In this Atlantic opinion piece, Rachel Hills, a freelance writer based in London, examines the WHO’s decision on May 25 to declare polio a public health emergency, “calling for the 194 member states to fully fund the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and fill the currently $945 million gap in its budget for 2012-13.” She writes, “Few people probably associate the phrase ‘global health emergency’ with polio, a disease that has been around for 5,000 years and is on a decades-long decline so steep that there are less than a thousand recorded cases left on Earth,” but “polio’s threat is still very real, and the mission to finally stamp it out forever is a crucial one for reasons even bigger than the disease itself.”
“With a growing population and an onslaught of new planetary pressures expected to limit terrestrial food production, the conversation about how we’re going to feed a hungry planet should include the oceans,” Andrew Sharpless, CEO of Oceana, and actor Ted Danson write in the Huffington Post’s “Green” blog. “We need to produce 70 percent more food to meet the coming hunger needs, with meat production alone increasing from 270 million metric tons in 2009 to 470 million metric tons in 2050, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization,” they continue, adding, “The oceans will provide us an opportunity to meet that demand in a way that’s eternally renewable, but only if we start taking the appropriate steps right now.”
Citing a U.N. report released in May, titled “Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010,” which shows “the number of women worldwide dying of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications has almost halved in the last 20 years,” Agnes Odhiambo, a researcher for women in Africa at Human Rights Watch, writes in this Inter Press Service opinion piece, “Although there was a 41 percent reduction in sub-Saharan Africa, the progress is slow and uneven. â€¦ Greater effort is urgently needed to save pregnant women.” She continues, “African governments need to invest in strong health care systems and to ensure that there are enough health care facilities that can provide emergency obstetric care, equitably dispense suitable drugs and supplies, and employ a sufficient number of adequately trained health professionals, including those with midwifery skills.”
In a two-part series in his Slate blog “The Reckoning,” author Michael Moran examines the “silo” effect of Western aid to improve health in Africa, writing in the first part, “Charities know that raising money for exotic disease eradication in the West is a good deal easier than, say, funding upgrades to substandard cardiac facilities. Yet the later is the real win in the long run.” He references an article published recently in Foreign Affairs by Thomas Bollyky, which Moran summarizes by saying, “Bollyky argues coordinated action to confront communicable crises like HIV/AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis must be part of the world’s approach to global health. But by ignoring far greater, non-communicable problems, he says, we doom Africans to low life expectancies and fail to create the impetus for reform and behavioral changes that could be transformational” (5/28).
“As the world’s worst outbreak of cholera continues to ravage Haiti, international donors have averted their gaze,” a Washington Post editorial writes. The editorial notes that a “pilot project to vaccinate Haitians against the disease … reached only one percent of the population, with no immediate prospect of expansion,” and “[o]f the 100 or so cholera treatment centers that sprang up around the country after the disease was detected 19 months ago, fewer than a third remain.” The solution to the epidemic is “equally well known and costly,” the editorial states, adding, “Haiti needs modern water and sanitation infrastructure, an undertaking that might cost $1 billion. But while donors tend to respond generously to emergencies, such as the earthquake that devastated Haiti in early 2010, they lose interest in long-term fixes of the sort that would deal decisively with cholera.”
In this post in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog,” Gro Harlem Brundtland and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, both of whom are involved in Elders+Youngers, an inter-generational dialogue on the future of the planet initiated by the Elders, a group of eminent global leaders working together for peace and human rights, comment on a “lack of urgency in the run-up to the Rio+20 summit next month,” writing, “The meeting provides a historic opportunity to chart a sustainable future for the world,” but “at the moment, there is a real chance the opportunity will be thrown away.”
“This G8 summit was, yet again, a missed opportunity for international leaders to make a real commitment to long-term food security and support for African and developing world farmers,” Eva Clayton (D-N.C.), a former Congresswoman and former assistant director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “The World” blog. “In the realm of food security, the G8 had an ideal opportunity to provide a clear solution that embraces trade and opportunity, a new paradigm if you will, in international development and food security,” she continues, adding, “Unfortunately, G8 leaders emerging from Camp David still spoke of the same old aid commitments without any backbone, all the while ignoring the impact that trade barriers and U.S. and European multi-billion dollar subsidies have on food production in those countries most in need of development.”
In this Lancet opinion piece, Jennifer Kates, vice president and director of global health and HIV policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Josh Michaud, principal policy analyst at the Foundation, examine the U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI), which “represents the bulk of the U.S. global health budget and bilateral activities in more than 80 countries.” Kates and Michaud provide a brief overview of the initiative, identify the principles upon which it was founded and say that four years into the GHI, “The picture is one of both successes and challenges.”
As the World Health Assembly draws to a close in Geneva this week, and Margaret Chan accepts her appointment to a second five-year term as director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), an editorial and an opinion piece examine the future of the U.N. health agency. Summaries of these pieces appear below.
“[P]eople everywhere have a stake in eradicating polio, as we have stamped out smallpox,” a Bloomberg View editorial states, adding, “Immunizing the last unvaccinated children on the planet is an expensive and complex undertaking, and worth it in the long run.” The editorial notes, “If polio transmission could be stopped by 2015, the net benefit from reduced treatment costs and productivity gains through 2035 would be $40 billion to $50 billion, according to a 2010 study.”