24 August 2012

Two Weeks on Humanosphere...What You Missed

For the last two weeks I had the pleasure of standing in for Tom Paulson on his Humanosphere blog. If you didn't make your way over to the blog, here is what you missed with a clip of the opening paragraph. My personal favorites include a comparison between Romney and Obama on foreign aid, a recap of reactions to the SEC's decision regarding conflict minerals, an interview with Jonathan Katz on the cholera situation in Haiti and my attempt to connect college football offensive innovations with aid transparency.

Enjoy reading, have a great weekend and regular programming will resume on Monday.

Bangladeshi PM Ducks Human Rights Abuse Questions - Host Stephen Sackur asks some hard questions about the human rights record of Bangladesh. Specifically, he cites a UN report that says, “human rights violations continue unabated in Bangladesh. Including extrajudicial deaths, torture and cruel treatment in law enforcement custody.” Hasina ducks the question by blaming the previous government. Attempts to push the issue further by Sackur are met by repeated denials.

Making Data Accessible to Affect Policy: Will it Work? - Brookings has compiled a series of data that they consider to be Development, Aid and Governance Indicators. The data is meant to support “evidence-based policy analysis and foster discussions about trends in foreign assistance, governance and global development.” To do that, Brookings took the data and put it into an interactive and open dashboard.

Sahel Update: Malnutrition Rising in Chad - New numbers from a UNICEF Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions survey in 11 regions in Chad show that malnutrition is getting worse. Acute malnutrition rates fell between 12.6% and 24.9% with 9 regions exceeding the WHO’s 15% emergency threshold. That is up from four regions past the emergency threshold in 2011.

Barder and Kinder Debate London Health Summit and Food Security Policy  - A blog post on the recent London hunger summit by the Center for Global Development’s Director for Europe Owen Barder elicited a response in mild disagreement from ONE’s Director for Agriculture and Europe policy, Molly Kinder.

Election 2012: Where do the Candidates Stand on Foreign Aid? - Paul Ryan’s addition to the Romney ticket catapults the election season forward. It also provides a bit more clarity on what a Romney presidency may look like. While other reports will focus on Ryan’s affinity for Ayn Rand, P90X and the impact of his proposed budget on jobs and US economy, I am interested on what his arrival has to say about the Romney team’s plan for foreign aid.

Catching Up on Cholera in Haiti - When cholera broke out in Haiti in October 2010, reporter Jonathan Katz* was the first to break the story connecting UN peacekeepers from Nepal to the outbreak. Nearly two years later, Haiti is still struggling to address the issue of cholera and the UN has yet to admit that it was to blame for the outbreak. I caught up with Jonathan to discuss his original reporting, the outbreak and the UN’s response.

Telling Different Stories About Africa Involves Both Journalists and Readers - The subject of how to report on Africa has come into focus the past few months with articles from academic Laura Seay in Foreign Policy and a response by Tristan McConnell in the GlobalPost. Both make some points worth considering, but it is the nuanced entry from Jina Moore in the Boston Review earlier this month that provides a critical perspective from a journalists who has dealt with the desires of readers and editors while being mindful of the complexity of telling stories from Africa.

Easterly-GiveWell Debate Is Good for Aid - An interesting conversation took place in mid-July between Bill Easterly of NYU; Holden Karnofsky and Stephanie Wykstra of GiveWell; and an unnamed funder. Easterly and Karnofsky penned a pair of blog posts that shared some of the highlights of the conversation. It is interesting in terms of how the two sides perceived the conversation in light of their disagreement on whether or not to make recommendations based on academic research.

Out with Voluntourism and In with Edutourism - “Volunteering is offering short term solutions for complex problems and we are really disappointed that we’re not getting long term development results,” says Daniela Papi towards the beginning of her TEDxOxbridge talk. She founded an NGO called PEPY (Promoting Education, emPowering Youth) in Cambodia a few years back and has used her aptly titled blog “Lessons I Learned” to share her path of learning and understanding in international aid. Specifically she has come to understand that international volunteering projects do not provide the positive gains that supporters tout.

Beyonce and Valarie Amos Talk World Humanitarian Day - Anderson Cooper had Beyonce and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valarie Amos on his program to chat about this Sunday’s World Humanitarian Day. While debates continue about the UN, foreign aid and NGOs, the people who risk their lives for the sake of others should be recognized for all their efforts.

