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This is the Most Frightening Ebola Statistic

Ebola has reached the United States and there’s a collective media freakout. But ebola will not spread in the United States, so the media’s attention really ought to focus on what is truly frightening about ebola: donors are still not ponying up the resources required to contain the outbreak in West Africa.

Funding levels for the international response to ebola are pathetically low. On September 16th, the UN launched a $987 million appeal for resources to stop the outbreak. The appeal covered things like protective equipment, fuel to keep the lights on in the hospitals, pay incentives for health care workers, and pretty much everything else required to halt the outbreak. Two weeks later the international response has been…muted. To date only $254 million has been committed against that plan. That’s just about 25%.

In other words, ebola is spreading out of control yet donors are doing about one quarter of what needs to be done to beat back the outbreak. Until resources are committed to the fight against ebola in west Africa, we can expect more imported cases to the USA and the rest of the world.  And, of course, we can expect the disease to spread exponentially in West Africa.



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UN Building

And What A UN Week that Was!

The UN Summit officially ended yesterday with Paraguay delivering the final address before the General Assembly. And what a UN Week it was!

Ebola, Syria, climate change, peacekeeping and the Millennium Development Goals were top of the agenda.  Meanwhile, throughout it all, we saw encouraging signs of renewed American engagement with the UN system.

I speak with Richard Gowan of the Center on International Cooperation, who sorts through the big stories coming out of the UN summit.  It’s a great conversation for all you UN nerds out there.

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Why Ebola Won’t Spread in the USA

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Word of ebola reaching American shores caused many American media outlets to embarrass themselves with fear mongering headlines. The fact is, Ebola will not spread in the USA. Why?  Because unlike Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone the USA has a strong health system in which infection control is a core function. “Every hospital that can do isolation can do ebola isolation,” said CDC chief Dr. Thomas Frieden at a press conference yesterday. He added that viral Hemorrhagic Fever (of which ebola is a type) has never spread in the USA. Bottom line: it’s reasonable to expect more imported cases of Ebola to the USA so long as the outbreak is spreading in West Africa. But the chances of an outbreak in the USA are exceedingly low.  

Meanwhile, the WHO’s Ebola Emergency Response Mission is officially up and running. Its headquarters is in Accra, Ghana. (WHO

And: UNICEF warns that ebola orphans being shunned by their communities (Guardian


The UN Mission for Ebola wants to achieve significant progress in combating the deadly disease within 60 days, including ensuring that 70 percent of cases receive treatment, its new head Tony Banbury said. (Reuters

The trial of South African opposition party leader Julius Malema on corruption charges has been postponed until next year. (BBC

The rainy season in West Africa is compounding difficulties in getting supplies delivered and new treatment centres built as donors rush to isolate people infected with the deadly Ebola virus and stop its rapid spread, US officials said. (TRF

The International Monetary Fund said it would work with Zimbabwe to produce a debt repayment plan that would help Harare qualify for international loans. (Reuters

Guinean security forces are intensifying their Ebola screening efforts at the border with Sierra Leone. At the Madina Oula town crossing, people are subjected to rigorous health checks. (VOA

WFP and UNICEF say they have assisted more than 500,000 people in parts of South Sudan hit hardest by the country’s nine-month conflict. (VOA

And for our French speaking DAWNSers, check out this new website coveringMaliBurkina Faso, and Niger


The UN’s humanitarian chief warned Tuesday that tens of thousands more people could be forced to flee Syria if Islamic State militants continue to make territorial gains. (VOA

European Union countries must cough up “considerable” resources for migrant rescues in the Mediterranean Sea before Italy can discontinue its own mission, or else many lives will be lost, human rights group Amnesty International said. (Reuters

Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq captured a border crossing with Syria on Tuesday, expelling Islamic State militants in heavy fighting that ground down to vicious house-to-house combat and close quarters sniping. (ABC


Protesters camped out in Hong Kong for a fifth consecutive day are threatening to expand their campaign of civil disobedience if the territory’s chief executive does not meet their demand for democratic reforms. (VOA

Myanmar has confirmed to the United Nations it is finalizing a plan that will offer minority Rohingya Muslims citizenship if they change their ethnicity to suggest Bangladeshi origin, a move rights groups say could force thousands into detention camps. (VOA

