The Daily Impact: Gunmen attack UN mission in South Sudan

April 18, 2014

Gunmen wounded dozens of people when they stormed a UN base in South Sudan. From AFP:

The top UN aid official in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, said he was “outraged” by the assault in the war-ravaged town of Bor, in which two peacekeepers were also wounded.

Almost 5,000 civilians are sheltering inside the fortified base of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), one of the most bitterly contested regions in the four-month-long conflict splitting the country.

UNMISS condemned “heinous murders” in the attack, although it has not officially confirmed any deaths.

“The armed mob forced entry into the site and opened fire on the internally displaced persons sheltering inside the base,” the UNMISS said in a statement, saying its forces returned fire — first firing warning shots and then taking part in a ferocious gun battle — before the fighters retreated.

The gunmen had initially approached the camp “under the guise of peaceful demonstrators” intending to present a petition to the UN, before opening fire and breaching the compound, the statement added.

The civilians fled into the base weeks ago amid brutal ethnic massacres in the world’s newest nation.

Information Minister Michael Makuei said that a “huge number” of gunmen had come seeking revenge for the rebel capture of the oil town of Bentiu two days ago hoping to kill the trapped civilians, many of them children.

The conflict in South Sudan has left thousands dead and forced around a million people to flee their homes since fighting broke out on December 15 in the capital Juba before spreading to other states in the oil-rich nation.

Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, has swapped hands several times during the conflict.

The latest clashes in Bor echo an attack by gunmen in December on a UN base in Akobo, also in Jonglei, killing at least 11 civilians and two Indian UN peacekeepers.

The Daily Impact: UNICEF takes lighthearted approach to a serious Issue

April 17, 2014 A new UNICEF campaign introduces an animated character that will raise the important issue diarrhea, in India. From the Independent: Accompanied by an insanely catchy techno-Bollywood-style anthem, Mr Poo features in a very silly and surreal new video aimed at raising awareness of the health dangers associated with public defecation in India. Though the video is light-hearted; the issue is a serious one. Globally, India has the largest number of people, more than 620 million, still defecating in the open. Only about half the population of the country use toilets. According to the Poo2Loo campaign, which is supported by United Nations Children's Fund, 44 per cent of mothers in India dispose of their children’s faeces in the open, meaning there is an extremely high risk of microbial contamination (bacteria, viruses, amoeba) of water - which can cause diarrhea in children. Diarrhea makes children more vulnerable to malnutrition, stunting, and opportunistic infections such as pneumonia. Mr Poo, who also features in his own smartphone app, released last month, is part of a brave campaign from Unicef, an organisation often reluctant to take a humourous or light-hearted approach to taboo public health subjects. It has received a mixed reception since it began in January of this ... Read more

The Daily Impact: Transgenders Gain Legal Recognition, Following Court Ruling

April 16, 2014 India's Supreme Court granted legal recognition to transgender people on Tuesday, recognizing them as a third gender deserving of equal rights. From VOA: The landmark ruling Tuesday directs federal and state governments to include qualifying transgender people in welfare programs for the poor.All official documents will now be required to have a category marked transgender, in addition to male and female. Activists praised the ruling, saying it will help grant equal rights to a group long-marginalized in the traditional country. Speaking outside the court, transgender activist Laxmi Tripathi, who helped file the petition, expressed relief. "Today, Justice Radhakrishnan and Justice A.K. Sikri said that any nation can progress only after it grants all the rights and human rights to its citizens. The transgenders have been given the biggest right. Today, I feel I am a proud citizen of India," said Tripathi. Transgender people have a centuries-old history in India, but are often subject to hate crimes and discrimination. As a result, many find themselves on the fringes of society, becoming poor and resorting to begging or prostitution. The ruling comes months after India's Supreme Court reinstated a 19th century law criminalizing homosexual sex, in a ruling that outraged gay rights advocates. —————————————- Global Health and Development Beat Malaria ... Read more

