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In The News

USAID Operating Budget 'Could Get Rocky' Beyond 2014, Devex Reports

Devex: USAID looks ahead to uncertain operating budget
“The U.S. Agency for International Development will ‘exhaust’ this year any carryover funding it has to help offset operating expenses budget cuts included in the fiscal year 2014 omnibus bill, according to an agency official. That means things could get rocky in 2015 — if funding for Afghanistan continues to scale back and Congress decides the current operating budget is USAID’s new normal. USAID’s operating expenses budget took a hit this year, and agency planners are still trying to figure out what it means for the agency’s ability to pay salaries, hire new staff and fund the administrative costs of managing programs at headquarters and country missions beyond fiscal year 2014…” (Igoe, 2/10).

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Shaky Ceasefire In Syrian City Of Homs Highlights Difficulties Delivering Aid

The U.N. News Centre and New York Times report on the humanitarian situation and three-day ceasefire in the Syrian city of Homs.

U.N. News Centre: U.N. humanitarian chief urges safe passage for aid delivery to Syrians in need
“A top United Nations official said she is deeply disappointed that a three-day humanitarian pause agreed between the parties to the Syrian conflict was broken on Saturday and aid workers were deliberately targeted as they tried to deliver food and medicine to Homs…” (2/9).

U.N. News Centre: Syria: first civilians evacuated from Homs after nearly two-year siege, U.N. reports
“As the first of 2,500 Syrians trapped by war in the Old City of Homs without aid for nearly two years were evacuated today under a three-day accord allowing people out and aid in, the United Nations called for immediate access to nearly 1.6 million others throughout the country who have been without regular food or medical supplies for many months…” (2/7).

New York Times: Break in Siege Is Little Relief to Syrian City
“A three-day humanitarian ceasefire in the Syrian city of Homs was supposed to be a small breakthrough, a moment of relief for civilians trapped in a grim civil war. But mortar rounds and gunfire struck near aid convoys, damaging vehicles and leaving victims lying in the streets…” (Hubbard, 2/9).

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U.S. To Announce About $300M In Aid To Afghanistan

News outlets report on an expected announcement from the Obama administration regarding aid to Afghanistan.

Bloomberg: Afghanistan Aid of $300 Million Pledged by U.S. Agency
“The U.S. is proposing almost $300 million in new aid programs over five years for Afghanistan in an effort to stabilize the economy and offset losses after U.S. forces withdraw. … The assistance covers education, trade and agricultural initiatives meant to sustain advances and build on them, said Larry Sampler, who heads U.S. Agency for International Development programs in Afghanistan…” (Gaouette, 2/10).

Devex: U.S. announces fresh aid for Afghanistan
“…Washington is expected to announce on Monday about $300 million in fresh aid programs to help Afghanistan mitigate the effects of the drawdown of foreign troops and likely receiving less official development assistance this year…” (Santamaria, 2/10).

Reuters: U.S. aid plan seeks to shield Afghanistan from end to war economy
“The Obama administration will unveil on Monday a package of aid initiatives it hopes will help Afghanistan, still one of the world’s poorest countries after a dozen years of massive international aid efforts, shield itself from the departure of foreign troops and an expected drop in assistance…” (Ryan, 2/9).

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Crisis Planning, Government Cooperation Bolstered Aid Efforts In Typhoon Haiyan Response

The Guardian: Typhoon Haiyan disaster response: how the relief effort worked
A humanitarian worker discusses the use of clusters, “groups of U.N. and non-U.N. humanitarian organizations that specialize in emergency response in areas such as water and sanitation, health, shelter, logistics, food security, and agriculture,” in the Typhoon Haiyan disaster response (Tran, 2/7).

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Fundamental Change In Mindset, Language Needed For Sustainable Development, U.N. Foundation CEO Says

Devex: ‘You can’t just throw money at a problem and solve it’
“…There has been a fundamental change in mindset and language, as well as a general awareness that development must be sustainable or else efforts are futile, United Nations Foundation President and CEO Kathy Calvin said in an interview with Devex President and Editor-in-Chief Raj Kumar at the European Development Days in Brussels…” (Santamaria, 2/7).