Indigenous people experience dementia at a rate at least three times higher than the non-Indigenous population in Australia, but a lack of awareness of the seriousness of the issue means not enough is being done to combat a “looming epidemic”, the peak body for Alzheimer’s sufferers and their carers has said. (Guardian

US President Barack Obama and new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to expand and deepen their countries’ strategic partnership and make it a model for the rest of the world. (Reuters

Stunning timelapse satellite imagery of the Aral Sea drying up because of climate change. (WaPo

The Americas

While the US tightens an economic embargo on its island neighbor, several African leaders were making a pilgrimage to Havana to strengthen bilateral relations. (IPS

Shipping firms should pressure the Nicaraguan government and the Chinese backer of a proposed canal to ensure that the project does not force indigenous people off their land and inflict massive environmental damage on the country’s ecosystem, an environmental advocacy group has urged. (Guardian

A project funded by international development aid helps Cuban women entrepreneurs with the aim of closing the gender gap, as part of the economic reforms underway in this socialist Caribbean island nation. (IPS

California’s catastrophic drought has most likely been made worse by man-made climate change, according to a report released by Stanford University, but scientists are still hesitant to fully blame the lack of rain on climate change. (Reuters


Analyst: West Cannot Win Prolonged Fight With Islamic State (VOA

Understanding Latin America’s Financial Inclusion Gap (CGD

Female entrepreneurs an amazing engine for economic growth (Guardian

The costs and economic impact of violence against children (ODI

“I’m Missing My Place in the World”: An Interview with Aziza Brahim (Think Africa Press

Why Hong Kong’s demand for democracy is not just another Occupy (GlobalPost

West Africa: Is World Up to Ebola Challenge? (Deutsche Welle

Facing Death, Six Days a Week (USAID Impact

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Scenes from Kenya during a United Nations Foundation's Shot@Life campaign trip, August 13, 2013. Governments and partnerships are currently moving to tackle a polio outbreak in the Horn of Africa. (Insider Images/Stuart Ramson for the UN Foundation)

Must Read of the Day: The MDG Leaders Report

The great debate at the United Nations between now and the end of 2015 is what will replace the Millennium Development Goals when they expire. The process of looking ahead to the 2015-2030 period is complex — and it’s sucking up a great deal of attention and time (and rightfully so!). But the MDGs still have over a year until they are due and there is legitimate concern that all this focus on what will replace the MDGs is at the expense of devoting attention and resources to actually achieving the currently existing MDGs over the next 450 days or so.

Enter the MDG Advocates.

This is a group of “eminent persons” (think: heads of state, NGO leaders, philanthropists and celebrities) formed by Ban Ki Moon in 2010 to help keep focus on reaching the MDGs even as diplomats debate what will replace them. On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last week, the MDG Advocates released their most recent report. This includes essays from 37 world leaders and experts about ways to accelerate to the December 31, 2015 finish line. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, and Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda kick off the report. Other contributors include Goodluck Jonathan, Mala Yousafzai, Graca Machel, and several other heads of state and notable personalities.

The contributor list alone makes this a must-read document for the international development set. But the online version of the report also contains very helpful data visualization tools that allow users to track progress on the MDGs in discrete areas. For example, here’s how child mortality rates have plummeted in sub-saharan Africa since the advent of MDG five, which calls for a two thirds reduction in overall child mortality.



I recommend you play with the data visualization tools, check out the report, and be inspired to keep your eye on the MDG ball even as the world debates what will replace them. A lot can be done in a year.


