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Why are male farmers out-performing women in Africa? | 

Tanzanian farmers
Gates Foundation

The gap between men and women in some African countries is easily seen in agriculture. Male-managed farm plots consistently out-perform those of their female counterparts by as much as 66% in Niger and 25% in Malawi.

The long-held belief was that a lack of access to the necessary inputs (seed, fertilizer, labor) to make a farm successful were less available to women. That is the case to some extent, but there are more ways that women are put at a disadvantage as to their male counterparts.

“Despite the centrality of agriculture in the economies of most African nations, relatively little is known about why farms managed by women are on average less productive. This “knowledge gap” in turn translates into a “policy gap” in the steps that African governments, their development partners, business leaders and civil society can take to equalize opportunities for female and male farmers,” writes Makhtar Diop, Vice President for the Africa Region for the World Bank.

In fact, equal access to inputs does not necessarily mean that men and women will have the same levels of agricultural productivity. Doip’s comments come as a part of a joint-report on gender and agriculture led by Michael O’Sullivan from the World Bank and Arathi Rao from the ONE Campaign. A closer look at six African countries that are responsible for more than 40% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa helps to make sense what is happening.

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Global Progress Made Against AIDS, Despite Wavering Support | 

We’re not there yet, but the fight against AIDS is reaching a tipping point.

The number of new cases of HIV are falling while the number of people receiving life-saving treatment is going up. If current trends holds, the two trends will meet by 2015, says a new report.

That is the tipping point for beating AIDS.

The 2.3 million new HIV infections recorded in 2012 is the lowest number since the 1990s, says the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The cost of treatment for AIDS is down dramatically from roughly $10,000 per person per year in the 1990s to $140 today.

However, Attention and financing for AIDS is wavering as the world nears this crucial moment. UNAIDS estimates that as much as $24 billion will be needed each year by 2015. Continue reading

End poverty by cutting foreign aid | 

Effective and working governments are necessary for prosperity. However, foreign aid is getting in the way of government progress, says Princeton University’s Angus Deaton. The author of the new book The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality argues his case in Project Syndicate.

Unfortunately, the world’s rich countries currently are making things worse. Foreign aid – transfers from rich countries to poor countries – has much to its credit, particularly in terms of health care, with many people alive today who would otherwise be dead. But foreign aid also undermines the development of local state capacity.

This is most obvious in countries – mostly in Africa – where the government receives aid directly and aid flows are large relative to fiscal expenditure (often more than half the total). Such governments need no contract with their citizens, no parliament, and no tax-collection system. If they are accountable to anyone, it is to the donors; but even this fails in practice, because the donors, under pressure from their own citizens (who rightly want to help the poor), need to disburse money just as much as poor-country governments need to receive it, if not more so.

It comes out the same week that the UN will deliberate how to proceed after the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015. Advocates like the ONE Campaign and Jeff Sachs are making the case for more aid, not less. The book should revive the academic debate over whether foreign aid causes more harm than good.

Bono says Yes We Can end extreme poverty while UN reports Why We Might Not | 

Bono
Flickr, Phil Romans

Bono loves data and said so in his February TED talk, which was recently released in video. He says the promise of ending extreme poverty turns him on.

“If the trajectory continues we get to the ‘zero zone.’ For number crunchers like us, that is the erogenous zone,” says Bono. “And it’s fair to say, by now, that I am sexually aroused by the collating of data.”

Extreme poverty has been halved from 43% of the world in 1990 to 21% by 2000. The current trends show that extreme poverty could end by 2030, say the World Bank, ONE and CGD.

However, the most recent data (aka UNDP’s Human Development Report (HDR) 2013) suggests that ending extreme poverty will get harder if we don’t take more action:

“Environmental inaction, especially regarding climate change, has the potential to halt or even reverse human development progress. The number of people in extreme poverty could increase by up to 3 billion by 2050 unless environmental disasters are averted by co-ordinated global action,” says the report. Continue reading

Last Ditch Effort to Preserve US Global Health R&D Spending | 

header-ghtc-logoWashington DC - Sequestration hits the US federal budget on Friday. The Washington Post features a countdown to Friday on the front page each day. News reports and the talk around town radiates a certainty that the across the board budget cuts will go through on Friday.

That fact is not dissuading global health activists from warning of the harm caused by budget losses. A group of activists descended upon the US capital to meet with lawmakers and issue a congressional briefing on the setback to global health research that the cuts pose.