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Chikungunya Fever Continues To Spread In East Caribbean

New York Times: Virus Advances Through East Caribbean
“A painful mosquito-borne virus common in Africa and Asia has advanced quickly throughout the eastern Caribbean in the past two months, raising the prospect that a once-distant illness will become entrenched throughout the region, public health experts say. Chikungunya fever, a viral disease similar to dengue, was first spotted in December on the French side of St. Martin and has now spread to seven other countries, the authorities said. About 3,700 people are confirmed or suspected of having contracted it…” (Robles, 2/8).

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Doctors Call For Stronger Regulations For New Vaccines In India

Inter Press Service: Doctors Resist Deadly Vaccine
“A spate of sudden infant deaths following vaccination in India has prompted leading pediatricians to call for stronger regulatory mechanisms to evaluate new vaccines for safety and efficacy before their acceptance into the national immunization program…” (Devraj, 2/8).

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High Maternal Mortality Rate Plagues Zimbabwe

Al Jazeera: Zimbabwe’s maternal mortality crisis
“…Each year in Zimbabwe, an estimated 3,000 women die during child birth and at least 1.23 percent of GDP is lost annually due to maternal complications, according to the United Nations. The situation is especially bad for poor women in rural Zimbabwe, who continue to experience difficulties in accessing quality obstetric care…” (Phiri, 2/9).

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Nigeria Records More Cholera Deaths Following 2013 Outbreak

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Nigeria reports new cholera deaths after surge in 2013
“A cholera outbreak across Nigeria has killed 24 people and infected 952 in the first four weeks of 2014, following a surge in cases last year, according to the Ministry of Health. The number of cholera cases went up more than tenfold in the West African country in 2013. There were 597 cases and 18 deaths in 2012 compared to 6,600 cases and 229 deaths last year, according to the latest government epidemiological report…” (Hussain, 2/7).

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BBC Examines Rise In Cases Of Imported Tropical Diseases

BBC News: Jungle Fever: The Exotic Disease Detectives
“…Every year thousands of U.K. residents are diagnosed with so-called imported diseases — and it’s down to experts based at tropical disease centers in London and Liverpool to track them down and find the right treatment. … Wherever and however people pick them up, cases of imported disease are on the rise. And new ones are appearing too…” (Lacey, 2/8).

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Papua New Guinea Works To Improve Toilet Access

IRIN: Papua New Guinea battles open defecation
“…Government figures indicate that up to 18 percent of [Papua New Guinea's] rural population and five percent of the urban population have no access to a hygienic toilet. Others, like Lilian Siwi, head of health in Eastern Highlands Province, estimate the real gap is much wider. … Whatever the actual figure, the health implications are undeniable. International health experts say the safe disposal of excreta and hygienic behavior play a key role in mitigating the risk of diarrhea and other diseases, including cholera, dysentery, hepatitis, typhoid, polio, trachoma and respiratory infections, as well as intestinal parasites like giardia, and worms…” (2/10).

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Editorials and Opinions

Opinion Pieces Discuss New Farm Bill

The following is a summary of two opinion pieces addressing the Farm Bill, which President Obama signed into law last week.

Huffington Post: The Farm Bill and International Food Aid: What You Need to Know
Katie Lee, advocacy and policy coordinator for international development at InterAction

“…As we move forward, U.S. NGOs must work with Congress and the administration toward the implementation of these reforms and continue to fight for robust funding for these important programs. If we are to reach our collective goal of ending hunger in our lifetimes, we need to collectively ensure and maintain U.S. leadership in this global fight” (2/6).

The Hill: A mixed farm bill
James Patterson, agricultural economist and food policy analyst

“… [T]he farm bill is a mixed and somewhat muddled bag of polices for production, marketing and trade. We get better environmental stewardship but continued market interference by government in farming decisions and marginalization of small farmers in favor of corporate agribusiness” (2/7).

