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In The News

Malnutrition Threatens Syrian Refugees; Aid Delivery Still Stalled

News outlets continue to report on the humanitarian situation in Syria, with a special focus on the threat of malnutrition among Syrian refugees.

Devex: U.K. aid to Syria ‘smart’ but still not enough — aid groups
“British aid to Syria is a ‘lifeline’ for operations on the ground and the U.K. Department for International Development should be commended for the generosity and ‘smart’ approach of its aid — but as needs continue to rise, finding ways to sustain and increase funding will only become more urgent…” (Patton, 2/26).

The Guardian: Scale of suffering at Syrian refugee camp is revealed by photo of huge queue for food
“…The U.N. relief agency [UNWRA] has distributed more than 7,000 food parcels in the Palestinian camp, home to about 160,000 people, since 18 January. The U.N. has reported infant malnutrition in the community, which has been reduced to eating animal feed. As of this week, all aid distributions have been suspended because of security concerns…” (2/26).

Reuters: Syrian refugees in Lebanon at risk of dying from malnutrition
“Hundreds of Syrian children who have fled to neighboring Lebanon to escape their country’s civil war are increasingly at risk of dying from malnutrition, international aid organizations said in a report on Tuesday…” (Kalin, 2/25).

Reuters: Syria aid still stalled after U.N. resolution
“World powers have passed a landmark Security Council resolution demanding an end to restrictions on humanitarian operations in Syria, but aid workers doubt it has the punch to make Damascus grant access and let stuck convoys deliver vital supplies…” (Holmes, 2/25).

U.N. News Centre: Syria: U.N. officials urge political solution to crisis, greater efforts to ease civilian suffering
“As the conflict that has inflicted unimaginable suffering on the Syrian people prepares to enter its fourth year, United Nations officials [Tuesday] stressed the need for a political solution to end the crisis, as well as greater efforts to protect civilians and ensure they receive the assistance they desperately need…” (2/25).

UNICEF: Malnutrition a silent threat emerging among Syrian refugee children in Lebanon
“…UNICEF recently led an inter-agency nutrition assessment on Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Malnutrition is becoming a threat, among this population. Preliminary results show that almost 2,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, and need immediate treatment to survive. As malnutrition is linked to such factors as poor hygiene, unsafe drinking water, the cold season, lack of immunization, diseases and improper infant and young child feeding practices, the situation could deteriorate even further…” (Boustani, 2/25).

VOA News: U.N.: Syrian Refugee Children in Lebanon Face Death by Starvation
“International aid groups say that hundreds of Syrian children who have fled the war in their country are facing death by starvation at refugee camps in Lebanon…” (2/25).

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International Donors, Agencies Continue To React To Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Media sources continue to cover reaction to Uganda President Yoweri Museveni’s signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The Guardian: Uganda: how campaigners are preparing to counter the anti-gay bill
“Earlier this week president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, did what LGBT rights campaigners, HIV/AIDS workers and human rights organizations feared for years: passed an anti-homosexuality bill. … We talk to campaigners on the ground in Uganda, in the diaspora and the international community about what they are doing next and what the development community should do…” (Leach, 2/25).

The Guardian: Uganda donors cut aid after president passes anti-gay law
“Once regarded as an example of enlightened African leadership, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, is currently something of an international pariah. His decision to sign a bill into law that imposes harsh penalties for homosexuality has resulted in cuts to the country’s generous aid budget…” (Plaut, 2/25).

Reuters: United Nations chief urges Uganda to repeal anti-gay law
“U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Uganda on Tuesday to repeal a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality, warning it could fuel prejudice and encourage harassment and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people…” (Nichols, 2/25).

Reuters: Uganda told anti-gay bill poses financial risk
“Sweden’s Finance Minister Anders Borg warned Uganda on Tuesday that a new bill imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality could represent a financial risk for the east African economy. President Yoweri Museveni initialed the bill on Monday, drawing immediate criticism from Western donors and Washington. Within hours, Norway and Denmark said they were holding back aid. Austria said it would review assistance…” (Biryabarema/Croome, 2/25).

