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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

U.S. Releases Annual Global Report On Human Rights

The U.S. Department of State released its annual report on human rights on Thursday, with remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry and further remarks by Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Uzra Zeya. Several news outlets discuss findings of the report.

Associated Press: U.S.: N. Korea rights deplorable; problems in Myanmar
“The United States on Thursday condemned ‘deplorable’ conditions in North Korea and said serious abuses against stateless Rohingya Muslims threaten Myanmar’s progress on human rights. The State Department made its assessments in an annual global report on human rights…” (Pennington, 2/27).

Bloomberg News: Syrian War ‘Calamity’ Leads U.S. Report on Human Rights
“The U.S. described the Syrian civil war as a ‘human rights calamity,’ while citing Russia, China, Egypt, Turkey and other nations for abuses against their citizens in an annual State Department report…” (Atlas, 2/28).

Global Post/Kyodo News International: Kerry blasts North Korea over human rights issues
“U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry savaged North Korea in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday, describing it as an ‘evil, evil place.’ In response to a question about the recent U.N. investigation into the country’s human rights abuses, Kerry said that North Korea ‘is one of the most closed and…cruel places on Earth’…” (2/27).

New York Times: State Department Report Details Suppression of Human Rights Abroad
“The State Department reported Thursday that an increasing number of governments were suppressing political opponents and restricting the freedom of assembly…” (Gordon, 2/27).

Reuters: Kerry delivers Human Rights Report, highlights Syria, LGBT issues
“Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a list of rights issues not only troubling to the U.S., but that have made headlines around the word. … The State Department’s report also focused on LGBT issues in areas ranging from Russia to Uganda…” (2/27).

VOA News: U.S. Alleges Widespread Global Human Rights Violations
“The U.S. is alleging that too many governments around the world are tightening controls on free expression and using repressive laws to ‘deny citizens their universal human rights.’…” (2/27).

VOA News: U.S. Slams Unremitting Crackdown on Human Freedoms
“The United States says too many governments are ‘tightening their grasp’ on basic human freedoms. The finding comes from the State Department’s release of its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Those named as the worst actors in the world come as no surprise…” (Seldin, 2/27).

Washington Post: U.S. human rights report focuses more on LGBT discrimination in global community
“Gay and transgender people are singled out for state-sanctioned discrimination or mistreatment in about 80 countries, the United States charged Thursday in the broadest statement yet that Washington considers the treatment of gays a key measure of human rights around the world. The annual State Department review of global human rights practices released Thursday considers lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights alongside more traditional rubrics, such as free speech, political freedoms, and religious liberty…” (Gearan, 2/27).

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Donors To Uganda Continue To Announce Aid Suspensions Because Of Anti-Gay Law

As international outcry over Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill continues, the World Bank announces it has postponed a loan to the country meant to strengthen its health care system.

Associated Press: Uganda slapped with aid cuts over anti-gay law
“Uganda’s government has been hit with substantial aid cuts after the president enacted a severe anti-gay measure over which some Western governments had warned of consequences…” (Muhumuza, 2/27).

Agence France-Presse: World Bank holds up Uganda loan over anti-gay law
“The World Bank stalled a $90 million loan planned to help Uganda strengthen its health care system on Thursday after the country put in place a harsh anti-gay law…” (2/27).

Agence France-Presse: Ugandan government shrugs off aid cuts over anti-gay law
“Uganda has shrugged off foreign aid cuts and international criticism of its tough new anti-gay law, saying it could do without Western aid…” (Leroux-Nega, 2/27).

Deutsche Welle: German aid for Uganda as yet unchanged
“Uganda’s anti-gay law continues to draw harsh international criticism, with several Western countries freezing aid. Germany’s Development Ministry said any cuts to aid by Berlin would require ‘careful scrutiny’…” (Sandner, 2/27).

Devex: How Uganda’s anti-gay law can undermine HIV and AIDS response
“…[A]lthough most critics are talking about human rights and the shrinking freedom of the LGBT community in Africa, another — for some, even more pressing — concern is how this can affect the HIV and AIDS response in the country, the brunt of which is funded by foreign aid…” (Ravelo, 2/28).