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Establish Global 'Super Fund' To Support Children In Conflict Zones

Huffington Post: Sad Faces, Sad Futures and a Recipe for Change
Harry Leibowitz, co-founder and board chair at World of Children

“…All [children in conflict zones] want is to grow up in peace and have a chance at life. Instead, they are forced to suffer in horrendous conditions and are, more often than not, victims of predation. … Part of the problem is the competition — yes, competition — between organizations supposedly trying to help these children. … It is a heresy, I know, but it is time to change this pattern and waste of time and resources. Under the auspices of an apolitical organization such as the World Health Organization, a ‘super fund’ should be established and funded by both the first world governments and then the other service organizations whose mission is direct assistance to children…” (2/7).

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Governance Indicator Could Help Countries Register Children

The Guardian: Invisible children: birth registration is a prerequisite for equality
Matt Andrews, an associate professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School

“More than a third of the world’s children born today will not have any form of identification to access the social, civic and economic systems required to live normally in our increasingly globalized world. … The good news is that there is a golden opportunity to better address this issue in the near future. Talks are under way to devise a governance indicator that will act as a global focal point for governance reforms between 2015 and 2030. … This is a goal worth imagining, because you don’t count unless you are counted and today many, many people in our world are still not counted” (2/10).

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Gates Pushed Congress To Increase Polio Eradication Funding

Los Angeles Times: Bill Gates: The world is better than ever
Doyle McManus, columnist at the Los Angeles Times

“Bill Gates wants you to feel much better about the future of mankind. Things are looking up, he says, way up. … Fewer children are dying from preventable diseases, thanks partly to the large-scale vaccination programs Gates has helped build. There’s even been progress in the global campaign to eradicate polio, although last year saw new outbreaks of the disease in Syria, Somalia and Kenya. There are even signs that Gates’ message is getting through on Capitol Hill. Last month, even as it was cutting federal spending for most discretionary programs, Congress actually approved the Obama administration’s full request for international health programs — and, after lobbying by Gates, actually increased U.S. funding for polio eradication. … Reducing childhood disease and closing in on the elimination of polio are historic achievements, to be sure. But persuading Congress to increase funding for foreign aid? Now that’s a miracle” (2/8).

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Recent Releases

Blogs Discuss New Farm Bill's Impact On International Food Aid, Trade

On Friday, “President Obama signed into law the first real food aid reforms in recent memory. After two years of hard work, ONE members and our NGO partners were able to convince Congress to incorporate a number of much-needed reforms to our food aid programming into HR 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (FARRM Bill)…,” Ted Brennan, assistant director of government affairs at the ONE Campaign, writes in the ONE blog (2/7). Kimberly Ann Elliott, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, writes in the center’s “Global Development: Views from the Center” blog about “the 1,000 page, $1 trillion farm bill [and] what it means for U.S. development and trade policy” (2/7).

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IFAD Working To Improve Agriculture, Nutrition

Writing in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), discusses the agency’s efforts to improve agriculture and nutrition. “…To eradicate malnutrition, of course, is a complex endeavor. Our work must be complemented with actions in other sectors, particularly health, education, and water and sanitation. But good nutrition still begins with food and agriculture. … We have to start from the premise that agriculture needs to provide greater and more comprehensive attention to nutrition. … Partnerships and knowledge exchange will continue to be an important part of our future work on nutrition, and I look forward to working with our members and partners to ensure that IFAD-funded programs contribute to greater access to nutritious foods and high-quality diets for the rural poor, particularly women and children” (2/7).

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'Every Newborn Action Plan' Will Put Newborn Survival At Top Of Global Agenda

In the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “Impatient Optimists” blog, Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, discusses the “Every Newborn Action Plan [which is] led by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Now in draft form, the plan will be discussed during the 134th session of the World Health Organization Executive Meeting from January 20-24, 2014. Online consultations will begin through the end of February to hear the suggestions and ideas about the plan from stakeholders including mothers around the world. As a part of the United Nation’s Every Woman Every Child movement the action plan details the research and expertise that will need to be followed in order to reduce newborn mortality…” (2/7).

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MSF Begins Measles Vaccination Campaign In Guinea

“Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) launched a vaccination campaign against measles in an attempt to control the epidemic that was declared by the government of Guinea on January 14. 1105 suspected cases, with 68 confirmed, have already been recorded, causing the fear of a rapid explosion in the number of infections,” according to an MSF press release (2/7).

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