PBS will premiere the two-part documentary Half the Sky on October 1. The film builds on the bestselling book written by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn by traveling around the world to share the struggles and challenges faced by women. WuDunn and Executive Producer Mikaela Beardsley take to the USAID Impact blog to discuss the series, the role of USAID and the power of storytelling. Read about the project below and watch the trailer at the top to learn more.
Storytelling is a powerful tool. It can raise awareness, build compassion, encourage thinking, and motivate action. That was the vision behind Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity, the book I wrote with my husband, Nicholas Kristof. Our goal was to bring these incredibly personal and powerful stories of women around the world to a mainstream audience. When Half the Sky was published, Nick and I were floored by the response. The stories resonated with far more people than we imagined.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) knows that powerful narratives can set the stage for positive action. From the general public to aid experts in the field, the stories and struggles in the developing play a big role in compelling the general public and aid experts to find solutions to global challenges. Telling these stories is not only an expression of our American values but demonstrates how working together to solve these challenges benefits all of us.
And yet telling a powerful story can be challenging. Different audiences absorb information differently. Some need an emotional connection, others respond to hard data and statistics so identifying your audience and finding the right platform is critical. From films, books, and newspapers to exhibits, mobile gaming, and social media, storytellers are venturing into new and exciting platforms, and adapting the material to resonate with diverse audiences.
Melinda Gates and New York Times journalist Nick Kristof allowed readers to submit questions about international development and global health. The first part of the conversation was published yesterday; this question and answer caught the eye of us at Healthy Lives:
Question: I attended a talk once with the British economist Benny Dembitzer. He thinks that too much money is spent on the fight against malaria and other diseases, believing that a child may be saved from malaria today but could die from diptheria tomorrow. Instead, he’d rather see that money spend on primary education. As a molecular biologist, I think that the fight against insect transmitted diseases can be won, but I can understand the argument. Do you think that a point might be reached at which we have to say: Enough’s enough. Let’s give everyone bed nets and we can fight malaria through bringing people out of poverty? –ROBERT JONES
MELINDA: I hear that question a lot, and I don’t think it is either or. We have to do both. It is incredibly important not only to invest in health, but also to invest in efforts that stimulate economic growth, expand access to opportunity, and help the poor raise themselves out of poverty. Take agriculture, for example. We invest in agriculture because we believe that if smallholder farmers, the majority of whom are women, had access to better information and higher yielding and more resilient crops, they could better feed their families, earn higher incomes, and become self-sufficient.
Debates over the future of US foreign assistance continue to intensify in light of debt reduction negotiations in congress. Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, writes an Op-Ed in the Washington Post explaining how assistance from the United States has helped the nation emerge from a civil war and progress on a track that will graduate the West African nation to Middle Income Status by 2030. She writes:
With support from the United States, we have been able to make progress. Thanks to our partnership with the American people, we are rebuilding roads, clinics, and schools, and expanding access to electricity, water, and sanitation. It is critical that this aid continues in next year’s budget.
By investing in basic services, Liberia is improving the health of our people, especially mothers and small children. The United States is a major supporter of these services, including greater access to clean water and sanitation. Contaminated drinking water has greatly affected Liberia. Worldwide, diarrhea is a leading cause of death in children under age 5, killing more than 4,000 children a day. Unsafe water and poor sanitation cause 80 percent of all illnesses in countries like mine.
Throughout Africa, according to the World Health Organization, as much as ... Read more
Child Health Improvements Featured in MDG Report
The Millennium Development Goals report, launched by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon tracks the progress made in the 11 years since the goals were created. Voice of America reports on some of the promising findings from the report.
“Hundreds of millions have been lifted from poverty. More people have access to education, better health care and improved access to clean drinking water," he said. "Despite the global economic downturn and the food and energy crises, we are on track to meet the MDG targets for poverty-reduction.”
The World Bank predicts global poverty will dip below 15 percent by 2015. This is well under the original target of 23 percent.
The report says some of the poorest countries have made the greatest strides in education, with the greatest improvement recorded in Sub-Saharan Africa. It says extremely poor countries, including Burundi, Madagascar, Rwanda and Samoa, have achieved or are nearing the goal of universal primary education.
The lead author of the report, Francesca Perucci said there has been a dramatic drop in child mortality rates.
“Nearly 12,000 fewer children are dying each day. The number of deaths of children under the age of five declined from 12.4 million in 1990 ... Read more
Top StoryObama Administration Considers Implications of Early Use of ARVs to Stop Spread of HIV
The results of a recent bombshell study revealing the impact of taking ARVs and the spread of HIV has the Obama administration doing some serious pondering over the impact of a policy change.