The Daily Impact: Two shots of HPV vaccine protects against HPV, says WHO

April 15, 2014 A new recommendation from the WHO expert advisory group, says that only two shots of the HPV vaccine are needed to protect against cervical cancer. From the Guardian: Reaching more girls in developing countries with the HPV vaccine that can prevent most cases of cervical cancer has just become more feasible. The World Health Organisation's expert advisory group has said that two shots of vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) is going to be sufficiently protective for girls, instead of the three-doses currently recommended, as long as they have it before they reach the age of 15. Three shots of vaccine - either Merck's Gardasil or GSK's Cervarix - have been incorporated into immunisation schedules in affluent countries. But there is enough evidence now, according to the WHO's SAGE committee - strategic advisory group of experts - on immunisation, to rule that two shots will do the job. The decision will make the roll-out of immunisation and the take-up in poor countries significantly easier - and that is where it matters. Some 80% of cases of cervical cancer are in the developing world and the prospects for women who develop it are poor, with little treatment available, so that is where most deaths are too. ... Read more

The Daily Impact: Global Climate Change Efforts are Falling Short

April 14, 2014

A UN panel warned that governments are not doing enough to prevent the risks posed by climate change. From the NY Times:

In a report unveiled here, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that decades of foot-dragging by political leaders had propelled humanity into a critical situation, with greenhouse emissions rising faster than ever. Though it remains technically possible to keep planetary warming to a tolerable level, only an intensive push over the next 15 years to bring those emissions under control can achieve the goal, the committee found.

“We cannot afford to lose another decade,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chairman of the committee that wrote the report. “If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilization.”

The good news is that ambitious action is becoming more affordable, the committee found. It is increasingly clear that measures like tougher building codes and efficiency standards for cars and trucks can save energy and reduce emissions without harming people’s quality of life, the panel found. And the costs of renewable energy like wind and solar power are falling so fast that its deployment on a large scale is becoming practical, the report said.

Moreover, since the intergovernmental panel issued its last major report in 2007, far more countries, states and cities have adopted climate plans, a measure of the growing political interest in tackling the problem. They include China and the United States, which are doing more domestically than they have been willing to commit to in international treaty negotiations.

Yet the report found that the emissions problem is still outrunning the determination to tackle it, with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rising almost twice as fast in the first decade of this century as they did in the last decades of the 20th century. That reflects a huge rush to use coal-fired power plants in developing countries that are climbing up the income scale, especially China, while rich countries are making only slow progress in cutting their high emissions, the report said.

The report is likely to increase the pressure to secure an ambitious new global climate treaty that is supposed to be completed in late 2015 and take effect in 2020. But the divisions between wealthy countries and poorer countries that have long bedeviled international climate talks were on display yet again in Berlin.

Some developing countries insisted on stripping charts from the report’s executive summary that could have been read as requiring greater effort from them, while rich countries — including the United States — struck out language that might have been seen as implying that they needed to write big checks to the developing countries. Both points survived in the full version of the report, but were deleted from a synopsis meant to inform the world’s top political leaders.

The new report does not prescribe the actions that governments need to take. But it does make clear that putting a price on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, either through taxes or the sale of emission permits, is a fundamental approach that could help redirect investment toward climate-friendly technologies.

If climate targets are to be met, the report said, annual investment in electrical power plants that use fossil fuels will need to decline by about 20 percent in the coming two decades, while investment in low-carbon energy will need to double from current levels.

The report warns that if greater efforts to cut emissions are not implemented soon, future generations seeking to limit or reverse climate damage will have to depend on technologies that permanently remove greenhouse gases from the air; in effect, they will be trying to undo the damage caused by the people of today.

 

Strength in numbers: Community health workers in social franchise networks

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Dr. Aye Aye owns a small, tin roof clinic nestled next to her home in Yangon, Myanmar. There she serves the poor of her community with integrated health services including family planning, tuberculosis screening and treatment, diarrhea treatment, and more. She was one of the first doctors to join the Sun Quality Health Network, PSI/Myanmar’s social franchise network.

 

The Daily Impact: Emergency measures taken to prevent Ebola spread in West Africa

April 11, 2014

The historic ebola outbreak that started in Guinea continues as aid groups are taking emergency steps to prevent its spread. From AFP:

The tropical bug is thought to have killed more than 110 people in Guinea and Liberia since January, with suspected cases reported in Mali and Sierra Leone and aid workers warning that vital hygiene products could run out.

