“Images of starving children, epitomized in news coverage from Ethiopia in the 1980s, have given Africa a reputation for famine that does an injustice to the continent’s potential,” Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria and a member of the Africa Progress Panel, writes in a CNN opinion piece. “It’s true that a recent report by three U.N. agencies said nearly 239 million in Africa are hungry, a figure some 20 million higher than four years ago” and “recent crises in the Horn of Africa and Sahel certainly highlight the desperate uncertainties of food supply for millions — malnutrition still cuts deep scars into progress on health and education,” he states. “But the Africa Progress Panel and many others believe that Africa has the potential not only to feed itself, but also to become a major food supplier for the rest of the world,” he continues.
Since its arrival in Haiti two years ago, “cholera has sickened more than 600,000 people and killed more than 7,500,” and “[t]his year the epidemic is on track to be among the world’s worst again, with nearly 77,000 cases and 550 deaths, according to the Haitian Ministry of Health,” Ralph Ternier and Cate Oswald of Zanmi Lasante/Partners in Health in Haiti write in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “Despite the decrease in cases from 2011, every new case represents an unnecessary and preventable infection and an even further potential of completely preventable and unnecessary death in hardest-to-reach areas,” they state. Though a “multi-pronged approach” to treating and preventing cholera has significantly decreased the number of cases, “[t]he sad reality is that … we know that cholera is not going away, [yet] emergency funding for cholera is,” they write.
“With donor money to fight HIV and AIDS falling, spending in sub-Saharan Africa must be targeted to get the best results,” Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog, noting, “Sub-Saharan Africa has 10 percent of the world’s population but is home to 70 percent of those living with HIV and AIDS.” He continues, “The problem is neither beaten nor going away: new infections continue to outpace the number of people put on treatment,” and writes, “One of the biggest impediments to the fight is the incorrect perception in developed nations that the epidemic is beaten. Thanks to donor fatigue and tougher economic conditions, many donor countries have reduced their contributions significantly.”
In recognition of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s 10th anniversary, Sisonke Msimang, executive director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, recounts the Fund’s history and development in this Project Syndicate opinion piece, stating that the organization is “driven by the idea that people need not die of preventable and treatable diseases simply because they are poor.” She continues, “And yet today, despite the Global Fund’s effectiveness and its strong anti-corruption track record, donors have cited ‘bad governance’ as an excuse for withholding further committed resources. Others have blamed the global financial crisis. The irony of this has not been lost on activists, who deal with the drivers of AIDS, TB, and malaria — corruption and poverty — on a daily basis.”
The announcement at the end of January of the largest coordinated effort to fight neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) provides “more reason to hope that we may soon see a future free of these diseases,” Adetokunbo Lucas, former director of the UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, writes in a Daily Monitor opinion piece. “This new coordinated action will take these previous efforts to a whole new level,” he writes, adding, “Together, these partners have pledged to increase the supply of existing drugs and invest and collaborate on research to accelerate the development of new and better drugs.”
Noting the successes of the first 10 years of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as the funding challenges it faces moving forward, Elisha Dunn-Georgiou, vice president of advocacy at Population Action International, writes in an opinion piece in GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog that the Fund “has always upheld the idea that their work contributes to achievement of all of the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)” and “always accepted and considered proposals that include reproductive, maternal, and child health interventions, when countries could demonstrate that they would have an impact on AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.”
“Amidst pro-democracy protests, the Russian authorities have taken what is an ongoing assault on HIV prevention to the next level by moving to silence public health advocates whose only infraction has been to spread lifesaving information online and to criticize the government for its own failures,” Eka Iakobishvili, a human rights analyst at Harm Reduction International, and Claudia Stoicescu, an analyst on Harm Reduction International’s public health research team, write in this Huffington Post opinion piece. “While Prime Minister Putin spoke glowingly of digital democracy” in a recent column praising the potential for “internet-based democracy,” “his anti-drugs agency is censoring websites for writing about WHO essential medicine,” the authors note.
In this post on USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah says the FY 2013 International Affairs budget request “showcases President Obama’s commitment to making smart, efficient investments to help those in the greatest need while helping to create economic opportunity and safeguarding American security.” Despite “important results” from investments made last year in humanitarian assistance, HIV/AIDS, malaria and agriculture, “we’ve had to make difficult choices this year, consolidating some programs and eliminating others. Our 2013 budget shows a willingness to focus on countries and programs where we believe we can make the greatest impact,” Shah writes and outlines those efforts. “The investments included in the FY13 budget will improve the lives of people throughout the world. For millions, this assistance can literally mean the difference between life and death,” he concludes (2/16).
In this SciDev.Net opinion piece, journalist Priya Shetty writes that the Sustainable Development Goals — a successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) proposed to begin in 2015 — “need more focus on health to continue the progress achieved with MDGs.” She continues, “[A]lthough early drafts of the SDGs address issues that the MDGs neglected, such as food security, they are light on health and many social issues (education, for example, or gender equity). This should be of major concern to public health experts.”
“The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria has proved to be one of the world’s most important and innovative multilateral funding agencies,” a Financial Times editorial states. Therefore, “[t]he abrupt reshuffle of top management last week” â€“ with the resignation of Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine and the appointment of General Manager Gabriel Jaramillo â€“ “must not distract attention from its achievements over the past decade, which on their own justify further donor support,” the editorial continues. “[T]here is a need to re-examine the agency’s management and operations, particularly when squeezed donors are seeking better value for money,” and that involves “scrutinizing grant applications to ensure its stretched finances go to the neediest: those with fewest resources, the highest disease burden, and policies that do most to prevent and treat infection,” the editorial states.