One of the biggest challenges in international development is anticipating when the next pandemic health threat will strike and how we can minimize its damage. Pandemics can be unpredictable, and it is hard to know when and where to focus attention. Having safe, effective drugs ready to use when they are needed saves lives. Clinical trials, which focus on safety and efficacy, are pivotal to the development of these drugs.
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Hellen Mary Akiror’s livelihood relies on the right amount of rainfall coming at the right time.
A farmer in Uganda’s Soroti district, Hellen lives with her husband and seven children. Growing millet, groundnuts, sorghum, cassava and potatoes on her four acres, she is dependent on rain-fed agriculture for her survival. Yet, she said, “Rainfall comes at the wrong time, in huge quantities, and stops when we need it most.”
Hellen’s story is all too common. In 2014, I met Mukasa, an elderly Ugandan farmer grappling with the fact that his village was facing unpredictable rainfall and temperatures higher than any in living memory. At the same focus group discussion where I met Mukasa, I also met Father Philippe, the pastor of Mukasa’s parish. Father Philippe said, “We have sinned and the lack of rain and excess heat are the wrath of God.” Another parish member said, “We destroyed the trees and we are facing the consequences.”
While the villagers’ explanations vary, all agree on one point — rainfall in the country is becoming scarce and unpredictable, and extreme heat is increasing in intensity and frequency. During the 80 years between 1911 and 1990, only eight droughts occurred, while in the 10 years between 1991 and 2000, the country experienced seven droughts. As in other sub-Saharan countries, higher temperatures and more frequent and severe droughts and floods in Uganda diminish food security, decrease the quantity and quality of water, and deteriorate natural resources.
Rising inequality is one of the greatest challenges facing the global community today – and equity is rightly at the heart of the new development agenda, reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Education 2030 Incheon Declaration. Nowhere is the challenge of equity more salient than in education, with its potential to positively shape life outcomes – or further exacerbate societal disparities.
How prepared are we in the education community to address this challenge? Do we have the right tools, metrics, and interventions to track our progress in educational equity? While we have gathered gender-disaggregated data for decades, our collective practice in tracking equity across other dimensions has been far from deliberate. Just as quality proved a blind spot in the early years of the previous goals period, there is a risk that inequality in education outcomes and resources will go unmeasured, unreported, and unaddressed. Without attention to equity now, we may soon find ourselves scrambling to address the equity gap, just as we scrambled to address the learning gap that emerged under the focus on access.
Read the full blog here.
In a statement declaring the clusters of birth defects that appear to be linked to Zika virus infection in Brazil “a public health emergency of international concern,” the World Health Organization recommends important measures for tackling this emerging infectious disease threat: improving surveillance, developing better diagnostic tests, intensifying vector control efforts and carrying out other prevention and treatment measures.
More remarkable were calls from public health officials in Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Jamaica for women to postpone pregnancy until more is known about the association between the Zika virus and microcephaly, a severe birth defect affecting the brains of newborns. Salvadoran health officials have even advised women to delay pregnancy until 2018, when the risk of being infected with Zika may be lower.
The spread of Zika in the Americas adds urgency to the need to help all women — and their male partners — avoid unintended pregnancies. But, women and couples in countries affected by Zika face formidable barriers to achieving their fertility intentions, including lack of access to contraceptives and other reproductive health services, some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws and high rates of sexual violence.
Placing the burden of protecting unborn children from the virus’ effects solely on women who have limited reproductive rights and contraceptive options is discriminatory and unsustainable. Expanding access to reproductive health services must be part of a comprehensive response to the Zika virus, and these services should be supported in ways that protect and strengthen the reproductive rights of women and girls.
No pipeline, no promise: The role of contraceptive R&D at the International Conference on Family PlanningWritten by
This week, nearly 3,000 health professionals and researchers gathered in Nusa Dua, Indonesia, for the 4th International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP), the world’s largest conference focused on family planning. At this and similar events, we often hear about the barriers that prevent women and men around the world from having reliable access to safe, affordable contraceptive services. “No product, no program!” “No provider, no program!” These are common refrains in the family planning community, and they speak to the importance of having both sufficient contraceptive commodities and adequately trained health care providers to ensure high-quality services for individuals who need them.
This week at ICFP, Dr. Laneta Dorflinger, director of Contraceptive Technology Innovation at FHI 360, offered an additional perspective. “No pipeline, no promise!” she asserted during the Family Planning+Social Good event to highlight the importance of continued investment in contraceptive research and development.
A disturbing trend has developed showing that decreasing numbers of girls and women are majoring and entering careers in science, mathematics, engineering, technology and computer science (STEM-CS). Some of this decline is attributed to how math is taught in schools. If students do not find math interesting, if the teaching of math is described as boring or not fun, and if students do not see the relevancy or application of math in their personal lives, then students and girls particularly are not going to be interested in or pursue careers in mathematics or any of the other STEM-CS fields.