ScienceInsider: Science Misused to Justify Ugandan Antigay Law
“On 24 February, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, signed a draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, after two months of declining to do so. Science, he says, changed his mind—in particular, the findings of a special scientific committee his Health Ministry had appointed earlier in the month. … But some scientists on the committee are crying foul, saying that Museveni and his ruling party — Uganda’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) — misrepresented their findings…” (Balter, 2/25).

Science Speaks: Outrage at home and abroad: we’re reading reactions to the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill
The Center for Global Health Policy’s blog summarizes several press releases and other news reports on issues surrounding the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (Aziz, 2/25).

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News Outlets Discuss Challenges To Providing Health Care, Aid In Afghanistan

The New York Times reports on Médecins Sans Frontières’ findings on health care in Afghanistan, while Devex features an interview with USAID Assistant Administrator Larry Sampler, who discusses U.S. aid to the country.

New York Times: Aid Group Sees Daunting Obstacles to Health Care for Afghans
“The patients in the four hospitals run by Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan are the lucky ones, by all accounts, having arrived at well-stocked facilities that maintain international standards with high-quality free care. But when Doctors Without Borders, a French medical aid organization also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, surveyed 800 of those patients last year, the results showed a dismaying picture of unmet health care needs…” (Nordland, 2/25).

Devex: Larry Sampler on USAID in Afghanistan
“Creating and maintaining a new government in such a challenging environment as Afghanistan comes with certain tradeoffs for U.S. aid. That’s why the U.S. Agency for International Development has been compelled to permit some ‘degradation of pure effectiveness’ that comes with host government capacity building in the push for ‘localization,’ Assistant Administrator Larry Sampler said in an exclusive interview with Devex…” (Igoe, 2/25).

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U.N. Calls For Better Aid To Civilians In CAR

U.N. News Centre: Central African Republic: U.N. urges better security, more resources to aid civilians
“As the violence across the Central African Republic (CAR) continues unabated, United Nations agencies are sounding the alarm about the plight of civilians at risk inside the country and are now also warning that the crisis threatens to engulf the region, with thousands of people fleeing the fighting to seek refuge in neighboring countries…” (2/25).

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South Sudan In Need Of Urgent Health Care For Pregnant Women

BBC News: South Sudan: ‘One of the most dangerous places to give birth’
“Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes due to continuing violence in South Sudan. Many are in need of urgent health care, with pregnant women at great risk. South Sudan is one of the most dangerous nations on earth to give birth, according to a report from the charity Save the Children…” (Alagiah, 2/24).

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Caribbean Nations Release Strategies To Improve HIV/AIDS Programs

CMC/Caribbean360: Eight Caribbean countries to strengthen HIV programs — UNAIDS
“UNAIDS Caribbean said Monday that eight regional countries have finalized specific strategies aimed at strengthening their HIV programs by making them more responsive to human rights…” (2/26).

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Conference Aims To Strengthen Faith-Based Organizations' Roles In Addressing HIV/AIDS

Vatican Radio: Strengthening role of churches in combating HIV/AIDS
“An international conference on stepping up the fight against HIV/AIDS opened in Rome on Tuesday, with participants focused on how to strengthen the role of faith-based organizations. Jointly organized by UNAIDS and the global Catholic aid and development confederation Caritas Internationalis, the meeting will review progress over the past three decades and pinpoint ways of expanding access to life saving anti-AIDS treatment…” (2/26).

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Zambia Court Acquits Gay Rights Activist After Comments On AIDS Prevention, Human Rights

News sources report on the acquittal of a gay rights activist in Zambia who publicly spoke about the need to recognize gay rights as part of HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns.

Al Jazeera: Zambia court acquits top gay rights activist
“…Paul Kasonkomona’s acquittal on Tuesday was hailed by gay rights advocates as a boost for human rights and came a day after Uganda signed a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality. Kasonkomona had appeared on television saying that recognizing gay rights was needed to address the country’s HIV/AIDS epidemic…” (2/25).

