11 August 2011

DAWNS Digest Debut August 11, 2011

The following is a work in progress. A joint venture between myself and Mark Goldberg of UN Dispatch, the Development and Aid News Service (DAWNS) Digest is morning brief of global news for aid/dev workers and those interested in international affairs. Still in the alpha stage, the DAWNS Digest is planned to release early September as a subscription service for a very small fee -- maybe two or three dollars a month. Our aim is to provide a service to the aid and development community by distributing, via low bandwidth email, a daily round up of the latest development, humanitarian and related global news.

Your feedback is not only welcome at this stage but encouraged. Without further ado, we present your DAWNS digest for August 11.

Top Stories

Food Prices in the Horn of Africa reach record highs.

From the UN News Center:
The prices of grain and milk in the drought-hit Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia have risen to record highs, exacerbating hardship for the estimated 12.4 million people in the region who are facing severe food shortages and famine in some parts of Somalia, the United Nations reported today.

According to the August food price monitor of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the high prices of cereals such as sorghum and maize in the Horn of Africa have resulted from a combination of factors, including drought, reduced secondary season harvests earlier this year and high fuel prices that have driven up transport costs.

In Somalia, where famine has been declared in five areas in the south-central region, prices of domestically produced staples, sorghum and maize showed some signs of decline last month. The prices of the two commodities were, however, 150 and 200 per cent higher, compared to July last year, according to the FAO report.
Link: http://ow.ly/600jS

UNICEF Issues Warning on Pakistan Polio Rates.

From the BBC:
Pakistan has continued to see a rising numbers of polio cases since the beginning of 2011, the UN children's fund, Unicef, has said.

The agency says that 63 cases have been diagnosed so far, compared to 36 cases over the same period last year.

The bulk of the cases are in the province of Balochistan, which has reported 22 cases this year.
The UN says that Pakistan could be the "last polio reservoir worldwide" standing in the way of eradication...

The UN says the virus circulated in five high-risk districts in Balochistan and has now spread to areas not previously infected for the past five years, including the country's tribal areas and the provinces of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Link: http://ow.ly/600LD

ICRC Releases first-of its kind Report on Violence Against Medical Facilities and Personnel

From ICRC:
Assaults on health-care personnel, facilities and vehicles in conflicts and violent upheavals leave millions around the world without care just when they need it most. This is the key finding of a new report presented by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at a press conference in Geneva today.

"Violence against health-care facilities and personnel must end. It's a matter of life and death," said Yves Daccord, the director-general of the ICRC. "The human cost is staggering: civilians and fighters often die from their injuries simply because they are prevented from receiving timely medical assistance."

According to Dr Robin Coupland, who led the research carried out in 16 countries across the globe, millions could be spared if the delivery of health care were more widely respected. "The most shocking finding is that people die in large numbers not because they are direct victims of a roadside bomb or a shooting," he said. "They die because the ambulance does not get there in time, because health-care personnel are prevented from doing their work, because hospitals are themselves targets of attacks or simply because the environment is too dangerous for effective health care to be delivered."..."Violence that prevents the delivery of health care is currently one of the most urgent yet overlooked humanitarian tragedies," insisted Mr Daccord. "Hospitals in Sri Lanka and Somalia have been shelled, ambulances in Libya shot at, paramedics in Colombia killed, and wounded people in Afghanistan forced to languish for hours in vehicles held up in checkpoint queues. The issue has been staring us in the face for years. It must end."
Link: http://ow.ly/5ZMBO

A-1 Global Stories

Taliban militants responsible for causing the helicopter crash that killed 38 Americans and Afghans were killed in an air strike. Link: http://ow.ly/605di

Reports indicate that President Obama will make an announcement as early as today calling for embattled Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to step down. Link: http://ow.ly/605oS

The Down Jones Industrial Average fell 520 points on Wednesday; 150 of which came in the last few minutes of trading. Link: http://ow.ly/608AK

The riots in England may be the first sign of future unrest, reports Reuters, with the recently implemented austerity measures impacting the nation's poor. Link: http://ow.ly/604cS

From the Field

Heavy rain and flooding has inundated Pegu City, Myanmar and surrounding townships within Pegu Region, forcing schools to close and blocking highway routes to other cities. Link: http://ow.ly/5ZNHg

DPRK says that at least ten people were killed in Typhoon related flooding. Link: http://ow.ly/5ZO7N

IRIN reports on sanitation and sewage problems in Madagascar. Link: http://ow.ly/5ZNRD

Cote D’Ivoire president Alassane Outarra is forcing his ministers to sign a code of ethics to help root out corruption. Link: http://ow.ly/5ZOj2