Since math and science both suffer from teacher and student low self-efficacy, it is extremely important to make these subjects interesting and relevant. Thus, much of my role as a science teacher educator working with preservice and in-service elementary teachers is to begin building a foundation for them to become reacquainted with math and science and to excite an interest of learning these areas, so that they can do the same for their students. Below I outline a few ways teacher education can support the development of girls’ math identity. A first step is to encourage a math and science identity with teachers during their teacher preparation with the hope that they will foster math and science identity with their students.
The Climate Change Adaptation and ICT (CHAI) project, co-implemented by FHI 360, uses ICT tools to provide climate adaptation information to more than 100,000 farmers in local languages in three intervention districts in Uganda with the goal of increasing agricultural productivity in communities vulnerable to climate change.
This week CHAI won the UNFCCC 2015 Momentum for Change’s Lighthouse Activities Award for innovative and transformative solutions addressing climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges.
Studies conducted by the CHAI project showed that access to adaptation information improved by up to 48 percent in the intervention districts (Nakasongola, Sembabule and Soroti) compared to the control district (Rakai), while the effectiveness of adaptation actions that were based on information received through the project increased by up to 33 percent in the intervention areas compared to the control district.
World AIDS Day 2015 comes at a watershed moment in the fight for the health of people living with HIV and for the health of all the citizens of this planet. The two are intimately related: HIV has, for the last three decades, defined the landscape of ambitious, collaborative and innovative responses that marry science, rights, community-based responses and structural change. Ultimately, these responses can be leveraged to improve health everywhere, but only if we continue to make real progress in battling HIV.
In recent years, collaborations between research teams and thousands of volunteers in clinical trials have yielded insights into how to use HIV prevention and treatment options to end the epidemic. These insights have led to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) “Fast-Track” approach to ending the epidemic, which sets ambitious targets for a range of interventions, including 27 million voluntary medical male circumcisions by year 2020, three million people on daily oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) annually, major reductions in violence against women, improvements of human rights and, of course, the 90-90-90 targets for 2020: 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 90 percent of all people receiving ART will have viral suppression.
The world has gotten this far because of massive investments in the HIV response. To actually end the epidemic, though, it is imperative that we resist complacency, cutbacks in funding and a sense that, on any level, our work is done.
Over the last 15 years, the Millennium Development Goals guided the global response to development. Health, including controlling HIV, figured prominently in these goals. In September, the members of the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will guide policy and funding for ending poverty everywhere over the next 15 years. Health is one of 17 goals. To meet it, funders, implementers and country governments will need to be smarter with investments in HIV/AIDS. This means working side by side with people living with and most affected by HIV to develop rights-based approaches and efficient and community-supported service delivery models. And, it means thinking beyond any single health issue and toward integrated approaches that both fight HIV and contribute to ending poverty, hunger and inequality.
In 2010, the United States Agency for International Development formulated a bold, new agenda for modernizing U.S. foreign assistance. Christened USAID Forward, one of its most notable features was an objective to program 30 percent of development assistance directly to local governments and civil society organizations.
At the time, only about 10 percent of USAID’s funding was awarded to local organizations. Earmarking U.S. assistance for local organizations was cheered by developing country partners and U.S. advocacy groups, such as the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network and the Center for Global Development, who had long argued that international NGOs, however well-intentioned, crowded out local actors and limited the growth of local capacity.
World leaders recently ratified the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which set 169 ambitious targets to be achieved by 2030. Reaching these goals would greatly improve the lives of people worldwide. Women and girls have much to gain, especially because two of the targets call for ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning.
Given the contributions that family planning can make to nearly all 17 of the goals, we think that universal access to family planning could be a Sustainable Development Goal of its own. Still, the global community has taken a big step in the right direction.
Now, how can we ensure that universal access to family planning becomes a reality? Here are five ways.
1. Bring new and lower-cost contraceptive methods to market.
More than 225 million women in developing countries want to avoid or delay pregnancy but are not using an effective method of family planning. For many of these women, the currently available products do not meet their needs and preferences.
Some popular methods in the United States, such as the levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system (LNG-IUS), remain largely unavailable to women in developing countries because of cost. The introduction of more affordable products, such as the new LNG-IUS from Medicines360 and Sino-implant (II), can be game changing for diversifying the method mix accessible to women.
The Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in September provide an expansive vision of what we can accomplish over the next 15 years. Unlike the previous global development agenda, they include goals for all countries, not just poor ones, and more consideration for protecting our planet. The language also emphasizes that the new goals are integrated and indivisible, something the authors explain as win-win cooperation among the social, economic and environmental domains.
Now that the new global agenda is officially launched with slick logos and celebrity endorsements, and as the cheers (and some boos) start to die down, it’s time to talk about the hard stuff: How do we actually operationalize an integrated development agenda?