The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) announced emergency training for 70 people who would fan out across the Guinean capital Conakry to track people who have had close contact with Ebola patients.

The UN agency is also setting up a special alert and response operation centre within the Guinean health ministry and training staff at Guinea’s main hospital and other health facilities.

The organisation has described west Africa’s first Ebola outbreak as one of the most challenging since the virus emerged in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It is also one of the most deadly, with 157 people infected and 101 deaths in Guinea alone.

The outbreak began in the impoverished country’s southern forests, but has spread to Conakry, a sprawling port city on the Atlantic coast and home to two million people.

In neighbouring Liberia, there have been 21 cases, including 10 deaths.

While the WHO has not recommended any trade or travel restrictions, the region is braced against the epidemic, with Senegal closing its border with Guinea.

Action Against Hunger, a global aid group, warned of a looming shortage of sanitation stocks and said it had begun distributing chlorine and soap to families and schools in Guinea and setting up hand-washing facilities.

“We are checking the availability of chlorine in the country, because we could be running out in the coming hours. So we are going to have to get it from other countries,” Lucia Prieto, the charity’s Guinea country director, said in a statement.

In Dakar, UNICEF said it was working with WHO and other agencies to spread awareness by sending text messages and links to a specially written five-minute radio drama and television shows automatically to mobile phones across west Africa in numerous languages.

“Most of the people in this part of the world had never heard of Ebola before,” Guido Borghese, the organisation’s principal adviser on child survival and development for the region, said in a statement.

“In this environment, unfounded fears and rumours spread quickly and widely. More than ever, it is crucial that families have both the means and the right information to protect themselves and prevent dangerous misunderstandings.”

The Daily Impact: Sub-Saharan Africa off track to meet Sanitation MDG, says report

April 10, 2014

A new study finds that no sub-Saharan African country will meet the MDG for sanitation, and that many are lagging behind achieving the target for clean drinking water as well. From VOA:

According to a joint report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF last year, more than 2 billion people – or one-third of the world’s population – will remain without access to improved sanitation by 2015.  The Millennium goal calls for cutting in half the number of people who lacked clean toileting facilities in 1990.

A study led by British researchers found that none of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa was on track to meet the sanitation goal by next year.

Last year’s WHO-UNICEF report noted that the world has met the target of cutting in half the proportion of people without access to improved sources of water, five years ahead of schedule.  But that assessment is deceptive, according to Mathew Freeman of Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta.  Freeman is co-author of the report by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

He says it appears the global goal of increased access to clean drinking water is largely being met by emerging countries in Asia, which is obscuring the real picture of the availability of adequate water supplies elsewhere.

“China and India, their rapid urbanization and infrastructure investments have led to dramatic changes in access to improved water supply.  So, globally that target was met; but, few countries in sub-Saharan Africa have met those targets,” said Freeman.

Those few include Gambia, Congo, Gabon, Malawi, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau and Swaziland.

Many African nations that appear to be on target for reaching Millennium goals, Freeman says, are not taking into account the situation in their poorest, remotest districts.

Investigators say the availability of clean water is highly variable, ranging from 3.2 percent in some districts of Somalia, for example, to as high as 99 percent in Namibia’s urban centers.  Adequate sanitation facilities are equally inconsistent.

In poorer rural areas, the researchers found, households were two to 18 times less likely to have access to improved sanitation and two to 80 times more likely to defecate in open areas compared to more modern rural areas.

Investigators used statistical models in their analysis of data from 138 national household surveys conducted in 41 sub-Saharan Africa countries between 1991 and 2012.

The Daily Impact: Foreign Aid rebounds to record high in 2013 – OECD

April 9, 2014

Foreign aid for development in poorer countries hit a record high last year, says a new OECD report published yesterday. From the Guardian:

Figures released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Tuesday show official development assistance (ODA) grew by 6.1% in 2013 to $134.8bn (£80.3bn) after falling for two years in a row in as donors grappled with austerity measures and increasingly divided public opinion in many countries.

Seventeen countries in the OECD’s development assistance committee (DAC) increased their aid spending last year, with huge jumps recorded by some donors. The UK’s spending grew by 27.8% to hit for the first time the international target to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) as aid.

