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Global TB Report

Map of the Day: Where People Die From Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is a preventable and treatable disease, yet 1.5 million people died from TB last year–including 360,000 people who were HIV positive. Today’s map comes from the World Health Organization’s brand new Global Tuberculosis Report.  It shows the estimated TB mortality rates–the darker the color, the higher the rate of TB deaths.  As you can see from the map, TB is very much a disease of the poor.  (Click here for larger image)

Global TB Report


But there’s good news! Despite the still large number of deaths, global TB rates have been on the overall decline and humanity is on the path to achieving the MDG. From the WHO: 

The report stresses, however, that the mortality rate from TB is still falling and has dropped by 45% since 1990, while the number of people developing the disease is declining by an average 1.5% a year. An estimated 37 million lives have been saved through effective diagnosis and treatment of TB since 2000.

“Following a concerted effort by countries, by WHO and by multiple partners, investment in national surveys and routine surveillance efforts has substantially increased. This is providing us with much more and better data, bringing us closer and closer to understanding the true burden of tuberculosis,” says Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the Global TB Programme, WHO.

Although higher, these revised figures fall within the upper limit of previous WHO estimates. The report, however, underlines that a staggering number of lives are being lost to a curable disease and confirms that TB is the second biggest killer disease from a single infectious agent. In addition, around 3 million people who fall ill from TB are still being ‘missed’ by health systems each year either because they are not diagnosed, or because they are diagnosed but not reported.

Insufficient funding is hampering efforts to combat the global epidemic. An estimated US$ 8 billion is needed each year for a full response, but there is currently an annual shortfall of US$ 2 billion, which must be addressed.

Read the full report.

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Why Banning Travel from Ebola Affected Countries Makes it More Likely That Ebola Spreads in the USA

Some members of the US Congress are proposing visa restrictions  for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The Republican leaders of the House Homeland Security Committee, in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, clarified that they would like a temporary suspension of visas to travelers from the Ebola-affected nations “while simultaneously permitting a robust effort by the U.S. government and global health agencies to combat this vicious disease in West Africa.”

Mr. McConnell, said a spokesman, Don Stewart, was “using shorthand” last week when he said, “It would be a good idea to discontinue flights into the United States from that part of the world.” He, too, supports a temporary suspension of visas, a position put into legislative language on Monday by Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, who vowed to press visa-suspension legislation when Congress returned in November.

This is dangerous and actually makes it more likely for ebola to spread further–to the USA and beyond.

At the front line of the global fight against ebola are the governments of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Fighting ebola requires a degree of cooperation and trust between the governments and their population. Patients need to be isolated, and affected populations need to work with health workers doing contact tracing. Populations need some confidence that their government is handling this crisis, or they will not consent to isolation and not cooperate with contact tracing.  Part of that confidence rests on their government’s ability to keep regular channels of commerce open; and also a perception that they are not being abandoned by their government or the world.

Imposing measures like a travel ban would strangle these already suffering economies and undermine the strength of these fragile governments — and diminish the populations’ relationship and trust in their government. Civil unrest is certainly not out of the question. That would make the outbreak much, much harder to contain, and increase the likelihood that more ebola cases are imported to the USA and elsewhere. 

As Ban Ki Moon likes to say: the best way to fight ebola is to isolate the patients, not the countries. The bulk of ebola’s victims are from these three countries, but so are the bulk of the health workers fighting ebola. These governments are being aided by NGOs and the United Nations, but they are sovereign countries that ultimately decide what happens within their borders. And, at the end of the day, they are ultimately accountable to their population.

Imposing travel restrictions like a ban on visas for nationals of these countries would hurt already suffering economies, which in turn weakens frontline governments at precisely the moment they need to be bolstered and strengthened.