Reuters: Zambian magistrate acquits gay rights activist over TV comments
“…In April 2013, Kasonkomona was arrested after he appeared on a television program where he spoke about the need to recognize the rights of vulnerable groups such as homosexuals to tackle the AIDS epidemic in Africa. He had been released on bail pending the court hearing…” (2/25).

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Malawi Sex Workers Forced To Take HIV Tests Seek Damages

Agence France-Presse: Malawi sex workers push for damages after forced HIV test
“Fourteen sex workers arrested by police in Malawi and forced to take HIV tests launched a fresh bid to seek damages in court on Tuesday. The group was detained in 2009, hauled to a government hospital for HIV testing without their consent, and the results were disclosed in an open court…” (2/25).

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Eliminating Maternal Mortality In Developing Countries Could Improve Life Expectancy, Study Says

Media sources highlight a study recently published in PLOS ONE that examines the benefits of eliminating maternal mortality in developing countries.

ANI/Business Standard: Eliminating maternal mortality could improve women’s life expectancy in developing countries
“Eliminating maternal mortality, which is defined as the deaths related to pregnancy, would result in a gain of over a half year in life expectancy worldwide, according to a new study. … In sub-Saharan African countries, the possible achievable gains from eliminating maternal mortality fluctuate between 0.24 and 1.47 years, or six percent and 44 percent of potential gains…” (2/26).

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Eliminating Maternal Mortality In Developing Countries Could Extend Women’s Life Expectancy In Reproductive Ages
“Maternal death rates represent the single largest health discrepancy between developed and developing populations, with nearly all — over 99 percent — maternal deaths worldwide occurring in developing countries and over half of them in sub-Saharan Africa countries…” (2/25).

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One-Third Of Cameroonian Children Suffer Malnutrition, Stunting

VOA News: Poor Nutrition Stunts Growth of One-third of Cameroon Children
“The ratio is a stunning one in three. An estimated one third of Cameroon’s children are smaller than they should be and some of them will not have long to live. UNICEF and other humanitarian relief organizations say as many as 1.2 million children are affected by the health condition resulting malnutrition across the nation…” (Nforngwa, 2/25).

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Study Examines Funding Schemes To Keep Rotavirus Vaccines Within Reach

SciDev.Net: Financing options can make rotavirus vaccines affordable
“Developing Asian countries should consider public financing schemes to make rotavirus vaccines affordable and help reduce the incidence of severe diarrhea which kills nearly 188,000 Asian children each year, according to a study [.pdf]…” (Sarmiento, 2/26).

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Editorials and Opinions

Farm Bill Will Provide 'Much Greater Flexibility' For U.S. Food Aid Program

Chicago Tribune: USAID gets relief in legislation
“The farm bill provides much greater flexibility for the U.S. Agency for International Development, which runs the [Food for Peace] program. About 20 percent of the money devoted to foreign food aid will no longer be restricted. The change is so significant that it should enable the program to serve 600,000 more people on the same budget, according to Dr. Rajiv Shah, who heads USAID. All told, with other changes in appropriations legislation, assistance will reach 800,000 more people. … These changes will help the image of the U.S. abroad, and U.S. taxpayers will see their money spent more wisely” (2/26).

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Re-establishing USAID As Stand-Alone Agency 'Essential' To Fixing U.S. Foreign Aid

Reuters: How to fix foreign aid
Paul Brinkley, former deputy under secretary of defense and founding director of the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations from 2004-20ll

“…America’s inability to provide even symbolic access to economic opportunity is crippling our image abroad. The mistaken belief that the United States is the great rebuilder of postwar countries — a belief that stems from the U.S.-funded aid to the postwar economic expansions in Japan, Germany and South Korea — has fostered expectations that our diplomatic and foreign aid institutions cannot fulfill. … Re-establishing foreign assistance as a stand-alone organization is an essential first step to solving our broken foreign assistance system. USAID could be free to refocus on its core mission of humanitarian aid — and be better able to excel at it again. We could then move to take a fresh look at economic development and how to best leverage all elements of U.S. capability, from our vibrant private sector to our academic institutions. After a decade of lackluster results in spite of billions of dollars of taxpayer investment, this fresh look is long overdue” (2/25).

