In the second part of a series of Slate articles highlighting issues being examined by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Bjorn Lomborg, director of the center, examines the global burden of non-communicable diseases, which “receiv[e] the smallest amount of donor assistance of all health conditions, having lost ground since 1990 relative to infectious diseases,” he writes. “In a research paper released today on chronic disease, Prabhat Jha and a team of researchers argue that chronic diseases already pose a substantial economic burden, and this burden will evolve into a staggering one over the next two decades,” according to Lomborg.
Programs, Funding & Financing
“Governments are failing to fund projects to improve access to toilets and other sanitation services in poor countries because the subject remains ‘taboo,’ a director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said on Monday,” Reuters reports. “About 1.1 billion people across the world still defecate in the open because they have no toilets, according to the United Nations,” Reuters writes. “It’s the last big taboo and as a result more than one million kids die every year. Diarrhea is the second largest cause of death after respiratory infections in young children,” Frank Rijsberman, director of water, sanitation and hygiene at the foundation, said at the Global Water Summit 2012 conference in Rome, the news service notes.
The Guttmacher Institute on Friday released a media update examining the impact of U.S. international family planning assistance. The update highlights the benefits supported by $610 million “appropriated for U.S. assistance for family planning and reproductive health programs for FY 2012” and states, “These gains would be seriously jeopardized if this already modest funding for the program were to be cut again,” noting that “reductions of different magnitudes would have proportional effects” (4/27).
In this Atlantic opinion piece, Joshua Foust, an author and a fellow at the American Security Project, examines the use of a non-traditional aid model known as the Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN) in Pakistan, where “heavy rains and devastating flooding … displaced upwards of 20 million people” in July 2010. Though USAID “is very good at quickly mobilizing assistance,” including medical, shelter, food, and water aid, “to disaster-afflicted communities, it carries a lot of political baggage — so much so in places like Pakistan that the U.S might be better off in the long run by downsizing USAID’s direct activities there and working through alternative programs,” he writes. Therefore, “the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, a consortium of NGOs that work in Pakistan, … submitted an official request to the U.S. government to re-brand their aid” as a result of political tension, according to Foust, who notes the RSPN, founded by the Agha Khan Network in 1982, “reach[es] millions of the poorest homes across a vast swath of Pakistan.”
“The world is falling behind in its pledge to reduce HIV/AIDS infections and improve treatment, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a U.N. report [.pdf] released Monday” by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Associated Press reports. The report to the U.N. General Assembly “said that ‘critical challenges remain’ if the world is to make good on promises made at a U.N.-sponsored meeting on HIV/AIDS in June 2011,” the AP writes (Alt Powell, 4/30). “Among the targets set by the international community at the June 2011 high-level meeting are the elimination of new HIV/AIDS infections in children, cutting sexually transmitted infections by 50 percent, and delivering antiretroviral therapy to 15 million people,” Xinhua/China Daily notes (5/1).
“Each year, nearly 400,000 children are born with HIV globally, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) is a particular challenge in sub-Saharan Africa, an area characterized by weak health systems,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby writes in the State Department “DipNote” blog. “Last year PEPFAR and UNAIDS joined with other partners to launch the Global Plan, an initiative to eliminate new HIV infections among children and keep their mothers alive,” Goosby writes and reflects on a two-day mission to Nigeria with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe last week. He concludes, “Preventing new HIV infections in children is a smart investment that saves lives, and the United States is proud to partner with Nigeria and other countries in this cause” (4/30).
The May issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on the establishment of an evidence base for e-health; a public health round-up; an article on the future of e-health technologies; a research paper on the use of e-health in low- and middle-income countries; and a systematic review on the factors that promote or inhibit the implementation of e-health systems (May 2012).
The United Nations humanitarian office on Tuesday released its 2011 Annual Report of the Central Emergency Response Fund, which highlights the contributions of the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to humanitarian partners in 45 countries in 2011, the U.N. News Center reports. “Financed by voluntary contributions from Member States, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local governments, the private sector and individual donors, the CERF is a humanitarian fund established by the United Nations to enable more timely and reliable humanitarian assistance to those affected by natural disasters and armed conflicts, helping agencies to pre-position funding for humanitarian action,” the news service notes (5/29).
VOA News features a five-part series on South Africa’s rural public health sector, which the news service writes is “plagued by a high burden of infectious diseases, severe doctor and nurse shortages, lack of medicines and essential medical equipment and incompetent management,” resulting in high patient death rates. “Eighty percent of South Africa’s population of about 50 million people depends on public health care,” the news service notes. In the first part of the series, VOA writes that “international health care monitoring groups … consistently rate South Africa’s public health sector among the worst in the world,” “despite the fact that the government gives more than 100 billion rand ($13.3 billion) every year to state health — one of the biggest expenditures on such services in the developing world.”
“[I]n an exclusive interview with Newsweek,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discussed how “she has decided to make family planning her signature issue and primary public health a priority.” Gates said, “My goal is to get this back on the global agenda,” the news service writes. “Gates believes that by focusing on the lives of women and children, and by making it clear that the agenda is neither coercive population control nor abortion, the controversy over international family planning programs can be defused,” according to Newsweek.