Reuters: World Bank postpones Uganda loan over anti-gay law
“The World Bank on Thursday postponed a $90 million loan to Uganda’s health system over a law that toughened punishment for gays, an unusual move for an institution that typically avoids wading into politics…” (Yukhananov, 2/27).

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House Foreign Affairs Committee Clears Bill To Power Africa

News sources report on a House committee’s passage of the Electrify Africa Act, aimed at providing electricity in Africa.

The Hill: Panel clears bill to help electrify Africa
“The House Foreign Affairs panel unanimously on Thursday approved legislation requiring the Obama administration to come up with a plan to encourage African countries to provide electricity to its almost 600 million people — 68 percent of the population — who don’t [have access]…” (Pecquet, 2/27).

Devex: Nuclear energy to ‘power Africa?’
“Should the U.S. government consider financing nuclear reactors to meet Africa’s future energy needs? The idea was floated on Thursday by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) during a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting to discuss changes to the ‘Electrify Africa Act,’ where Duncan said he would recommend the option to the government for a continent with just two nuclear reactors — both built in the 1980s by the former apartheid regime in South Africa and which currently satisfy only five percent of the country’s demand for electricity…” (Stephens, 2/28).

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Humanitarian Crisis In Syria Poses Challenges For Aid Groups

News outlets report on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria and how the U.S. and the international community are responding.

Associated Press: U.N. chief: 20 years after Rwanda, Syria shameful
“U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that 20 years after the Rwanda genocide the international community’s collective failure to prevent atrocities in Syria is ‘a shameful indictment’…” (Lederer, 2/27).

CBS News: U.S. cautiously resumes aid to Syria rebels, but with deaths, refugees mounting is Obama’s policy working?
“In a tentative step forward in resuming support for rebels deemed moderate and trustworthy, the U.S. has delivered medical kits to fighters in northern Syria, and hopes to resume shipments of other non-lethal supplies…” (Brennan, 2/27).

PBS NewsHour: Humanitarian aid groups prepare for long-term crisis in Syria
“Judy Woodruff talks to Nancy Lindborg of the U.S. Agency for International Development and Michael Gerson of the Washington Post about the devastating conditions for Syrian civilians and refugees, the barriers preventing aid organizations from reaching people in need, and ways that concerned citizens can help…” (2/27).

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Violence Grips South Sudan; Aid Groups Struggle To Provide Assistance

News outlets report on continuing violence in South Sudan, where humanitarian aid groups are struggling to provide assistance amid the destruction of hospitals and other facilities.

Associated Press/ABC News: Scenes of Death in South Sudan: ‘No Humanity Here’
“…Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. Reprisal killings, based on ethnicity, are common place…” (Gridneff, 2/27).

The Economist: Conflict in South Sudan: Back with a vengeance
“The second chapter of South Sudan’s civil war began with characteristic brutality on February 18th. The White Army, an ethnic Nuer militia, announced its return to Malakal, the capital of oil-producing Upper Nile state, with the wholesale slaughter of civilians. Shocked aid workers reported marauding gunmen raping and murdering the patients at the town’s only functioning hospital…” (3/1).

Inter Press Service: U.N. Report on South Sudan Paints Grim Picture
“An interim human rights report released by the beleaguered U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan is being tentatively hailed by rights groups and observers who have pressured the mission to be more transparent with its findings…” (Oakford, 2/26).

The Lancet: Aid groups struggle to meet South Sudan’s needs
“…In a country of roughly 12 million people, at least 723,000 people are internally displaced. Another 145,000 have fled into neighboring countries. The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates 3.7 million people might not be getting enough to eat. To mount a response to all of these problems the U.N. says humanitarian groups need US$1.27 billion through June. In the meantime, aid agencies are racing to provide emergency assistance with the resources they have, while simultaneously attempting to head off catastrophes. It is a nearly impossible task…” (Green, 3/1).

New York Times: Civilians Flee as Violence Worsens in South Sudan
“…One month after a cease-fire was signed between the conflicting sides in South Sudan, the war goes on and the situation continues to deteriorate for the civilians caught between them. Far from subsiding, in some cases the violence has taken on an even more brutal edge…” (Kushkush/Kulish, 2/26).

