World Health Day 2014: Small bite, big threat

Today, for World Health Day this year, the World Health Organization has chosen to highlight the serious and increasing threat of vector-borne diseases. Every year, more than one billion people are infected and more than one million die from these diseases, which include malaria, dengue, leishmaniasis, lyme disease, schistosomiasis, and yellow fever, carried by mosquitoes, flies, ticks, water snails and other vectors.

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The Daily Impact: World Remembers Rwandan Genocide 20 Years Later

April 7, 2014

Rwanda will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the genocide that saw nearly 1 million people killed in the span of only 100 days. VOA on how the country has progressed since 1994. A clip:

Busingye Johnston says the commemoration of the tragedy is a period of stocktaking, to remember, renew and for Rwandans to commit to the country’s unity, as well as the legacy of the genocide and its aftermath.

“It is also to take stock of what is happening to the world 20 years down the road.  Is genocide still, never again?  Is it still crime against humanity?  Is the world behaving as if genocide will never happen again?  Are people being brought to account who got involved in the perpetration of the genocide?  So we are taking stock of the 20 years and looking at the future with a lot of hope,” said Johnston.

Rwanda’s economy, infrastructure, social services, education systems and health system, were totally shattered after the genocide, according to Johnston.

He says President Paul Kagame’s government has since made significant efforts to reconcile the people after the genocide and has implemented policies that have improved the lives of the people.

“We came to a point that we wrapped around policies that can foster unity, working together, building a nation, having diverse views, but also knowing the limit of what we do, and being sure that we don’t rupture our society again,” said Johnston.  “We are not 100 percent, but we have made very good progress.  We are working on all facets of national, political, social and economic life and Rwandans feel one nation again.”

The government in Kigali says Tutsis were mainly targeted to be wiped out during the 1994 genocide, although moderate Hutus were also killed during the same period.

Some Rwandans contend the administration’s insistence the genocide mainly targeted Tutsis could breed divisions among the population.

But Johnston disagreed.  He says the government honors and commemorates those non-Tutsis who stood up to the ethnic cleansing, but lost their lives as a result of their effort.

“The genocide happened certainly against the Tutsis, but there are people of all walks of life who died standing up against the genocide,” said Johnston.  “For us it is giving everything its proper place and those who fought against the genocide, we really do commemorate with them, every remembrance week.”

Johnston says there is need for politicians to be cautious about their utterances that could undermine efforts made to reconcile the people as well as maintain the country’s peace and stability. He outlined some of the lessons learned from the legacy of the genocide.

“We have learned that divisive politics, we have learned that an ideology that is capable of nothing else but hatred of one community against another community, of one people against the other ends up causing you mass atrocity.  And the mass atrocity that we saw in 1994 was without an action process that preceded it many years, and then it culminated in the 1994 genocide,” said Johnston.

“We have also learned that you can do your best to reconcile the people and also that you can pick up from a shuttered and written off state with determination with modest efforts to continue moving and you can get to where we are,” said Johnston.  “We are certainly not where we want to be, but we have made some progress and we now have something that we can proudly call a nation.”

Critics say the government has narrowed the country’s political space making it difficult for opponents to freely operate without fear of intimidation or harassment.

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Strong health systems: “The secret ingredient”


As a global health community, we have the skills and know-how to accomplish these goals, but we must work together and recognize that the ‘secret ingredient’ that binds all of our collective knowledge, skills and interventions is a strong health system. The Lancet Commission on Investing in Health reported this past year that such goals are indeed feasible and would bring about a grand convergence in life expectancy between poor and rich nations in our lifetime. The required investment would pay off 9 to 20 times in full-income returns, and to succeed, half of the resources should be used to strengthen health systems – from human resources to better governance of the sector’s public and private components.

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The Daily Impact: USAID Unveils $1 billion development innovation lab

April 4, 2014

Yesterday saw the launch of a $1 billion innovation lab by USAID that brings together scientists, corporations, universities and charities in a collective to dream up and test new tools to fight poverty. From the Guardian:

The lab is being billed as USAid‘s equivalent of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the US Defence department wing known for its development of the stealth fighter and involvement in the creation of the internet.

The agency describes it as a new way of working, but some anti-poverty campaigners have received news that the lab’s 150 staff will collaborate with several corporate “cornerstone partners” – among them Coca-Cola, DuPont, Unilever, Walmart, Syngenta and GlaxoSmithKline – as further proof of the increasing commercialisation of development.

The Oakland Institute said the initiative’s science and technology-based approach to development challenges was “a case of emperor with no new clothes”, while the World Development Movement said it would do nothing to tackle the root causes of poverty.

USAid, however, argues that the creation of the lab, other partners in which include Save the Children, World Vision, the Smithsonian Institution and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, marks a fundamental shift in its approach to development innovation. “Instead of selecting a proposed answer, we bring together a whole group of partners to attract ideas, test them and take them to scale,” said Lona Stoll, senior adviser to Rajiv Shah, the head of USAid.

“The lab has ambitions of disruptive technologies and game-changing solutions really helping improve the lives of 200 million people in five years: things like eliminating the transmission of HIV/Aids from mother to child using the Pratt Pouch – a two-cent package [of antiretroviral drugs] that looks like a ketchup packet – or looking at how you get electricity access out to rural communities without building the kinds of grids that previously were a big part of development programmes.”

