story profiles some of the women in Uganda who are suffering from breast cancer and are trying to seek treatment. One of the people is Jessy Acen, a thirty year-old mother of two whose husband abandoned her after she was diagnosed.

Cancer had caused immense, painful swelling on the left side of her face, and in her left arm and hand. The disease had also spread through her skin from one breast to the other and erupted into oozing sores that she treated by wrapping her chest in bandages. She often sat with the swollen arm cradled in her lap, a position one comes to recognize among women here with advanced breast cancer.

The disease was diagnosed in 2008 when she was only 25. She had a mastectomy at a hospital near home and began chemotherapy, but could not afford the full course of drugs. Within a year, the cancer sprang back, invading her armpit, blocking lymph nodes and causing the swelling in her face and arm.

“When she made contact with us, she had advanced disease,” said Dr. Fred Okuku, an oncologist at the cancer institute. “Straight to the lung, straight to the liver. And what we’ve been doing is to try to prolong her life, and also give her treatment with the aim of reducing the pain.”

Watch Jessy’s story above, read more about it here and read another article about stigma and poverty’s affect on cancer in Uganda here. It is worth your time to read both.

Providing alternatives to drugs may disrupt addiction in the poor | 

What if addicts were not really addicts? What if they were given other options than drugs?

Researcher Dr. Carl Hart says that people will respond to alternatives like cash in lieu of drugs. His findings turn the long held belief that drugs trapped the poor. He posits that drug use is more of a coping mechanism than it is a trap of addiction.

Some will not be surprised that Hart found that poverty, rather than drugs, is far more damaging to families and communities. From the New York Times:

Yes, he notes, some children were abandoned by crack-addicted parents, but many families in his neighborhood were torn apart before crack — including his own. (He was raised largely by his grandmother.) Yes, his cousins became destitute crack addicts living in a shed, but they’d dropped out of school and had been unemployed long before crack came along.

“There seemed to be at least as many — if not more — cases in which illicit drugs played little or no role than were there situations in which their pharmacological effects seemed to matter,” writes Dr. Hart, now 46. Crack and meth may be especially troublesome in some poor neighborhoods and rural areas, but not because the drugs themselves are so potent.

Hart is making the news rounds to promote his new book, High Price. It is being described as a equal bit autobiography (the crack epidemic that wrecked his community motivated his research into stopping drug use) and research study.

“If you’re living in a poor neighborhood deprived of options, there’s a certain rationality to keep taking a drug that will give you some temporary pleasure,” Dr. Hart to the NYT. “The key factor is the environment, whether you’re talking about humans or rats.”

Might this give pause to the idea of excluding men from microfinance programs? Could it be possible that well-designed loans could reduce alcohol consumption and drug use?

Rwanda is not happy with ‘balanced’ Kagame profile | 

Paul Kagame
Paul Kagame

Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Jeffrey Gettleman finally got the opportunity to sit down with Rwanda’s controversial president Paul Kagame.

The three hour conversation was used in an article published in the New York Magazine profiling Kagame. The piece caught attention for a less-than-flattering depiction of the Rwandan president and even generated a bizarre response from the Kagame office.

Gettleman’s piece covers the range of views on Kagame. He is the leader who turned around Rwanda in the wake of a horrific genocide that should have sent the country in a tailspin. He is also the autocrat who stifles opponents in Rwanda and is accused of inciting rebellion in the neighboring DR Congo by supporting rebel groups.

Yolande Makolo, the communications director for the Presidency in Rwanda, responded critically to the article in allAfrica. She said that she turned down Gettleman’s previous requests to interview Kagame, but was convinced by a mutual acquaintance to allow for the conversation. When it did happen, Gettleman went well beyond the hour that he was allotted to speak with the president.
Continue reading

Bornstein calls out charity: water for simplifying clean water solutions | 

Daniel Ek, founder of Spotify, pumping water at the well that bears his name in Giramagogo, an Ethiopian village.


Daniel Ek, founder of Spotify, pumping water at the well that bears his name in Giramagogo, an Ethiopian village.

Despite what some may say, solving the world’s water crisis is not so simple.

David Bornstein picks up on a recent New York Times Magazine article that profiled a trip of high profile philanthropists with charity:water. The organization that has managed to move millions for clean water receives a rather soft treatment from the piece that raises some questions for Bornstein. He points to promising examples of clean water solutions and criticizes the way that charity:water has simplified the problem.

The organization’s fundraising is guided by the imperative of giving its donors a satisfying experience. However, to do this, Charity: Water has had to simplify the problem and narrow in on one piece of the solution — the piece with the most potential to deliver that experience: individualized water projects, like wells or purification systems, that can be photographed, located on Google Maps, and commemorated with plaques featuring donors’ names. To get the work done, the organization identifies partner organizations across the developing world with track records of delivering results, and provides flexible funding to meet local needs.

To be fair to charity:water, the organization has undergone a lot of learning since it was founded. Founder Scott Harrison is working closely with veterans in the clean water space and the organization made changes in the past to its claims in order to more accurately reflect its impact. Further, charity:water is getting in on the tracking game by installing computer chips to track whether wells are actually working and being used. Continue reading

UNICEF’s digital tool that reunites families | 


Sudden humanitarian disasters can separate families. The trauma is then compounded further by the difficulty in reuniting family members. That problem may be one of the past.

A new UNICEF tool provides a quick way to bring families back together. The digital registration tool called Rapid Family Tracing and Reunification (RapidFTR) helps stranded children reunite with their families.

UNICEF, Save the Children and the Uganda Red Cross are using RapidFTR for Congolese families displaced in Uganda.

“Before RapidFTR, we would have to use paper and fill out lots of forms to get all the details,” said Child Protection Officer of Save the Children Fatuma Arinaitwe. “This took a lot of time, and then we would go around with a list of names and ask people if they knew these children.” Continue reading

Rupee Down: Is India a sinking BRIC? | 

Wen-Yan King

The breaks are screeching on the once throttling Indian economy. The national currency, the rupee, hit a new all-time low against the US dollar today. Five years ago the country was celebrated for its strong currency. Now it is drawing serious concerns.

A consistent slide is cause for concern. Whispers mention the economic collapse of 1991 as a possible course for India.

Investment in the leading emerging markets sharply fell starting between May and June this year. Analysis from early July showed that part of the decline was linked to US bond buying, but the real problem was that investments were not panning out.
Continue reading