TIME: Hospital Patients in South Sudan Shot Dead in their Beds
“Hospital patients in South Sudan have been murdered in their beds and arson attacks have been perpetrated against medical facilities, reports AP, as violence in the country worsens…” (Fry, 2/26).

VOA News: Hospitals, Patients Attacked in South Sudan, MSF Says
“Medical care in South Sudan has come under heavy fire since fighting broke out in December, with patients shot in hospital beds, wards burned to the ground, medical equipment looted, even an entire hospital destroyed, international medical group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Wednesday…” (Rwakaringi, 2/26).

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Food Waste Impacting Global Agricultural Prices, World Bank Report Says

News sources report on a new World Bank report (.pdf) discussing food prices worldwide.

The Independent: Third of the world’s food is never eaten — and it’s increasing the cost of your weekly shop
“A third of the food the world produces is never consumed, meaning that prices are being artificially inflated and resources wasted — but record harvests of wheat and maize are bringing some relief to struggling consumers by bringing prices down from their recent all-time high. These are the findings in a damning new report from the World Bank, which chastises wealthy nations such as the U.K. and the U.S. for throwing away far too much food and laments the woeful food handling and storage facilities in the developing world, which allows essential staples to perish…” (Bawden, 2/27).

Reuters: Rampant food waste a barrier to cutting poverty: World Bank
“The world loses or wastes a staggering 25 percent to 33 percent of the food it produces for consumption, losses that can mean the difference between an adequate diet and malnutrition in many countries, the World Bank said in a report released on Thursday…” (Krasny, 2/27).

RT: ‘Shameful': World loses up to third of produced food, World Bank says
“The world loses a staggering one-quarter to one-third of all food produced for human consumption, according to the World Bank’s quarterly Food Price Watch report, with the developed world leading the wastage…” (2/27).

World Bank: Food Price Watch, February 2014: Prices Decline at a Slower Pace; Focus on Food Loss and Waste
“Prices of internationally traded food commodities continued to decline — by three percent — between October 2013 and January 2014, adding another quarter to previously observed price declines since the August 2012 historical high…” (2/27).

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Conflict Linked To Water Management, Food Security

News outlets examine the links between conflict and water management, and between conflict and food security.

IIP Digital: Effective Water Management Can Prevent Conflict, USAID Says
“Countries with unreliable supplies of water are more vulnerable to conflict, according to a new report from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The report, called the Water and Conflict Toolkit, was released February 24 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington. It says that conflict is often generated by competition over water and other natural resources. Effective water management can bring disputing parties together to prevent conflict and foster reconciliation, it says…” (McConnell, 2/25).

U.N. News Centre: Conflict, migration contributing to food insecurity in Near East, says U.N. official
“Conflict, the flow of refugees and migration are worsening food security in the Near East, along with constraints on food production and a growing dependence on imports, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told a conference in Rome today…” (2/27).

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U.N. To Recognize March 1 As 'Zero Discrimination Day'

U.N. News Centre: Ahead of Zero Discrimination Day, U.N. agency appeals for tolerance, dignity for all
“‘Zero Discrimination Day,’ to be marked on 1 March, is a worldwide call to promote and celebrate everyone’s right to a full life with dignity — no matter what they look like, where they come from or whom they love, declared the United Nations agency leading the world’s HIV/AIDS response, as it kicked off celebrations with a major event in Beijing…” (2/27).

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PBS Examines Cookstoves' Impact On Health

PBS NewsHour discusses the impact of cookstoves on health around the globe.

PBS NewsHour: Designing cleaner stoves for home cooks in the developing world
PBS NewsHour Special Correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports on “efforts to provide cleaner stoves to people in developing countries” as part of his ongoing series, Agents for Change. “…These stoves and the smoke they produce are blamed for two million deaths each year from lung cancer and burns. Their fires are a major source of greenhouse gases, their fuel a major cause of deforestation. There have been many efforts so far to provide improved stoves, but with only scattered small-scale success…” (de Sam Lazaro, 2/26).

PBS NewsHour: 5 cookstoves used around the world
“…In response, advocacy groups have been working to find low-cost, efficient and safe stoves that are appealing to the local community and lucrative for manufacturers to produce…” (Epatko, 2/26).