Liberian opposition parties are divided over support for an August 23 referendum to delay national elections by one month, from October to November 2011. Link: http://ow.ly/5ZOZH

A French-Vietnamese math professor was sentenced Wednesday to three years in Vietnamese prison for belonging to a banned pro-democracy group and publishing an anti-communist blog online. Link: http://ow.ly/5ZPYK

A drone attack kills 21 people in Northern Waziristan, Pakistan. Link: http://ow.ly/5ZQdM

Peruvian drug traffickers may have “wiped out” an indigenous Brazilian tribe living in remote parts of the Amazon rain forest, reports the Telegraph. Link: http://ow.ly/5ZQtu

A refugee camp in Kenya that cost $60 million to complete remains unopened despite promises by UN and Kenyan officials. Meanwhile, Somali refugees continue to crowd large camps such as Dadaab. Link: http://ow.ly/60hdn

Back at HQ

The World Health Organization launches a new web-based nutritional information reference service, called e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA), to provide easily accessible guidance on nutrition interventions. Link: http://ow.ly/5ZN5v

EU Foreign policy chief Katherine Ashton releases a statement condeming violence in South Kordofan, Sudan. Link: http://ow.ly/5ZNAs

OCHA is hailing a decision by the government of Bhutan to finalize the Model Customs Facilitation Agreement, a bilateral agreement allowing the expedition of aid to the country in the event of a disaster. Link: http://ow.ly/5ZNZt


The decline of the dollar combined with the drought crisis in the Horn of Africa has mixed to create a “perfect storm” for disaster says CFR Senior Fellow for Global Health Laurie Garrett. Reliefweb summarizes:
The devastating drought and spreading famine in the Horn of Africa exposes the increasing difficulties faced by the foreign aid community worldwide. CFR Senior Fellow for Global Health Laurie Garrett says the declining dollar means most donor pledges are worth less than they used to be. Additionally, there are fewer donors, as European and other countries deal with their own struggling economies. Garrett calls the current situation - with the troubled dollar, the beleaguered global economy, and a diminishing number of donors at time of rising food prices - a "perfect storm." She says even if the dollar had not gone down in value, the rising cost of food means less can be bought today with the same money. "We literally can feed fewer people in the Horn of Africa in this massive famine, which could well break records in its scale, than we could even a few months ago, much less [a few] years ago," she says.

Many international donors have yet to fulfill their promise on foreign aid, particularly to Africa, as several critics pointed out prior to the May G8 meeting (Guardian). What happens when donors don't fulfill their pledges, and what will happen to foreign aid given recent financial market turmoil, particularly since the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating?

Donors are way off on their commitments for most aspects of development, food aid, and global health. The latest estimates are that the declared commitments are off by more than $16.7 billion. One estimate puts it much higher, that only 61 percent of pledged support, particularly for Africa, has actually come through.
Link http://ow.ly/603sK

The politics embedded into aid are often forgotten, argues Edward Carr, even on small scale and simple projects. He writes:
I remain amazed that so many working in development fail to grasp that there is no such things as a completely apolitical, purely technical intervention. For example, in development we all too often assume that a well is just a well – that it is a technical intervention that delivers water to people. However, a well is highly political – it reshapes some people’s lives, alters labor regimes, could empower women (or be used as an excuse to extract more of their labor on farms, etc.) – all of this is contextual, and has everything to do with social relations and social power. So, we can introduce the technology of a well . . . but the idea and meaning of a well cannot be introduced in the same manner – these are produced locally, through local lenses. It is this basic failure of understanding that lies at the heart of so many failed development projects that passed technical review and various compliance reviews: they were envisioned as neutral and technical, and were probably very well designed in those arenas. However, these project designers gave little concern to the contextual, local social processes that would shape the use and outcomes of the intervention, and the result was lots of “surprise” outcomes...

In my article, I demonstrated how using the concept of narrative, drawn from the humanities, has allowed me to identify moments in which I am placed into a plot, a story of development and experience not of my making:
In this narrative [“the white man is so clever,” a phrase I heard a lot during fieldwork], I was cast as the expert, one who had knowledge and resources that could improve their lives if only I would share it with them. [The community] cast themselves in the role of recipients of this knowledge, but not participants in its formation. This narrative has been noted time and again in development studies (and post-colonial studies), and in the era of participation we are all trained to subvert it when we see it emerge in the work of development agencies, governments, and NGOs. However, we are less trained to look for its construction by those living in the Global South. In short, we are not trained to look for the ways in which others emplot us.
The idea of narrative is useful not only for identifying when weird neocolonial moments crop up, but also for destabilizing those narratives – what I call co-authoring.