In addition to the manure-powered fridge and the Pratt Pouch, the agency has helped fund trials of the Odón device, a low-cost instrument that resembles a bicycle pump but has been hailed by some as the greatest aid to assisted births since the invention of the ventouse suction cup.

There are also innovations that fall into a more nebulous bracket. “We consider electronic payments to be in this category – the ability to reach communities that have never been reached with infrastructure with financial services; the ability to save,” Stoll said. “We are very focused on scaling both broadband access and electronic payment systems to hundreds of millions of people.”

The agency hopes the lab will one day yield “a handful of real game-changers” in development thinking and technology. “We use the reference points of oral rehydration therapy and the seeds of the green revolution or microfinance as things that are akin to the kinds of breakthroughs that we would like to help shepherd,” Stoll said.

The initial focus will be on six areas deemed consistent with US development and foreign aid priorities: food security and nutrition; maternal and child survival; energy access, sustainable water solutions; child literacy; and connected technologies. To that end, it is looking into everything from climate-resilient cereals to off-grid energy services and electronic educational devices.

“This is a win-win for our country: bringing America’s scientific and entrepreneurial capability to the service of those intractable global challenges is something that we think we really need to do,” Stoll said. “At the end of the day, the results get us to development goals better, faster and cheaper.”

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Smart investments in maternal health

From the Impact Magazine-Devex survey of over 1,000 global health professionals: 85 percent believe public-private partnerships are important or extremely important.

Impact interviews Dr. Naveen Rao, lead of Merck for Mothers. In 2011, Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, created Merck for Mothers, a 10-year, $500 million initiative to reduce maternal mortality globally. Rao shares his thoughts on public-private partnerships and the importance of engaging local partners in efforts to improve maternal health.

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The Daily Impact: NTD fight gets $240 million boost from donors

April 3, 2014

Global donors, including the Gates Foundation and the World Bank, committed $240 million in new funding to address neglected tropical diseases in low-income countries. Reuters reports:

The new money follows a pledge by 13 drugmakers two years ago to donate medicines to tackle 10 parasitic and bacterial infections — such as river blindness, Guinea worm and sleeping sickness — that threaten one in six people worldwide.

Microsoft founder Gates and international agencies announced the new funding at a meeting in Paris on Wednesday, where experts gave a positive update on advances to date.

Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, said large-scale drug donations had already led to “tremendous progress.”

“Together with the governments of endemic countries, we are fast approaching the goal of controlling or eliminating many of these ancient causes of human misery,” she said.

There is still more to do, and $120 million of the new money will be channeled into a collaboration to combat soil-transmitted helminths, a group of intestinal worms that are among the most common infections in children living in poverty.

The new collaboration includes $50 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and $50 million from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

In addition, the World Bank Group is committing $120 million to support the fight against neglected diseases, including support for school-based deworming programs.

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From idea to impact: Bringing health innovations to scale


Taking an idea to market and, eventually, saving and improving the lives of people around the world is a lengthy process, and many potential innova­tions fail along the way. Although governments and industry players are seeking to reduce barriers, the process is arduous and requires strong partnerships and coordination at many levels.

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5 Best Buys for improved maternal health

By Jennifer James. Originally posted at

What are the best buys for global health and development? During a two-hour conversation held at the Center for Global Development global health experts and practitioners discussed the best places to invest in global health and the best investments for global health dollars. Overall, health systems strengthening emerged as the biggest best buy in global health. When health systems are improved the costs for key heath interventions subsequently decreases.

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The Daily Impact: World Bank Announces Development Fund Boost

April 2, 2014

World Bank President Jim Kim announced plans to boost its overall funds for development by around 40 percent per year in order to stay relevant and help the world’s poorest people. From Reuters:

[Kim] said the World Bank will focus its work on 10 countries — including India, China, Bangladesh and Democratic Republic of Congo — which are now home to 80 percent of the world’s extreme poor, who live on less than $1.25 a day.

Kim said the bank’s annual commitments should grow to more than $70 billion a year in the next decade, from about $45 to $50 billion now.

“The world’s development needs, of course, far outstrip the World Bank Group’s abilities to address them,” Kim said, according to remarks prepared for delivery at the Council on Foreign Relations. “But we can do much, much more.”

Kim spoke ahead of next week’s spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The growth in the World Bank’s lending and investment guarantees, alongside planned staff and budget cuts, are part of its first major strategic realignment since 1997.

Since Kim assumed his post nearly two years ago, he has sought to energize the institution around a poverty-eradication goal and make it more nimble and useful, especially to middle-income countries.

The bank’s growth will involve expansions in all major branches, including a $100 billion boost in the fund for middle-income countries, known as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Reuters first reported this increase in February.

The bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, will boost annual commitments to $26 billion a year. And the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, or MIGA, which provides political risk insurance, aims to increase its guarantees by 50 percent over four years.

“If we are going to help developing countries end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity, we have to provide them with more financial resources, more solutions-based knowledge, and help leverage more private sector investment,” Kim told reporters ahead of his speech.

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Why we need government regulation

The latest edition of Impact magazine seeks to uncover global health’s best investments, identify global health trends, and discuss barriers and solutions to scaling up promising interventions. Read the interview below from the issue,  find the rest of the articles from the magazine here, and continue the conversation on Twitter using #BestBuys4GH. Ask Dr. Arun Gupta, a pediatrician based in the […]

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