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Improper Treatment Leading To TB Drug Resistance In India

Deutsche Welle: TB drug resistance is on the rise in India
“In India, two patients die every three minutes of tuberculosis. Improper treatment is leading to drug resistance, with 64,000 new cases registered in the South Asian country in 2012…” (Das, 2/27).

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Report Urges Humanitarian Groups To Improve Data Collection, Reporting Methods

SciDev.Net: Aid agencies urged to raise the bar on data collection
“Humanitarian agencies need to improve how they measure the effectiveness of their assistance, but to do so they must develop clearer data collection methods and analyze results more systematically, according to a report by a humanitarian research network…” (Mathers, 2/27).

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Researcher Discusses Work On Diseases Spread By Mosquitoes

The Guardian: Fighting insecticide resistance — podcast
“Professor Hilary Ranson, from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, speaks about her work to control diseases that are spread by mosquitoes, like malaria and dengue fever…” (Scott, 2/28).

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Editorials and Opinions

Discriminatory Laws Hurt Societies, Economies

Washington Post: Discrimination by law carries a high price
Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group

Eighty-three countries ” — in the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Middle East — have passed laws that make homosexuality illegal. … More than 100 countries discriminate against women. And an even greater number of countries still have laws that discriminate against minority groups. … There is clear evidence that when societies enact laws that prevent productive people from fully participating in the workforce, economies suffer. … At the World Bank Group, we will have a full internal discussion over the coming months about discrimination more broadly and how it would affect our projects and our gay and lesbian staff members. My view is that the fight to eliminate all institutionalized discrimination is an urgent task. After all, the bottom line is clear: Eliminating discrimination is not only the right thing to do; it’s also critical to ensure that we have sustained, balanced and inclusive economic growth in all societies — whether in developed or developing nations, the North or the South, America or Africa” (2/27).

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Global Health Security Agenda Will Help 'Protect The Health And Safety' Of Citizens

The Lancet: Safer countries through global health security
Thomas Frieden, CDC director, et al.

“…One of the primary responsibilities of any government is to protect the health and safety of its people. There are three key elements of health security: prevention wherever possible, early detection, and timely and effective response. … The effective implementation of measures to ensure global health security builds a firm, broad-based public health foundation that promotes country self-sufficiency and can sustain health progress in any area in which a country decides to focus. Most fundamentally, addressing epidemic threats saves lives. … On February 13, 2014, the U.S. government launched a new global health security agenda in partnership with WHO, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the World Organization for Animal Health, as well as with other countries. The goal is to accelerate progress so that every country has an effective system to prevent, detect, and respond to health threats…” (3/1).

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With Unprecedented Simultaneous Crises, Time To Reassess Humanitarian Aid Goals

The Guardian: It’s time to reassess the goals of humanitarian aid
David Miliband, president and CEO of International Rescue Committee and former U.K. foreign secretary

“For the first time the U.N. has declared three simultaneous crises — in South Sudan, Syria and the Philippines — as level 3, the highest band of emergency. So this is a period of intense activity for NGOs such as the International Rescue Committee. But it is also a good time to reflect on the goals and working methods of the humanitarian system. … The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), despite some shortcomings, brought focus, attention and resources to development efforts. We need a similar coalition for change in response to humanitarian crisis. Do we need humanitarian goals? … With the MDG revision process under way, and a humanitarian summit announced for 2016, now is the time to debate what purpose humanitarian goals could serve, and what they should be. At the moment we are playing catch up. It is time to get ahead of the curve” (2/28).

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'Greater Attention' Needed For Adolescent Girls' Reproductive Health

The Lancet: Every newborn, every mother, every adolescent girl
“With the launch of a new report by Save the Children this week, the momentum to achieve substantial reductions in neonatal mortality is accelerating. … One area of dedicated and targeted intervention, although mentioned in passing in the report, deserves more attention. Those called ‘young mothers’ in the report, but who are in fact children bearing children — 16 million girls aged 15-19 years and two million younger than 15 years — have a higher risk of adverse maternal and birth outcomes, including stillbirths, neonatal deaths, preterm births, small-for-gestational-age babies, and complications during birth than do those older than 19 years. … Prevention of stillbirths and neonatal mortality and morbidity must include greater attention to adolescent girls in particular. It is time to add the letter ‘A’ to RMNCH” (3/1).

