“A rebel takeover of several key towns in the Central African Republic (CAR) has placed additional strain on humanitarian conditions that were already precarious due to years of armed conflict,” IRIN reports (1/4). “Humanitarian groups have expressed alarm at the lack of access to more than 300,000 civilians caught up in the fighting,” the Guardian notes, adding, “The U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, and the [U.N.] security council have condemned the attacks and called on the rebels to halt hostilities” (Tran, 1/4). “In many areas, basic health care and education are provided by aid groups or not at all,” IRIN writes (1/4). “The Central African Republic has been wracked by political unrest since gaining independence from France in 1960,” the Guardian notes (1/4).
Programs, Funding & Financing
Al Jazeera continues its coverage of HIV in Russia, where “[t]he latest official figures show that about 200 new cases are being recorded every single day.” The news service writes, “HIV is spreading five times faster in Russia than the global average, with Ukraine and Russia accounting for 90 percent of the region’s cases,” adding, “The main source for 60 percent of new infections is dirty needles used to inject drugs.” However, the country has “resisted so-called harm reduction strategies including funding needle exchange programs, angering health workers and global HIV prevention groups,” Al Jazeera writes, noting, “Activists say social stigma is impeding the fight against HIV in Russia.” An accompanying “Inside Story” video report examines how Russia “plan[s] to stem the rise in HIV” (1/4).
Secretary Of State Nominee Sen. John Kerry Would Continue Administration’s Focus On Global Health, Food Security, Devex Reports
“President Barack Obama’s ‘perfect choice’ for state secretary” — Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) — “is not only expected to advance the administration’s agenda on global health and food security, but he might also lend new heft to efforts to rein in climate change, one of Kerry’s long-time priorities, with a team of advisers that is expected to include several with a background in international development,” Devex reports. “As secretary of state, Kerry can be expected to continue the administration’s reform agenda and reliance on what it calls ‘smart power,’ a mix of diplomacy and development cooperation focused on health, food security and governance through capacity building and engaging with local civil society and the private sector,” Devex continues, adding, “The Massachusetts senator and former presidential candidate laid out his support of a robust U.S. aid budget and what he calls ‘economic statecraft’ in a February 2012 Wall Street Journal op-ed …, in which he wrote that ‘energetic global leadership is a strategic imperative for America, not a favor we do for other countries'” (Rosenkranz, 1/2).
“Millions of lives are saved today in developing countries because of bold, innovative financing arrangements over last 10 years. These financing mechanisms are good examples of private sector partnership with public sector for common good,” Taufiqur Rahman, an international health consultant, writes in The Hill’s “Congress Blog.” He describes several examples, including the GAVI Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the International Finance Facility for Immunization (IFFIm), UNITAID, Clinton Foundation efforts, and the patent pools, Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and Pool for Open Innovation. Rahman concludes, “Our efforts must be to support and expand these innovative financing mechanisms and promote innovation for efficient pricing arrangements. At the same time, we must ensure that these financing mechanisms remain lean, efficient, and transparent” (1/4).
Noting that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) “estimates that 25 percent of Syria’s population needs humanitarian relief,” Rachel Brandenburg, a U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) program officer for the Middle East, writes in a USIP blog post, “Within Syria and around its borders, residents and those who’ve fled the fighting face dangerous shortages of food, fuel, medical supplies, and shelter.” She says the onset of winter will increase the need for shelter, clothing, and food. Brandenburg notes that two plans call for $1.5 billion in aid during the first half of 2013, but she adds aid workers are in short supply. “As of early December, only 20 international and 100 Syrian national WFP staff remained in-country to support an operation aimed at feeding 1.5 million Syrians,” she says (1/3).
“Now that U.S. President Barack Obama … has signed hard-fought legislation to avert the much-dreaded fiscal cliff, details are emerging on what its impact may be on foreign aid spending,” Devex reports. The news service adds, “The quick answer: It’s not entirely clear.” Devex quotes an analysis written by Jeremy Kadden, senior legislative manager for InterAction, and comments made by Jordie Hannum, director of the Better World Campaign, who spoke with the U.N. Dispatch about the legislation. The news service notes, “Negotiations on the fiscal 2013 budget will start earnestly later this month after President Barack Obama unveils his spending proposal” (Rosenkranz, 1/4).
“U.S. government officials say they expect to put the finishing touches this month on new rules designed to help funding agencies identify and regulate especially problematic H5N1 studies before they begin,” which would allow influenza researchers “to lift a year-old, self-imposed moratorium on certain kinds of potentially dangerous experiments,” Science reports. “The two developments would essentially end a long and bruising controversy over the risks and benefits of H5N1 research,” the magazine notes, adding the debate was initiated by two research teams that lab-engineered H5N1 strains to be transmissible among mammals. “The issue has been especially sensitive for the U.S. government, because its National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded the two studies and is one of the world’s biggest funders of H5N1 research,” Science writes. The magazine discusses the moratorium’s impact on research worldwide and summarizes differing views about its effects (Malakoff, 1/4).
In an article (.pdf) published in Global Health Governance, Derek Licina, an U.S. Army Medical Service Corps Officer, writes about the international military sector’s role in global health activities, which “has gained visibility in recent years.” He continues, “What is less clear is the overall contribution of the military sector to global health outcomes through direct and indirect investments.” He argues that focusing military global health efforts as outlined in international treaties, expanding existing multilateral military-related organizations, and establishing an international military global health financing mechanism will help “the military sector’s current role … become more efficient and effective in supporting the global good” (12/31).
GAVI Alliance Audit Expressed ‘Serious Concerns Of Misuse Of GAVI Funds’ In Sierra Leone, Reuters Reports
The GAVI Alliance “has put on hold some $6 million earmarked for Sierra Leone after an audit showed misuse of previous funds, a document seen by Reuters showed,” Reuters reports. “The leaked letter from the GAVI Alliance dated November 15, 2012, and addressed to Sierra Leone’s health minister says an in-depth audit revealed ‘serious concerns of misuse of GAVI funds’ totaling $1,099,640,” the news agency writes, adding, “A GAVI spokesman said the irregularities, which included undocumented expenses, cash disbursements with no documentation and overcharged procurement costs, occurred from 2008 until 2012.”
In a joint post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Amanda Glassman, director of global health policy and a senior fellow at the CGD; research assistant Denizhan Duran; and Kate McQueston, program coordinator to the global health policy team, recap major global health events in 2012, linking to previous coverage of highlighted issues. “The global health legacy of 2012 will be twofold, a year of both increased commitments to health and flat lining budgets,” they write, adding, “While these are all great news, it is still uncertain as to who will pay for these ambitious goals: biggest donors are already scaling down their health aid budgets, and there remains a tremendous resource gap to reach the end of AIDS” (12/20).