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Political Will, Funding Necessary To End Newborn Deaths

The Hill: Honoring every newborn
Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, and Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.)

“…[T]here are existing interventions that, if scaled up, have the potential to reduce newborn deaths by as much as 75 percent. What’s lacking is the political will and funding to deliver these solutions to all the mothers and babies who need them. That’s why Save the Children has declared 2014 the ‘year of the newborn.’ With today’s launch of the Ending Newborn Deaths report, we hope to build steady momentum leading up to the World Health Assembly in May, where the Every Newborn Action Plan — a roadmap for ending newborn deaths from preventable causes — will be presented to world leaders. … [W]e are calling not just on our government, but on all world leaders to reaffirm their commitment to ending newborn deaths once and for all…” (2/25).

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'Vaccine Diplomacy' Can Help Address Spread Of Leishmaniasis In Conflict Zones

Huffington Post: Leishmaniasis: The Neglected Disease of War, Conflict, and Human Misery
Peter Hotez, founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine

“One of the least known consequences of modern conflict in the Middle East and East Africa has been the widespread devastation that results from a tropical infection known as leishmaniasis. The international scientific and diplomatic communities now have an opportunity to work together to prevent the spread of this neglected tropical disease and to develop new treatments or vaccines. … According to a 2012 study, some of the largest numbers of leishmaniasis cases now occur in complicated conflict and post-conflict nations such as Afghanistan, Algeria, Colombia, Iran, Iraq, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Venezuela. … An extraordinary opportunity for what I have termed ‘vaccine diplomacy’ would be joint U.S.-Iran cooperation to develop and test new vaccines…” (2/25).

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'Excellent Health Care, Proper Surveillance' Vital To Protecting Cities From Disease Outbreaks

The Guardian: Sick cities: how to beat pandemics that spread like we live in one big metropolis
Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley examines the spread of disease within big cities, noting that “[f]rom bubonic plague in the middle ages to bird flu or SARS in the 21st century, infectious diseases have spread horrifyingly fast in cities, where people live in close proximity and sometimes crowded together.” She argues that good sanitation, “excellent health care, and proper surveillance are vital in protecting cities even as they become more interconnected and vulnerable than ever before” (2/26).

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Recent Releases

Secretary Kerry Discusses Ending, Preventing Sexual Violence In Conflict Situations

Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a discussion on Tuesday on the U.S., U.N., and U.K. efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence in conflict situations. According to the transcript, Kerry noted, “We’re going to ask governments to take practical steps to end sexual violence … We are going to set about changing global attitudes on this subject so that the stigma that has always been attached to the victims of these crimes is attached to the perpetrator instead…” (2/25).

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'No Ceilings' Data Will Help MCC Make Investment Decisions

Writing in the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s “Poverty Reduction Blog,” Senior Development Policy Officer Andria Hayes-Birchler discusses Hillary Rodham Clinton’s recently launched “No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, which aims to gather and analyze data on the progress of women globally.” She continues, “…At MCC, we rely on a huge amount of third-party data for making decisions about which countries we work with, which investments are most likely to lead to economic growth and poverty reduction (and for whom) and for measuring and understanding our results. My colleagues and I are deeply interested in ensuring high-quality data exist and that development stakeholders use that data responsibly. We know how powerful data can be in driving decisions. And we know how frustrating it can be when there isn’t good data or the data are weak. … I’m eager to see No Ceilings help us do just that” (2/20).

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Blogs Discuss Effects Of Ugandan Anti-Gay Law

Several blogs discuss the effects of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law on Monday. Managing Editor Mark Leon Goldberg writes in a U.N. Dispatch blog post about why the U.S. should not cut aid to Uganda (2/24). Ben Shepherd, associate fellow in the Africa Program at Chatham House, writes in the group’s “Expert Comment” blog about the long- and short-term political implications of the legislation (2/24). And Julian Sheather, ethics manager at the British Medical Association, discusses the “bad science” of the law in a BMJ Group Blogs post (2/25).

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