Iceland’s aid spending also rose by more than 27% in 2013, and Japan’s by 36.6%. Norwegian and Italian aid rose by more than 10%. Other countries, not part of the OECD-DAC group, also recorded significant spending increases. Estonia, Russia and Turkey each reported rises of more than 20%.

Aid from the United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, soared by 375.5%, largely because of exceptional support extended to Egypt. In 2013 it spent 1.25% of its GNI as aid – more than any OECD-DAC donor. At the same time, aid spending fell in almost a dozen countries, with the biggest decreases in Canada (-11.4%), France (-9.8%) and Portugal (-20.4%).

The OECD also warned that the share of aid going to some of the world’s least developed countries was falling, despite the overall increase in spending. In 2013, aid to Africa fell by 5.6% in 2013, to $28.9bn.

The OECD secretary-general Angel Gurría said: “It is heartening to see governments increasing their development aid budgets again, despite the financial constraints they are currently facing. However, assistance to some of the neediest countries continues to fall, which is a serious concern.”

The Paris-based forum also noted that more donors were giving aid in forms other than grants, with countries counting a growing amount of equity investments and loans – which developing countries must pay back – as ODA. In 2013, grants grew by only 3.5% while other forms of spending rose by 33%.

A survey of donors’ spending plans suggests aid levels could rise again in 2014 and stabilise thereafter. However, the share of aid going to the countries most in need, including in sub-Saharan Africa, will decrease even further.

The survey suggests donors will focus spending on middle-income countries including Brazil, China, Chile, Mexico, India and Pakistan. Aid to these countries will probably be in the form of loans, it says.

The Daily Impact: Two UN workers shot dead in Somalia

April 8, 2014

A pair of aid workers – French and British respectively – were shot dead while arriving at an airport in Galkayo, central Somalia. From the Guardian:

A UN source confirmed the pair were international staff members with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

A statement issued by the government of the northern breakaway state of Puntland in Somalia identified the two victims as Briton Simon Davis and Frenchman Clement Gorrissen.

Nicholas Kay, special representative of the UN secretary-general for Somalia, said: “Our UN colleagues were working in support of the Somali people’s aspiration for a peaceful and stable future. There can be no justification for such a callous attack. I call on the authorities to conduct a full investigation immediately and bring the perpetrators to justice without delay.”

The UK Foreign Office said it was aware of the death of a British national in Somalia on Monday and was ready to provide consular assistance to the family. AFP reported that sources identified the second victim as French.

“Two white men have been shot inside the airport as they got off a plane,” local security official Mohamed Mire said. An airport official said the attacker was dressed in a police uniform.

“One of them died inside the airport and the other one was rushed to hospital where he later died of the injuries. Both of them were white men,” said Hassan Ahmed, who said he witnessed the incident.

Galkayo is 370 miles (575km) north of the capital Mogadishu and lies on the border with Puntland.

UN security in Galkayo, which is outside of effective central government control, is normally extremely tight.

The UNODC has been working to combat piracy in Puntland and has built a new prison in the state capital, Garowe, which opened last week to house pirates who have been sentenced in other countries in the region, notably the Seychelles. The UNODC said the building was a key part of its maritime crime programme in the Horn of Africa.

“The two were a Frenchman and a Briton and they were supposedly staying in Galkayo for two days before heading to Garowe,” said Abdirisak Mohamed Dirir, general director of Puntland’s anti-piracy department.

The two men had flown into Galkayo to meet Somali officials on the issue of regulating the money transfer services that replace a formal banking system in Somalia, and were looking at the financial flow of money related to Somalia’s pirate attacks, according to reports.

The executive director of UNODC, Yury Fedotov, said: “I condemn in the strongest possible terms the killing of two of my colleagues in a cruel and senseless attack. I hope the relevant authorities in Somalia will undertake every effort to ensure that their killers are swiftly apprehended and brought to justice.

“I would also like to offer my most profound condolences to the family, loved ones, friends and colleagues of these two individuals, who were so committed and dedicated to UNODC’s work.”

UN staff members have been regularly targeted in Somalia, where the fragile internationally backed government, supported by African Union troops, is battling al-Qaida-linked al Shabaab rebels, although the assaults have tended to be on a larger-scale.