Earlier this month federal officials announced the results of a big clinical test that showed if HIV-infected individuals get antiviral drugs early — while they still feel fine and their immune systems are intact — their chances of passing the virus on to someone else go down to almost zero.
The implication: If all the HIV-infected people in the world got the drugs, the 30-year-old pandemic could be brought to an end. Nobody expects that to happen overnight, maybe not ever. But the administration's chief AIDS strategist is leading a what-if discussion within the government.
"This is a study that needs to challenge the way we've been doing business," says Dr. Eric Goosby, who holds the title of Global AIDS Coordinator and the rank of ambassador.
"We need to ask ourselves if this indeed presents an opportunity for us to be more effective in preventing new [HIV] infections," Goosby told a small group of reporters Wednesday. "What ... Read more
Top StorySwitch from Quinine toArtesunatefor Malaria Treatment Could Save 200,000 Lives a Year
Young girl has her finger pricked for a malaria test.
A new report by MSF argues that switching from using quinine to artesunate to treat malaria could save up to 200,000 lives a year.
“When children arrive at the clinic with severe malaria, they often are having convulsions, vomiting or at risk of going into shock, and you just want to be able to give them effective treatment quickly,” said Veronique De Clerck, medical coordinator for MSF in Uganda.
Ms De Clerck adds that quinine has been used in severe malaria for decades, but it can be both difficult and dangerous, so more lives will be saved from severe malaria, with artesunate which is safer easier to administer and more effective than quinine.
“Treating children with severe malaria with quinine is too complex. Quinine can’t be given in an intramuscular injection, so we rely on infusions of the drug delivered in a glucose solution through a vein. Each child needs a succession of separate infusions, each lasting four hours and each time checks have to be carried out — is the drip placed correctly, is it flowing at the right speed, has ... Read more
Top StoryBritain to Provide Ground Support in Libya
Military advisers will be sent to Libya by the British Military to serve in a non-fighting role in support of rebels. In addition, the EU has notified the UN that it is prepared to send troops to provide humanitarian assistance if needed. CNN reports on the decision by the British government
Plans for increased Western involvement surfaced as Moammar Gadhafi's forces shelled Misrata again Tuesday. Residents and refugees rescued from the city described a terrifying situation in the ravaged western city that continues daily to pay a heavy price in the Libyan war.
"The situation is very dangerous, every day the shelling is increasing," said a resident who was not identified for safety reasons. "They are using more types of weapons, and people are wondering why NATO is not doing anything."
The number of casualties was unclear Tuesday but at least 24 people have already died in Misrata his week, an opposition spokesman told CNN Monday. He said another 113 were injured.
Rebel-compiled figures estimate that more than 10,000 people have been killed so far in the Libyan conflict and more than 55,000 have been injured.
With a humanitarian disaster looming, the EU said it is ready to ... Read more
Top StoryIvorian Refugees Continue to Pour Into Liberia
Refugees in the village of Bawaydee getting water from taps Oxfam installed
As more refugees flee the violence in Cote d'Ivoire, concerns mount in regards to the living conditions of camps in Liberia. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
Over the past four months, more than 120,000 people have fled Ivory Coast for neighboring Liberia to escape the violence in their home country. A large number of those refugees have now been away from home for months; Oxfam warned recently that their living conditions have become “dangerously inadequate.”
Back in January, I went up to Liberia’s border with Ivory Coast to report on the situation for the Monitor. At the time, some 30,000 refugees had been registered in Liberia. Three months later, the figure has quadrupled...
“The border areas are dangerous, and living conditions there are desperately poor,” Oxfam’s Liberia country director, Chals Wontewe, said in a press release last month. “Despite the gravity of the situation, it is not getting the attention or funding it deserves...”
Liberia is no stranger to this kind of crisis; it suffered through 14 years of off-and-on civil war that only came to an end in 2003. Now, there are fears that the ... Read more
UN Secretary General Ban Praises African Leaders Malaria Alliance
“The African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) is breaking down barriers, forging partnerships and getting supplies to families in record time,” Mr. Ban said in remarks at the ALMA event in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the sidelines of the summit meeting of the African Union.
“This is remarkable progress. We need to encourage it and use the response to malaria as a model for battling other illnesses and social ills,” he added. Malaria kills almost one million Africans every year and affects over 200 million more, mostly pregnant women and children under five years of age, resulting in at least $12 billion of costs every year through lost development and opportunity.
The Global Health and Development Beat
Polio - People who were thought to be showing symptoms of polio in Haiti may have done so due to the treatments being received and not a the disease. Fortunately, it does not appear as if polio has resurfaced.
HIV/AIDS - A new study in The Lancet finds that HIV positive pregnant woman who receive a triple ARV treatment are far less likely to pass HIV to their child, reports the Times.
Education - Johns Hopkins University has announced an ... Read more