Among those pushing lawmakers to maintain the US’ leadership in the global fight against the diseases poverty is the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), which issued a report outlining the ways that the US can continue to be a global health research leader. The group is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and housed within Seattle-based PATH, an organization that specializes in finding technological solutions to health problems in poor countries. Continue reading

Oxfam and ONE Campaign call on Congress to stop playing games over hunger | 

United Nations photo

Malnourished child in Somalia

Congress is looking at reforming its agricultural subsidies programs known generally as the Farm Bill — a massive, kitchen-sink piece of legislation that covers all sorts of things like food stamps, soil conservation and about $5 billion in direct payments to American farmers.

Given our nation’s cost crunch, many are predicting some big cuts. Humanitarian groups like Oxfam and the ONE Campaign are trying to raise public awareness to save the US government’s life-saving, overseas food aid program from the budget ax.

ONE’s food aid advocacy initiative is called Thrive. They also have this page explaining their position on these issues.  Oxfam calls its food aid initiative Grow and here’s their argument for sustaining overseas food aid. Both organizations are largely advocating for the same thing — continuing to provide the world’s hungry with immediate food aid and also working toward lasting solutions to end these chronic cycles of hunger and starvation.

Oxfam, always creative and often edgy in their approach, today released this weird, creepy but somehow compelling video calling on Congress to stop playing with food aid (… the soundtrack reminds me of The Shining):

Weird and wonderful UN week | 

Flickr, morten gade

A general UN assemblage

As heads of state, officials and other bigwigs descend on New York City for the United Nations General Assembly meeting, key city streets are closed, the traffic replaced by police officers, patrol cars and vans, and New Yorkers are irritated. It’s UN Week and most of the buzz is about the Palestinian push for UN recognition as an independent state.

President Obama is already in town, scheduled to speak at the UN on Wednesday.

But I’m not here for all that. I just came to see the UN deal with a proposal to re-set the global health agenda — something that, arguably, could do a lot more to increase global stability, our national security and worldwide economic growth than all this other blather. Arguably.

It’s called the UN High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases. As boring as it sounds, it could be a big deal.

But I discovered upon arrival that even though I’m registered as Official UN Media (yes, with capital letters) I’m not actually allowed into the meeting. I assume that’s because I’m hardly “high-level,” which is fine. I’m not sure I’d even want to get that close to UN headquarters right now.

It’s friggin’ crazy around here.

Instead, I am skirting around the edges of the meeting visiting with others who have come here for the variations on the theme of making the world better.

Tom Paulson

Ted Turner

Like Ted Turner, a so-called media mogul, rich guy and the founder of the UN Foundation. I’m here, along with about two dozen or so other journalists sponsored by him and this philanthropy that promotes black helicopter government takeovers and democracy-hating jihadists (Just kidding. That was how one of the UN press officers described the view some Americans have of the organization.)

I’m a global health fellow sponsored by the UN Foundation to come learn more about the UN, specifically its work on health issues.

We met with Turner briefly before he went on stage at the Social Good Summit – a new media event aimed at stimulating, well, social good, largely aimed at young people.

Somebody asked how can we make the world a better place? Here’s some of what Ted said:

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Growing the ONE Campaign in Seattle | 

What happens when you mix a world-famous rock band, a couple of billionaire philanthropists with millions of people around the world willing to hit the streets, swarm social media sites and lobby politicians to do the right thing?

You get the ONE Campaign.

ONE Campaign Seattle

Members of ONE on the streets of Seattle, taking names and fighting poverty

Earlier this week, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others celebrated a big victory in the effort to combat one of the world’s greatest inequities — millions of child deaths in poor countries every year due to vaccine-preventable diseases like pneumonia and severe diarrhea.

An initiative originally launched a decade ago out of Seattle by the Gates Foundation, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, GAVI, received $4.3 billion from governments and donors to expand its mission of vaccinating children in poor communities.

This was more than was requested ($3.7 billion) and translates into vaccinating 250 million children over the next four years, which experts say will prevent four million child deaths. GAVI’s work so far is estimated to have already saved 5 million lives.

How was this accomplished?

How were governments, under pressure right now to cut back on foreign aid due to the economic downturn, convinced to so strongly support this initiative that has much lower “brand” recognition than, say, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria or the latest natural disaster?

Bill Gates likely had some influence, sure. He’s long been a big proponent of vaccines. But even the Microsoft billionaire can’t always get governments to do what he wants.

That’s where his friend Bono and the ONE Campaign come in.

Gates Foundation

Bono on a recent tour of the new Gates Foundation campus, flanked by Melinda Gates and U2 lead guitarist Edge. Bill's in the back, pointing

The ONE Campaign is primarily Bono’s creation. It’s a grassroots and advocacy lobbying organization that was launched by Bono and others, with funding from the Gates Foundation, to support efforts aimed at fighting poverty — and diseases of poverty — in Africa and other poor countries. Continue reading