January 16, 2013
Donors pledged some $2.4 billion for the Syrian crisis response, said UN Secretary General Ban. From Reuters:
The pledge arose from a U.N. appeal for $6.5 billion in 2014, which was launched last month and is the largest in the organization’s history.
The world body estimates the conflict has reversed development gains in Syria by 35 years, with half its people now living in poverty.
But only around 70 percent of $1.5 billion pledged at a similar meeting last year has reached U.N. coffers, hinting at donor fatigue with no end to the bloodshed on the horizon.
U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said all sides in the conflict had shown “total disregard for their responsibilities under international humanitarian and human rights law”.
“Children, women, men are trapped, hungry, ill, losing hope,” Amos told the 69 countries attending a donor conference held in Kuwait.
The Gulf state’s ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, promised $500 million in new aid, while the United States announced a contribution of $380 million.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia pledged $60 million each. The European Union pledged $225 million and Britain $165 million.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the total was more than $2.4 billion.
Money raised last year in Kuwait was used by the United Nations to provide food rations, medicine, drinking water and shelters for people in Syria and surrounding countries.
The largest donations at that conference came from Gulf Arab governments, which have mainly backed Syrian rebels trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
Global Health and Development Beat
Valley Fever - A new report in The New Yorker investigates the problem of fungus Coccidioides immitis, kicked up by dust storms in the American west and causing health problems.
Plague - Researchers say that the poor conditions of prisons in Madagascar contribute to the recurrance of the plague in the country.
Refugees - Thousands of South Sudanese have been arriving in northern Uganda, where their situation is dire and has elicited security concerns.
Hunger - Some rain has not provided relief from the drought in Namibia, says the government expressing concerns of hunger.
Disability - Children with disabilities in Mozambique are marginalized by stigma and lack of opportunity.
UN - UNSG Ban strongly condemned the commandeering of humanitarian vehicles and the theft of food and other desperately needed aid by government and anti-government forces in South Sudan.
WFP - Launched, this week, a nearly $58-million operation in South Sudan to provide aid to up to 400-thousand people.
UN - Warned that around 245,000 Syrians are living in towns and cities under siege and facing extreme hardships, including food shortages.
USAID - A rundown of what the nearly $3 billion in US aid to Haiti has achieved in the four years since the earthquake, reports the GlobalPost.
DfID - Aid experts say DfID should produce an overarching strategy on disability as it would send an important message to its staff and other organisations that it was taking disability seriously.
Spotlight on PSI
The status quo is not working in the fight against meth in Thailand. Groups working on the ground, like PSI, say policy changes are necessary to make a difference. From IRIN:
Thailand’s Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) revealed that in 2013 there were almost 50,000 more drug arrests and about 40 million more meth pills seized, compared to 2012.
Meth has become cheaper and easier to obtain because levels of manufacturing and trafficking from Myanmar continue to increase as a result of opium eradication efforts there, advocates say. A single meth pill costs as little as US$4 on the street in Thailand.
“If it’s about controlling the [illegal drug] market, it has been a complete and utter disaster,” Pascal Tanguay, a programme director with the NGO, Population Services International in Thailand, said of the government’s anti-drug policy.
A 2013 report by the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS found that drug abuse and corruption is also widespread among Thai police, and is affecting the country’s war against drugs.
Many drug users claim they have had drugs planted on them, have been beaten, or forced to take an unlawful urine test, or have had to pay a bribe to police officers, who have also been known to sexually assault female drug users, advocates claim.
“There needs to be a policy that makes drug users feel comfortable about accessing health services,” said Tanguay, whose NGO promotes harm reductionservices intended to prevent the dangers associated with drug use.
Thailand’s Ministry of Justice announced in August that it would consider decriminalizing kratom, a tropical tree in the coffee family that can have stimulant effects at low doses. Kratom could serve as a substitute in drug dependence programmes and help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
“I think it’s very interesting that Thailand is going in that direction,” Tanguay said. “There’s an opportunity for substitution treatment and also a possible economic market for it [kratom].”
Buzzing in the Blogs
Bill Gates blogs why it matters that India crossed the polio-free milestone this week.
Five years ago, India was home to nearly half of the world’s new polio cases. At the time, if you asked any health expert, they would have said India would be the last place on earth to end polio. India’s population density and high birth rate (27 million new children are born each year), combined with poor sanitation, was like a petri dish for polio.
But the government of India, with help from the organizations that make up the Global Polio Eradication Initiative including Rotary International launched an all-out effort to stop the disease. The country deployed 2 million vaccinators to reach children who had never before been reached with polio vaccines or any other health services—children who live in flooded regions or hard-to-find rural towns, or are regularly in-transit with their families. One of the most powerful images I’ve seen during my visits to India is that of parents proudly holding vaccination cards showing that their children were protected from deadly diseases for the first time.
And now that these children have been found, health workers can supply them with much more than just polio drops. They can provide other critical health services like measles vaccines, clean water, and information about how to deliver their babies safely and care for them during their first weeks of life.
India’s victory galvanized the global health community to commit to achieving a polio-free world by 2018. Now, we only have 3 more countries to go, down from 125 in 1988. All three countries face unique challenges that make eradication difficult, but India’s success gives the polio program valuable lessons to apply in the remaining countries and confidence that eradication is possible.
India’s success is cause for celebration – but not complacency. We saw last year, in Syria and the Horn of Africa, how this disease can silently spread to places that have not had cases in many years. Two years before, polio popped up in more countries, including China and Tajikistan. These outbreaks are stark reminders that as long as polio exists in the last reservoirs in Northern Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, the disease is still a threat everywhere. India showed us what is possible – we can end polio, and protect all children everywhere from this debilitating disease forever. Doing the hard work to make this dream come true is up to us.
4:00 PM - How Social Movements Succeed: Lessons from HIV/AIDS - CGD
12:00 PM - The Organization of Islamic Cooperation: Free Speech Implications of a Proposed Ban on “Islamophobia” - Hudson Institute
By Mark Leon Goldberg and Tom Murphy
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