Sachs Makes his Case for Foreign Aid

Foreign aid has taken a bit of the spotlight recently thanks to the publication of the Gates letter. The founder of Microsoft even went on to chat with Jimmy Fallon and enlisted his help to make a viral video for the site.

The short of it all is that foreign aid has done a lot of good in the world.

Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs has long been a strong advocate for using foreign aid to solve some of the greatest problems in the world, including poverty and health. As he explains in Foreign Policy:

During the past 13 years, the greatest breakthroughs in aid quantity and quality came from the field of public health (unlike other social sectors, such as education and sanitation, where aid increases were far less notable).  As a result, the outcomes in public health in poor countries have also advanced markedly.  Not only did aid quantities for public health improve; new public health institutions, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, were created to promote the effective delivery of the increased aid.

Sachs proceeds to describe why critics of foreign aid are wrong.

Across the board, the post-2000 improvements in public health in sub-Saharan Africa have been dramatic, strongly supported by scaled-up aid. Up to 10 million HIV-infected individuals are now receiving life-saving, anti-retroviral medicines thanks at least in part to aid programs. Tuberculosis (TB) patients are being treated and cured, with a global TB mortality rate drop of 45 percent since 1990, and an estimated 22 millionpeople alive due to TB care and control from 1995-2012, thanks to Global Fund support, which provides the lion’s share of donor financing to fight TB. With increased donor support, antenatal health visits, institutional deliveries, and access to emergency obstetrical care are all on the increase, contributing to a decline in sub-Saharan Africa’s maternal mortality rate (the annual number of female deaths per 100,000 live births) from 850 in 1990 to 740 in 2000 to 500 in 2010. Deaths of children under five worldwide have declined from 12.6 million a year in 1990 and 10.8 million in 2000 to 6.5 million in 2012.

These successes demonstrate a key lesson: that well-designed aid programs with sound operating principles, including clear goals, metrics, milestones, deliverables, and financing streams, can make an enormous difference, and that such programs should be devised and applied on a large scale in order to benefit as many people as possible. Such quality design needs to be based on the details of best practices, such as the combination of medicines, bed nets, and diagnostics used in cutting-edge, community-based malaria control.

Read his full piece here.

Bill Nye, the foreign aid guy?

The man known for popularizing science in children is lending a hand in illuminating the facts about foreign aid. Bill Nye describes how available data shows how people are dying and the known ways to prevent many of those deaths, especially for children under five years old. His video comes out alongside the release of the Gates Foundation’s annual letter.

See what he has to say.

Bill and Melinda Gates: Aid Mythbusters

For some reason, people do not know how much the world continues to improve. Bill and Melinda Gates took to the Wall Street Journal to bust a few myths and show that a lot of assumptions held by Americans are just plain wrong.

The two leaders of the Gates Foundation are set to publish their annual letter, timed to coincide with world leaders meeting in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, tomorrow. The WSJ OpEd looks to be a preview of what is to come. Here are the highlights from each of the myths:

Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.

They’re really not. Incomes and other measures of human welfare are rising almost everywhere—including Africa…

In our lifetimes, the global picture of poverty has been completely redrawn. Per-person incomes in Turkey and Chile are where the U.S. was in 1960. Malaysia is nearly there. So is Gabon. Since 1960, China’s real income per person has gone up eightfold. India’s has quadrupled, Brazil’s has almost quintupled, and tiny Botswana, with shrewd management of its mineral resources, has seen a 30-fold increase. A new class of middle-income nations that barely existed 50 years ago now includes more than half the world’s population.

And yes, this holds true even in Africa. Income per person in Africa has climbed by two-thirds since 1998—from just over $1,300 then to nearly $2,200 today. Seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies of the past half-decade are in Africa.

Foreian Aid is Essential say Reps Crenshaw and Smith

Republican Ander Crenshaw of Florida’s 4th Congressional District, and Democrat Adam Smith of Washington’s 9th Congressional District make the case for foreign aid in an OpEd for Politico. The co-chairs for the Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance say that foreign aid is essential and cost-effective. They write:

Foreign assistance programs are important for spurring our economy, too. More than half of our exports go to the developing world now and that number is growing. The key to expanding our economy and creating jobs here at home lies beyond our shores, and reaching the 95 percent of the world’s consumers who live outside the U.S. requires investment in these rapidly growing markets.