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efua dorkenoo

RIP, Efua Dorkenoo

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The international icon Efua Dorkenoo is the reason there’s an international movement to end female genital mutilation. She passed away from cancer yesterday. She will be missed, but her campaign will live on. “Efua Dorkenoo, widely seen as the mother of the global movement to end female genital mutilation, has died after undergoing treatment for cancer, her family have confirmed. She was 65. Dorkenoo – known affectionately to many as “mama Efua” – was a leading light in the movement to bring an end to FGM for more than 30 years, campaigning against the practice since the 1980s…The girls’ and women’s rights campaigner saw the progression of the movement to end FGM go from a minority, often ignored, issue to a key policy priority for governments across the world. (Guardian

Yemen is Falling Apart…This will be an important story to watch over the coming days. At least 33 people were killed in a suicide bombing and gun attacks in central Yemen, tribal sources and medics said on Monday, as al Qaeda fighters seized a Yemeni city in a new challenge to the central government. Violence has spread in Yemen since Shi’ite Muslim Houthis took over the capital, Sanaa, last month, threatening the stability of a country that borders on Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter. Houthi forces have fanned out into central and western Yemen, posing a challenge to Sunni tribesmen and al Qaeda militants, who regard the Houthis as heretics. Fighting has flared in several provinces.


It’s official: Nigeria passed its 42 day monitoring period without a further case of ebola. The outbreak in Nigeria is officially over. (VOA

Could Ebola be on the decline in Liberia, the epicenter of the deadly virus that has killed more than 4,500 people, mostly in West Africa? Some local reports said fewer bodies are being found in Liberian communities. (VOA

Since the death of Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan in Texas on 8 October and the Ebola infection of two US nurses that treated him, there have been increasing calls by US lawmakers to ban travel from the countries most affected by the virus – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. (IRIN

The Committee to Protect Journalists says authorities in some of the countries affected by Ebola have tried to control and censor coverage of the outbreak. The CPJ says governments and media should work together to ensure the public is well-informed about the epidemic. (VOA

Countries are starting to kick in more to the fight…

How China is contributing to the global fight against ebola.  (VOA and  (AP

The European Union committed itself Monday to step up efforts toward getting $1.27 billion in aid to fight Ebola in West Africa and rejected the idea of halting direct flights coming from the region. (AP

South Korea will send doctors, nurses and military officers next month to the West African region hit by Ebola amid growing concerns over the outbreak, the Foreign Ministry said Monday. South Korea has pledged to spend $5.6 million to help curb the virus. (AP


Suspected attacks by militant group Boko Haram have reportedly killed dozens in northeastern Nigeria. The violence may complicate already difficult negotiations to release 200 kidnapped schoolgirls. (DW

Ghanians whose homes have been levelled to prevent cholera fear the authorities are motivated by commercial rather than public health concerns. (Guardian

 Heavily armed gunmen freed some 300 inmates from a prison in eastern Congo on Saturday, the provincial minister of justice said, amid fears over deteriorating security in the mineral-rich region. (Reuters

Uganda police fired live bullets and tear gas on Monday to break up protests by university students, wounding several people, authorities and witnesses said. (AFP

In Nairobi’s overcrowded slums, hungry children often trade their bodies for a few coins or food. Kenya has up to 30,000 child sex workers, according to the United Nations children’s fund, mainly along its palm-fringed tourist beaches, with child prostitution widely acknowledged as a problem that needs to be tackled by stronger law enforcement and by giving the youngsters a way out.  (Reuters


A Libyan official says fighting in the eastern city of Benghazi between Islamist militias and pro-government fighters has left 65 people dead as fierce battles continued for a sixth day. (AP

The Vatican has demanded that world governments do more to prevent a possible “new genocide” in northern Iraq and Syria, and for Muslim leaders in particular to repudiate the Islamic State militants who are killing and exiling the region’s Christians. (AP

The United Nations would offer humanitarian assistance for proposed “safe zones” inside Syria even if they were created without a Security Council resolution, the U.N.’s top humanitarian official Valerie Amos said on Monday. (Reuters


Human Rights Watch has called on the Central Committee of China’s ruling Communist Party to take steps to address human rights abuses at its four-day meeting, which begins Monday in Beijing. (VOA

Amnesty International said South Korea’s farming industry is “rife with abuse,” and called on the country to end its widespread use of forced labor migrant agricultural workers. (VOA