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Criminalizing Homosexuality 'Might Do Untold Damage' To HIV Treatment, Prevention Efforts

The Lancet: Criminalizing homosexuality threatens the fight against HIV/AIDS
Ashton Barnett-Vanes of St. George’s University of London

“…Criminalizing homosexuality might do untold damage to HIV treatment and prevention efforts that have succeeded in engaging with the homosexual community. … The ambitious goals to tackle HIV by 2015 as outlined by UNAIDS, particularly to halve the number of countries with ‘punitive laws and practices around HIV transmission, sex work, drug use or homosexuality that block effective responses’ cannot be achieved if we are going backwards and not forwards. If homosexual communities are further marginalized or isolated by national policies, the prospect of undoing progress in HIV/AIDS care is real. The international health community, together with those in law, human rights, and equality, can ill-afford to not make this case heard” (3/1).

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Simple, Low-Cost Interventions Can Reduce Maternal Mortality

GlobalPost “Pulse”: When pregnancy is a death sentence for women
Harman Boparai, a doctor and freelance journalist

“…From my work as a doctor and journalist, I’ve seen that you do not need state-of-the-art facilities or equipment to save many women’s lives. What you need are simple, low-cost solutions and timely interventions. … Enabling women to use contraceptives to plan pregnancies could prevent one in three maternal deaths, according to the WHO. It is the most basic right of every woman to get the best possible health care during pregnancy and childbirth. Empowering women and ensuring timely management when problems arise can translate into many positive stories, even in settings with limited resources…” (2/27).

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Recent Releases

Humanosphere Examines Individual Remittances, Foreign Aid Funding

In Humanosphere, development blogger Tom Murphy discusses the role of individual remittances compared with U.S. foreign aid, as well as the multiple outcomes of funding global health programs (2/27). In addition, Humanosphere blogger Tom Paulson further examines how the U.S. spends foreign aid dollars in a State Department interactive (2/27).

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Videos Feature Experts Discussing Global Health Security Agenda

The Center for Strategic & International Studies’ “Smart Global Health” blog features two videos discussing the recently launched Global Health Security Agenda. In one, Kavita Berger, associate director at the Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “explains how the science and technology community can make a difference” in the initiative. And in another, Tom Inglesby, CEO and director of the UPMC Center for Health Security, discusses the initiative and “its likely impact on infectious disease programs internationally” (Fisher, 2/14).

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CSIS Delegation Travels To Ethiopia To Examine Family Planning Policies

“The Government of Ethiopia has recognized the importance of family planning for women’s health and empowerment and for achieving broader health and development goals for the country. Political commitment is high and significant progress has been made, but Ethiopia faces complex challenges in reaching their ambitious goal to expand contraceptive prevalence to 66 percent by 2015. For these reasons, the CSIS Global Health Policy Center chose to take a U.S. delegation to Ethiopia to examine family planning as a cross-cutting development issue…,” Alisha Kramer, program manager and research assistant at the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Global Health Policy Center, writes in a post on the center’s “Smart Global Health” blog (2/27).

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Gates Foundation Working With Partners To Implement Safe Sanitation

Brian Arbogast, director of the water, sanitation and hygiene program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, addresses in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog what he says are “the two biggest myths in the area of sanitation.” First, “while toilets are necessary to solve the sanitation challenges we face, they alone are not sufficient. Additional systems are necessary to prevent harmful, untreated waste from being released into the environment.” The second myth “is that there are simply not the resources — human and financial — to properly build and run all of the [sewage] plants this approach would require. … That’s why the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is working with partners to find other effective approaches for reaching the billions of people without safe sanitation. … If we can get past the erroneous notions about how to provide safe sanitation to the billions of people who are going without it, then we can focus on finding and implementing the breadth of solutions that will work” (2/27).

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amfAR Issue Brief Discusses HIV, Hepatitis Epidemics

The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog discusses a “new issue brief [.pdf] from amfAR [that] highlights a peculiar global health conundrum — people living with HIV, a disease for which no cure yet exists, survive with treatment only to die of a disease that can be cured. One example has long been tuberculosis. This brief puts the spotlight on ‘Hepatitis C and HIV: Addressing the Dual Epidemic’…” (Barton, 2/27).

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