Image creditScenes from Kenya during a United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign trip, August 13, 2013. Governments and partnerships are currently moving to tackle a polio outbreak in the Horn of Africa. (Insider Images/Stuart Ramson for the UN Foundation)


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map of africa, via wikipedia

Disappointing Data on Good Governance in Africa

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The Mo Ibrahim Foundation releases an annual ranking of human development and good governance in African countries. It’s called the Ibrahim Index of African Governance and this year the top five countries that always rank the highest each earned comparatively lower marks than in prior years. This augurs poorly.  “Over the past five years, Botswana, Cape Verde, Mauritius, Seychelles and South Africa recorded lower scores in at least one category of the index, which measures overall government performance, safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunities and human development. Botswana registered a fall in economic indicators, Cape Verde had losses in human development while Mauritius, Seychelles and South Africa dropped in security and legal indicators..“The results show that high ranking countries cannot assume that future achievements will necessarily follow previous accomplishments. More generally, let us make sure that the Africa Rising narrative that everyone is talking about truly benefits all African people,  said Jay Naidoo, a board member at the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.” (Guardian

Mediterranean an increasingly deadly route for migrants… More than 40,000 migrants have died since 2000, says a new report from the International Organization of Migration. “Limited opportunities for safe and regular migration drive would-be migrants into the hands of smugglers, feeding an unscrupulous trade that threatens the lives of desperate people,” said William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration. “We need to put an end to this cycle.” (Humanosphere

A Groundbreaking Climate Change Report…The savage heat waves that struck Australia last year were almost certainly a direct consequence of greenhouse gases released by human activity, researchers said Monday. It is perhaps the most definitive statement climate scientists have made tying a specific weather event to global warming. (NYT


The UN mission to combat Ebola opened its headquarters on Monday in Ghana, where it will coordinate aid for the accelerating West African crisis. (AP

A leaked copy of a World Bank investigation has accused the bank of failing to protect the rights of one of Kenya’s last groups of forest people, who are being evicted from their ancestral lands in the name of climate change and conservation. (Guardian

South Africa may turn to an Israeli circumcision device to reduce the number of young males who die in botched initiation ceremonies, provoking an outcry from union allies of the ruling party who support sanctions against the Jewish state. (Reuters

With the backdrop of World Heart Day on Monday, medical experts said more than 80 percent of people living in French-speaking, central African countries who suffer cardiovascular diseases do not know it. (VOA

A Spanish national working at his country’s embassy was found Monday stabbed to death at his home in Khartoum, Sudanese police said, with the foreign ministry speaking of a “crime.” (AFP

CSR Spotlight

ExxonMobil is part of a public-private partnership to fight malaria in Cameroon with a complicated balance sheet. (GlobalPost

MAMA, a public-private partnership in South Africa led by Johnson & Johnson and USAID, aims to inform pregnant women and new mothers via text messages. Despite its good intentions, the program is still proving itself. (GlobalPost

Coca-Cola is partnering with governments, NGOs, and other companies to improve access to water, occupying a gray area where genuine charity meets corporate profit. (GlobalPost


About 25 percent of new Israeli houses being built in Jerusalem in the first half of 2014 were in the city’s annexed east, an Israeli NGO said. (AFP

President Barack Obama gave voice to the conundrum at the heart of his Syria policy, acknowledging that the U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State group and al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria is helping Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, a man the United Nations has accused of war crimes. (AP


Pakistan is heading for one of its worst years for polio in recent times. According to figures from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, 166 cases of polio have been verified this year, compared to 28 at the same time last year. (IRIN

Thousands of defiant Hong Kong protesters stood their ground on Monday after facing tear gas and riot police in overnight clashes, paralyzing parts of the city with their campaign to demand Beijing allow free elections. (AFP

Sri Lanka is currently facing a severe drought that has impacted over 1.6 million people and cut its crop yields by 42 percent, according to government analyses. But a closer look at the areas where the drought is at its worst shows that the poorest have been hit hardest. (IPS

In a glitzy show of lights, lasers and slogans, populist Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a triumphal address to tens of thousands of Indian-Americans and U.S. dignitaries in New York, less than a decade after he was barred from the United States over bloody sectarian riots. (Reuters

Australia on Monday ruled out sending doctors to West Africa to help fight the Ebola outbreak there because of logistical problems in repatriating any Australian who became infected with the deadly virus. (AP

Death arrived in India soon after the Bundapani tea estate closed last year. Deprived of health care and food rations, workers who had been scraping by on $1.50 per day were left with nothing. (AP

Samoa attracts tourists with its beaches, natural beauty and relaxed pace of life, but similar to other small nations with constrained economies, it is experiencing an exodus of young people, who are unable to find jobs. (IPS

The Americas

Emergency workers in Peru have recovered eight bodies from the rubble of a village after a 4.9-magnitude earthquake hit the southern Cusco region. (BBC


Will AFRICOM’s Ebola response be watershed moment for international action on human security? (The Washington Post

Tackling the Proliferation of Patents to Avoid Limitations to Competition (IPS

What Is the Future of DFID? (CGD

Why it’s so important to protect schools during wartime (GlobalPost

Women are better off today, but still far from being equal with men (Guardian


Why is Infant Mortality Higher in the US than in Europe?

