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Child marriage seen as a girl’s health issue | 

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CFR

The development community is starting to pay closer attention to the problem of child marriages.

Long considered an issue of human rights, the conversation about child marriage is shifting to that of health and education. Girls married too young are denied the educational opportunities of their peers and are put at greater health risks, such as HIV and teen pregnancy.

What may seem like a distant problem, child marriage is found in every part of the world. Ending the global practice will unleash opportunity for millions of women and girls.

The number of global child marriages is declining, but not quickly enough. Rates are staggering in places like Chad, Niger and the Central African Republic. More than two out of every three girls are married before eighteen. Roughly half of the girls married early in Niger do so before turning fifteen.

The global rate of child marriage is alarmingly high in developing countries where one out of every three girls will marry before turning eighteen. It is estimated that 142 million girls will marry before the age of eighteen this decade. The majority of cases are found in South Asia and West and Central Africa, but it is India that carries the majority of the burden, 40% to be exact.

It is not only a problem in Africa and Asia. Closer to the US, Haiti has a child marriage rate exceeding thirty percent. Continue reading

The transformative power of the internet in Africa | 

The internet holds the power to transform Africa, says the McKinsey Global Institute.

Expanding internet access and unleashing its capabilities can impact six areas: financial services, education, health, retail, agriculture, and government. A new report, Lions Go Digital: The Internet’s Transformative Potential in Africa, predicts that 500 million people in Africa will be online by 2025. It is a dramatic increase from the 16 million people connected to the internet today.

An analysis of the fourteen leading economies in Africa reveals varying progress of internet impact. Kenya and Senegal are considered leaders which the large economy of Nigeria is a country ‘punching below its weight.’

Optimism springs from the low contribution of the internet to the GDP (iGDP) of many African nations. In the US, the internet contributes to 3.8% of GDP. The average across Africa is only 1.1%, nearly half that of other emerging economies, says the report. The gap demonstrates the potential benefit that the internet can have on African economies.

“Today, following a decade of economic expansion, Africa is going digital,” say the report authors in the introduction.
Continue reading

World Vision expert pushes long-term hunger solution for fragile states | 

Congolese farmer.
Congolese farmer.

When it comes to the priorities of fragile and conflict-affected states, nutrition is often low on the list.

Forty-two countries around the world are classified as fragile and conflict-affected states (FCS), but only half have joined a UN-backed nutrition scheme called Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN).

Governments often favor instant solutions to hunger problems at the expense of longer term changes that will eliminate chronic under-nutrition.

The trend over the past few decades is to invest the majority of money on nutrition into emergency food distribution and in kind donations.

Donors like the United States will provide food from US farmers to feed people facing hunger in a country like Somalia, but do little to support programs that ensure that persistent hunger ends.

As much of 90% of food distributions come with an expiration date. Once the predetermined date is met the project ends.

It doesn’t have to be this way, says Sebastian Taylor of World Vision.

“There is an astonishingly low investments in agriculture by donors,” said Taylor to Humanosphere. “Countries need to develop a national program for development in which agriculture productivity is a core strategy and reducing malnutrition is a part of it.” Continue reading

Gates Foundation Annual Report Released! | 

Yawner, you say? Not if you read the news on this report.

Gates Foundation 2009 annual report

Annual reports are often pretty boring. And the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s yearly report is seldom a thriller. But this year, some media were able to find controversy to spice things up.

  • The Puget Sound Business Journal’s headline quoted Gates Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes saying the philanthropy’s work is “Not a popularity contest.” The Journal also noted the report, which was to be released Wednesday, was released early due to AP breaking a news embargo.

So what were these flaws, these unpopular activities, that the world’s biggest philanthropy was forced to deal with a day ahead of schedule?

These were complaints the Gates Foundation heard from its grant recipients last spring. In a survey sponsored by the Seattle philanthropy, grantees characterized the foundation as uncommunicative, confusing to work with and not very transparent.

Gates Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes

Raikes took the initiative on this bad report card and responded publicly to the complaints last June. He pledged that by 2013 the foundation and grantees will have stronger partnerships characterized by three things:

  • First, we will understand each others’ roles, goals, and strategies
  • Second, we will have open, two-way communication
  • Third, they will have a clear understanding of our decision-making and grant-making processes

Almost none of this was included in the annual report, with these “flaws” meriting only a single paragraph from Raikes. He just said they were “sobering” and are working on improving in these areas.

Why set 2013 as the deadline, I wonder? Why will it take three years or so for the Gates Foundation to understand its grantees, engage in two-way communication and make their grant-making understandable?

In any case, the foundation’s annual report is actually not a bad read.

It has much more than the requisite financial information and does provide perspective on the Gates Foundation’s workings. And for those who like moving pictures, the philanthropy has provided video interviews of select people like Raikes, other staffers, grant recipients and partners.