Careful attention must be paid to how we spend every taxpayer dollar. As the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance, our goal is to help ensure the global investments we make bring the best return possible to America.

Significant strides have been made over the past decade to make these programs more effective, and a new “Report on Reports” released by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition details areas of consensus on how we can do even better.

How US Assistance Helps Global Reproductive Rights and How Cuts Can Set it Back

Funding by the United States for family planning has a giant positive impact. With the White House releasing its budget request for fiscal year 2014 and the budget debates heating up, now seems like a good time to look at what investments in reproductive health enables.

A total of $610 million was allocated to family planning and reproductive health services in the 2012 budget according to the Guttmacher Institute:

  • 31.6 million women and couples receive contraceptive services and supplies;
  • 9.4 million unintended pregnancies, including 4.1 million unplanned births, are averted;
  • 4 million induced abortions are averted (3 million of them unsafe);
  • 22,000 maternal deaths are averted;
  • 2.8 million fewer healthy years of life (DALYs) are lost among women; and
  • 96,000 fewer children lose their mothers.

Increasing spending will expand access and services and cuts will lead to declines. It is as simple as that. A mere $10 million in the budget for family planning means

  • 520,000 fewer women and couples would receive contraceptive services and supplies;
  • 150,000 more unintended pregnancies, including 70,000 more unplanned births, would occur;
  • 70,000 more abortions would take place (of which 50,000 would be unsafe);
  • 400 more maternal deaths would occur;
  • 50,000 more DALYs would be lost; and
  • 2,000 more children would lose their mothers.

Every little bit counts!

How Sequestration Threatens the HIV Cure Breakthrough

Research and development into medical breakthroughs are aided through federally funded programs like the National Institutes for Health. In fact, the NIH helped to fund the research led by Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center on a baby that was cured of HIV through ARV treatment immediately following birth. Thanks to the across the board cuts enacted through sequestration, such research will be directly impacted.

An article from CNN shows how the cuts could have impacted this research.

Chris Collins, vice president of public policy for amfAR, said there was a “cruel irony” to the timing of the HIV cure discovery and sequestration.

“As we’ve heard this exciting news about cure research, the entire AIDS research field is experiencing a significant cutback,” said Collins. “If we were in the business of ending AIDS, this would be the time to invest, not pull our resources out.”

5 Potential Impacts of Sequestration on International Global Health NGOs

Today is the deadline after which automatic, across-the-board spending cuts to US government agencies known as sequestration take effect. Unless there is a last minute deal between the leadership in the US Congress and President Obama, some automatic US Government funding cuts will come into force today.

Sequestration would reduce total funding by $85 billion until September 30, 2013, the end of the fiscal year (FY13). By percentage, this would affect non-defense discretionary funding by about 5%, affecting the International Affairs or “Function 150” account which funds USAID, CDC and other key US agencies. Defense discretionary funding would be reduced by about 8%.

Though difficult to estimate in an uncertain funding environment, these sequestration cuts could have drastic and lasting effects on global health efforts. In the House Appropriations Committee Democrats’ “Report on Sequestration”, estimated global health cuts could:

NCDs and Development: Is Aid the Right Solution? (Cross Post)

By Greg Paton. This originally appears on the Arogya World blog.

Prior to last year’s United Nations Summit on Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) in September 2011, a representative from one government aid agency stated that “Ministers don’t think they have the legitimacy to engage on NCDs. The public perception is that they’re seen as diseases of affluence.”

Such attitudes are still common among funders and are a key battleground for those working on diabetes, cancer and other NCDs. To counter this, advocates have pushed governments to acknowledge that NCDs are inextricably linked to poverty and affect the poorest of the poor – an impressive effort that shifted the mindset of many governments. Such narratives have immense power to shape global priorities, as the AIDS movement has shown.

While the primary aim of this effort should be holding governments accountable for addressing the health needs of their own people, the dominant focus has been on western aid as the solution to low-income countries (LIC) challenges in addressing NCDs. This is where the logic gets problematic.