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An Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong?

Is this the most consequential moment in Hong Kong’s 17 year history as part of China?

What started as a protest against interference by Beijing in the quest for Hong Kongers to choose their own regional leader has exploded into much more as protests popped up around the region, far from the original target of the Central Government Complex. As the protests spread, so does the police response with riot police using tear gas to try and clear crowds around the city. This was unprecedented for Hong Kong. Photos emerged of Hong Kongers using umbrellas to try and shield themselves from the teargas. The term “Umbrella Revolution” was born.

There are many motivations behind the protests, from frustration with the local and national governments to a sincere desire to maintain the freedoms that make Hong Kong unique within China. But a lot of it has to do with economics.

As a more prosperous region than the Mainland in 1997, Hong Kong put controls in place to limit immigration from mainland China and preserve space and opportunity for native Hong Kongers. Yet mainland elites used loopholes and government connections to gain residency while others moved in search of better opportunity even though they are often not welcomed by locals. Far from the scenic harbor views, there remains a severe shortage of affordable housing for lower and middle class Hong Kongers despite constant promises that more would be created. Likewise, economic opportunities often go to well-connected mainlanders or Hong Kong proxies, creating stark economic inequality throughout the population. By 2013, the Hong Kong government estimated that 20% of the region’s population lived below the poverty level. Hong Kong’s Gini co-efficient, which measures income inequality, came in at 0.537 in 2011; the United Nations considers any measurement more than 0.4 to be an indicator of possible social unrest.

Looking at the social and economic landscape, it would appear that these protests were inevitable. But China’s own bumbling on the universal suffrage issue as its new President, Xi Jinping, dealt with internal divisions within the Chinese Communist Party also contributed. If Hong Kong needed a sign that their local political culture and freedoms were eroding, they got it throughout the summer as Beijing first forcibly cleared student protests in July and then denied the notion of universal suffrage through electoral manipulations in early September. Over the last three weeks it has become clear that Beijing has no intention of backing down, but neither do the organizers of Occupy Central. As tensions increased, so did the likelihood that people would be forced to take sides.

But a lot has happened since China gained control over Hong Kong from the British in 1997. The protests come at a time when arguably Hong Kong’s leverage against mainland China is at its lowest since the official start of One Country-Two Systems rule. Where Hong Kong represented 18% of China’s GDP at the handover in 1997, it now represents a mere 3%. Economically, this means that China is no longer as dependent on Hong Kong as it once was, but given the delicate political façade Beijing must always maintain, Hong Kong can still cause problems for the Communist regime. Although the government officially stopped reporting it in 2000 when it surpassed 0.41, analysts estimate the mainland’s own Gini coefficient is at 0.55, representing a “severe gap” between the rich and the poor with the same risk for social unrest that Hong Kong has.

The biggest consequence of all this may be the unraveling of the One Country-Two System regime. The system was a compromise between Beijing and the departing British colonists but is only in place for a period of 50 years; by 2047 when the system is set to end, it was hoped that either Beijing or Hong Kong would change enough to allow peaceful integration with the other. However a look at the protests overtaking the city, it seems clear that this will likely never happen without major conflict.

Melissa Chan, a former correspondent for Al Jazeera English who caused a stir when the government failed to renew her press credentials in 2012, put the general sentiment quite concisely on Twitter:

“Covered my first Hong Kong protest in the summer of 2000 as an intern for CNN. It’s 2014. One country, two systems – has failed.”

Whether future generations in Hong Kong will mark 9/28 with the same fervor they do Tiananmen’s 6/4 anniversary remains to be seen. But the scene on the streets suggests change is in the air.

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