Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died April 5, may be remembered for corruption and mismanagement, but his “positive legacy” is his creation of “an agriculture-led boom in Malawi, one that pointed a way for Africa to overcome its chronic hunger, food insecurity, and periodic extreme famines,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. Despite “resistance” from the donor community, under Mutharika, “Malawi used its own paltry budget revenues to introduce a tiny [agricultural] subsidy program for the world’s poorest people, and lo and behold, production doubled within one harvest season. Malawi began to produce enough grain for itself year after year, and even became a food donor when famine struck the region. Life expectancy began to rise, and is estimated to be around 55 years for the period 2010-15,” he says.
In a Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin writes, “[I]t warms my heart to see that safe motherhood and women’s reproductive health are finally being recognized as important development issues,” but “millions of women in developing countries still lack even the most basic care during pregnancy,” leading to maternal death and injury and hundreds of millions of women lack access to family planning services, including modern contraceptives. “It is inexcusable that in the 21st century motherhood remains so dangerous for so many. It is not only morally wrong but also hampers economic development and the survival and well-being of families, communities and nations,” he writes.
“During the 1990s it had taken a while for the rest of the world to wake up to the tragedy of AIDS in Africa, but belatedly the alarm call had come,” John Wright, a consultant in clinical epidemiology at Bradford Royal Infirmary in England, writes in a BMJ opinion piece. “Global funding and international action achieved something quite miraculous, bringing the most expensive and innovative drugs in the world to the poorest people on the planet; a triumph of science and health policy that made the discovery of penicillin look quaint,” he says. “The new health colonialists have come from across the globe with admirable intentions and boundless energy in a new scramble for Africa. Dozens of well meaning health providers are falling over each other to help — but crucially also to justify their efforts to their sponsors back home,” he writes.
The World Bank on Monday selected U.S.-nominated Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American physician and anthropologist, as its new president. The following is a summary of blog posts and commentary published in response to his election.
In this post in the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog, guest blogger Jessica Taaffe, founder of Scientists for Global Health (SciGlo) and a postdoctoral fellow researching severe malaria immunopathogenesis at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “discusses the importance of the biomedical community’s contributions to improving health worldwide,” writing, “The collective voice and influence of the biomedical community in global health has been weak, despite our invaluable scientific contributions to improving health worldwide. This needs to change.” She continues, “One way the biomedical community can become more directly involved in global health is through raising awareness of the diseases on which we work. This effort is particularly crucial for those researching diseases occurring mainly outside of the U.S.” (4/16).
“In an age of austerity, when everyone is feeling the pinch, some question whether we should continue giving aid to poor countries,” Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children U.K., writes in a Telegraph opinion piece. He says “[t]he resounding answer is yes, according to a new report [.pdf], … which for the first time presents quantifiable evidence of the impact of aid on child survival, health and education” (4/17). The joint report, by the Overseas Development Institute, Save the Children and UNICEF, “analyzes the improvements to children’s lives during the past two decades in five sectors: health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education, and child protection,” according to the report website (4/17). The report’s “findings are inspiring,” Forsyth writes, noting, “Four million fewer children aged under five died in 2010 than in 1990.”
New Malawi President Joyce Banda Offers Women ‘Hope For A Better Future,’ But Donor Support Necessary
“On Saturday April 7th, Joyce Banda became Africa’s second sitting female president,” Lyndon Haviland, a senior strategy fellow at Aspen Global Health and Development, notes in this AlertNet opinion piece, writing, “President Banda offers women in Africa a second chance to experience women’s leadership (Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s recent Nobel Peace Prize demonstrates what can happen when women lead) — and for the women of Malawi that cannot come soon enough.” As “[a] longtime advocate for women’s health, education and gender equality, Banda offers women in Malawi hope for a better future,” Haviland writes, noting, “As a founding member of the Aspen Institute’s Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, Banda has been working on the international stage to accelerate progress toward universal access to reproductive health.”
In this post in the Huffington Post Blog, Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC), reports on the Nigerian Vaccine Summit, where Nigeria’s leaders will meet this week to discuss children’s health in the country. “With the world’s second largest number of child deaths each year, many of which are due to diseases that could be prevented with vaccines, yet with immunization coverage rates that are lower than many other countries in the region, Nigeria has a major opportunity to save lives by raising immunization coverage and introducing new vaccines against pneumonia and diarrhea, the leading killers of children worldwide,” he writes. Levine recounts progress made in recent years to address immunization and child mortality, but notes that “more remains to be done.”
This post by writer Cynthia Schweer in Foreign Policy Blogs Network describes the recent restructuring of the Secretariat at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, with a focus on grant management. The reorganization is “important” because “[a]fter an age of largesse in global health funding, the financial crisis has caused funding increases to come to a screeching halt,” Schweer writes, saying, “Despite commitments that far outstretch current revenues, the Global Fund is still the most viable multilateral providing funding for global health.” She concludes, “Slowing down the pace of progress at this critical juncture will have implications that reverberate far beyond the realm of current programs” (4/13).
U.S. Should Separate Diplomatic Pressures On N. Korea From Humanitarian Assistance, Provide Food Aid
A Seattle Times editorial says a “radical response” to North Korea’s rocket launch would be to “[k]eep diplomatic channels open with the 240,000 tons of food aid planned before” the launch. “Providing food aid is wholly apart from maintaining political and economic pressure on the country,” the editorial says, adding, “Sending food does not preclude international sanctions to deny North Korea access to electronic technology and military hardware.” The editorial suggests “[s]end[ing] the food aid with an insurance policy of sorts. Use the connections and credibility of nongovernmental organizations, including Mercy Corps and World Vision, to track the deliveries. … Get the United Nations involved as well.” The editorial concludes, “Keep diplomatic channels open. Move beyond the provocations and deliver basic food relief” to the more than one-quarter of North Koreans in need (4/15).