What if Development was More Like College Football? - Taking ideas and innovating on them is a process that can lead to improvements. There is no better example than the sport of football. With video recordings of games, it is now easy to learn the plays of an opponent before having even played them. Teams then have the opportunity to make the right adjustments or learn new plays that exposes weaknesses. It also lets coaches take ideas from other coaches.

What Happens when you Combine Dr Seuss and Malaria? - Today is the anniversary of the day the Dr Ronald Ross’s discovery that malaria was spread by female mosquitoes. Various sites marked the day with blog posts and pictures, but this find from the NPR Shots Blog, who in turn was tipped by the Contagions blog, is much more fun.

New Data and Reports Turn Eye to Global Surgery Gap - A technological innovation (the iPad) a well designed survey (cluster randomization) and young health workers are the backbone of an important new study on surgery. Some might expect the combination of resources to be applied in a middle or high income nation, but a team has come together to provide a historic snapshot of untreated surgical conditions in Sierra Leone that was published in The Lancet last week.

Celebrities Employ College Humor to Raise Money for Malaria No More  - The sometimes raunchy website College Humor is teaming up with Malaria No More to raise money for the NGO. A cohort of actors and celebrities, such as Rainn Wilson, Brooklyn Decker, Keenan Thompson and David Arquette, have put together a series of comedic videos under the heading of Malarious. To gain access to the content, a user has to make a donation of at least $1.

Rape, Logic, Rhetoric and Cognitive Dissonance - Much has been rightfully made of the comments about Rep Todd Akin’s comments about rape. It has returned the conversation back to the very important issue of reproductive rights and the ideological divide between the women’s right to choose. A good portion of articles have focused on condemning Akin’s remarks. Rachel Riederer takes a different approach by using the event to highlight how logical thinking can begin to fall apart when people face uncomfortable or divergent facts.

Innovations in Western Kenya Move Needle Further Away from Hunger - The Last Hunger Season is not meant to address the structural problems. Rather it is a book that provides a diary of four farmers in Western Kenya. OAF is meant to feature as the potential for hope, but the draw are the farmers and their families. Thurow is successful in showing the challenges faced by each of the families. Some times it is bad luck and other times it is a matter of circumstance.

Cholera Concerns Mounting in Sierra Leone - A cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone that made its way to the capital city of Freetown is spreading at an alarming rate. MSF reported an estimated 1,500 cases and 17 deaths in a July 31 press release. The WHO released new numbers yesterday that cholera has infected 5,706 people since the start of August. They single out Western Aread and Tonkolili as areas with the greatest burden.

Aid Workers Mapped: The Rise of Violence Against Aid Workers - The US Department of State compiled a map showing the location and number of aid worker victims since 2001. It is careful to mark the important point that the majority of these workers are national staff members. When the headlines report kidnapped or killed staff they often lead with the Westerners. That makes sense given that these headlines are coming from western media outlets appealing to a western audience.

Visualizing the Shift in US Healthcare Spending - One of the central issues in the campaign season is healthcare. This matters in a global health perspective because it is something that informs and impacts other countries. Drug prices and demands in the United States can drive service deliver and innovation. An interactive guide by the California Healthcare Institute gives a visual representation of how healthcare spending has changed in the United States over the past five decades. What stands out, among other things, is the massive shift in out-of-pocket spending along with the development of Medicaid. Here are snapshots from each decade 1960 to 2010.

SEC Adopts Conflict Mineral Legislation; Activists Express Disappointment - Within the debate over the impact of the rule is the role of the SEC in the proceedings. The members who dissented, Daniel Gallagher and Troy Paredes, both questioned whether it was within the mandate of the SEC to make such rules. Chairman Mary Shapiro disagreed in her remarks saying, “We have received significant public input on this rulemaking, and in response we incorporated many changes from the proposal that are designed to address concerns about the costs. I believe the final rule faithfully implements the statutory requirement as mandated by Congress in a fair and balanced manner.”

Gates Foundation Funding Goes To Community-Based Sanitation in Vietnam and Cambodia - Poor sanitation increases the risk of diarrhea, the leading killer of children under the age of 5. For these reasons EMW has made it a priority to develop programs that improve sanitation. Their community-based program starts with education and ends with the installation of clean latrines. To do so, EMW must train masons to build the latrines, connect households with financing and provide the right set of incentives for households to pay for a latrine to be built. EMW pays a rebate to families upon the successful completion of the latrine which serves the dual purpose of encouraging people to see the project through and hold all involved accountable. To get the rebate, an independent evaluator must come and inspect the new latrine.