23 October 2015

MSF continues pressing for accountability in Kunduz attack

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is continuing to apply pressure on the United States to determine what happened when it bombed an MSF-run hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan this month. An OpEd from MSF USA executive director Jason Cone in the New York Times makes the case for an independent investigation.
Our call for an independent international investigation is not a political gesture, pursued solely because the United States was so prominently involved in the Kunduz attack. Just as our medical ethics and commitment to international humanitarian law mandate that we treat all wounded persons in a conflict zone — regardless of affiliation, race or religion, and regardless of how or why they were injured — our founding principles compel us to highlight encroachments on the medical facilities through which we deliver care. We have done so recently in Yemen, Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and other places. 
But if international humanitarian law is flouted, if violations on this scale can be dismissed as a “mistake,” “the fog of war” or even just “a terrible tragedy,” then all of our medical staff, projects and patients in conflict zones could be jeopardized. 
In the case of Kunduz, it is not our responsibility to prove that the United States military violated the laws of war or its own rules of engagement. It is the responsibility of the party that destroyed a fully functioning hospital, with some 200 staff members and patients inside, to prove that it did not.
I find it hard not to see the case for an independent investigation made by Cone and MSF as compelling. At the very least, the families of the 22 people killed and MSF deserve to know what happened and for people to be held accountable. But, I am not holding my breath that the U.S. will condone such an investigation. The best bet is that the internal investigation is transparent and honest about its findings.

Does this Gates-commissioned cartoon criticize the foundation?

Bill Gates shared a cartoon yesterday by Randall Munroe, better known as the genius behind XKCD. It marks World Polio Day by describing how close the world is to eradication and the fact that the solutions (aka vaccines) are already known. True to form, Munroe uses conversation between two characters to assail the tendency to overlook the obvious.

But does the character who continues to propose innovative solutions, many using new technologies, also serve as satire for Gates and his foundation? The drive for innovation is a leading criticisms of the Gates approach to global health.

Regardless, Gates is a fan of the comic writing, "anything that combines Randall and polio eradication is great in my book....I got a kick out of it and thought I'd share it with you."

What do you think? Even if it is not about Gates, it does a good job criticizing some of the worst tendencies in global health.

13 October 2015

To see MDG shortcomings, look no further than Addis

The distribution of income and wealth are aspects of economic progress that are most relevant to the MDGs. The widening gulf between the haves and have-nots in Ethiopia does not require a journalist or any analyst to leave Addis Ababa. The alarming increase in the number of beggars in the streets and the exodus of unemployed youth across deserts and high seas are sufficient to inform any observer interested in arriving at a balanced assessment. But such a story may not generate enough clicks in donor countries. It may also undercut the Western narrative of saviordom that’s driven by the aid-industrial complex.
 That is J. Bonsa in Opride, an online site covering Ethopia and Africa. It is in response to recent reporting by the BBC holding up Ethiopia as an MDG success story - a place where many MDGs were achieved prior to 2015. Bonsa cuts through some of the claims that government programs succeeded, such as major reductions in birth rates. The desire to see Ethiopia, or anywhere, as a success story ultimately renders some analysts blind to major problems faced by the country, he argues.
It is also abundantly clear that there is a tacit understanding between the Ethiopian government and the donor agencies not to scrutinize Ethiopia’s record on MDGs to a required extent. Donors need a foreign aid success story. Besides, for fear of political backlash from the general public, Western leaders would not object to the success story lines. It is in this scheme of things that the Western media appear to be given the role of generating the “Ethiopia rising” or “Africa Rising” storylines to enhance the “feel good factor” in donor countries. The increasingly muzzled Ethiopian public can do little more than helplessly watching this drama being played out in the name of poverty reduction.
HT Mo Keita 

08 October 2015

SDG related humor: "The word 'sustainable' is unsustainable."

The pace might be a bit faster over the next few years now that the sustainable development goals are around through 2030.

Though 100 years is longer than a lot of our resources.

via XKCD

04 October 2015

The terribly high rate of U.S. child gun deaths in one gif

Guns kill too many kids in the U.S. The problem is stark when seeing how few countries have a higher fatality rate.

It is well-documented that firearm fatalities in the U.S. are far higher than other wealthy countries. The rate of 3.55 deaths per 100,000 people in 2013 is more than six times greater than our neighbor to the north, Canada (0.49 per 100,000). But it is the fact that the difference extends to children. In the gif below, you will see how all countries compare for 2013 firearm deaths for children between the ages of 5 and 14 years old. The second image removes all the countries that perform better than the U.S. The few that are left show just how poorly the U.S. performs.

The color grade throws things off a bit because countries like Venezuela, Colombia and Honduras are particularly dangerous for children. It may look like the U.S. is not all that much worse than Algeria. But if you go look at the data, visualized by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, you will see that the U.S. rate of 0.32 child deaths per 100,000 people is significantly higher than Libya (0.056), China (0.019), and Indonesia (0.029).

There is no way around the fact that gun deaths are a major problem in the United States. There are lessons to be learned from elsewhere. A piece published in Humanosphere last year goes deeper into comparing the U.S. and the world on gun deaths. It also features the example of Cali, Colombia, a city that managed to reduce its homicide rate through gun bans.

I will defer to the experts for the answers, but the gun violence must be addressed immediately. That status quo is not OK.