Three global health issues to watch in 2014

Devex President & CEO Raj Kumar on the connection between climate change and global health; a final push on the health MDGs, with particular focus on toilets and saving lives at birth; and health systems in fragile states taking center stage.

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The benefits of public-private partnerships in global health

PPP

It is imperative that both the public and private sectors work together. Businesses have invested in GAVI because they know that one of the strongest ways to promote global health is through immunization. And quite simply, vaccines provide a strong return on investment. Through collaboration between the public and private sectors, GAVI has been able to raise additional funds and, most importantly, bring significant private-sector expertise, skills, advocacy and visibility to its work

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Best Buys in Global Health: Human-centric design

Research and development

Jocelyn Wyatt, co-lead and executive director at IDEO.org, speaks with Eliza Villarino, senior news producer at Devex, about her suggestion for donors: Insist on a series of ‘quick and dirty’ tests before writing million-dollar checks for initiatives to reduce poverty or improve global health.

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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.”

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Throwback Thursday: Ensuring a Healthy and Safe Delivery

During the Taliban rule – when women were barred from school – the once female-dominated health workforce was depleted, leaving only 467 practicing midwives and one midwifery school for a country of 22 million people. After the fall of the Taliban in 2002, Jhpiego, in partnership with the Afghan government and with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, led the development of a community-based national midwifery education system.

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