Indonesia’s new president Joko Widodo said on Monday that he wanted the Southeast Asian nation to be self-sufficient in food staples sugar, rice and corn within four years. (Reuters

A blaze engulfed a fireworks factory in southern India on Monday, killing at least 13 workers and seriously burning seven others, police said. (AP

A controversial plan to make women wearing the burqa or niqab sit in separate glassed public enclosures at Australia’s Parliament House due to security concerns was abandoned Monday after an outcry. (AFP

The Americas

Official results from Bolivia’s presidential election confirm incumbent president Evo Morales has won a third term in office and will govern until 2020. (BBC

Farmers with smallholdings are not responsible for most of the destruction of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, but their contribution to deforestation is rising and must be addressed if the country is to hold on to recent gains, according to the Stockholm Environment Institute. (Guardian

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff highlighted her government’s achievements in reducing poverty while her rival used Sunday night’s presidential debate to attack her on allegations of bribery in state-run oil company Petrobras. (AP


Anneke van Woudenberg is Mark’s podcast guest this week. She’s the famed Human Rights Watch researcher in DR Congo who’s loathed and feared by many a warlords. (Global Dispatches Podcast

This is the simple but effective Islamic State strategy to win hearts and minds (GlobalPost

How much of a problem is inequality in East Africa? How can it be reduced? (A View From the Cave

Microfinance veterans face up to new technologies and new competition (Guardian

Innovation Needed to Help Family Farms Thrive (IPS

When U.S. Politics Met Ebola (Daily Maverick

Chibok Girls: Seeing Is Believing (allAfrica

Getting Hospitals Right: Dispatches from Our Cape Town Consultation Session (CGD

Rwanda’s School Feeding Programme Gets Off to a Shaky Start (The New Times

The Ebola Outbreak You Haven’t Heard About (Chatham House

 The Central African Republic is Once Again on the Verge of Total Meltdown (UN Dispatch

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French soldiers in CAR, courtesy french ministry of defense

The Central African Republic is Once Again on the Verge of Total Meltdown

Following a few months of relative calm, tensions have once again flared up in the Central African Republic. The new wave of violence and insecurity was triggered by the killing of a MINUSCA peacekeeper on October 7 in the capital Bangui. The deteriorating security situation in the capital, Bangui, highlights the fragile peace deal brokered by regional and international partners in Brazzaville in July, and increases concerns that the an election calendar planned for early 2015 may be too aggressive.

As in previous flare-ups of tensions in the CAR, the October 7 incident – where the first UN peacekeeper was killed since the deployment of the mission – a tit-for-tat cycle of violence has once again engulfed the country. The UN estimates that several hundred people have been wounded, and at least 6,500 displaced, in the last couple of weeks.

The UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross have called upon the armed groups to respect the neutrality of the humanitarian actors, and allow safe passage for medical staff and emergency personnel, lest even more people die. The violence in Bangui has once again created a sense of insecurity among the population, as many roads have been blocked by militias. The volatility of the situation and how quickly it escalated highlights how tenuous the Brazzaville peace deal is, despite the increased presence of peacekeepers. Denis Sassou Nguessou, the UN-appointed mediator for the Central African Republic, convened a high level meeting to discuss this recent escalation of violence in Bangui over the weekend.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that neither of the two opposing groups – the Muslim Seleka and the Christian Anti-Balaka – have a strong, respected leadership. Splinter groups and groups operating independently – outside of the sphere of influence of the official Seleka and Anti-Balaka negotiators – can easily derail the peace process, as evidenced by the recent violence that has gripped Bangui.

It’s easy for the conflict in the Central African Republic to fall off the radar. Indeed, with at least 25 million food insecure people in the Sahel, and massive crises in West Africa, ebola, the Middle East and elsewhere, what’s happening in the CAR barely registers on the international community’s radar. The ongoing suffering in CAR, though, is real and palpable, and even though violence had more or less subsided over the course of the last few months after the Brazzaville peace conference, the recent surge in tensions highlights how quickly violence can be triggered and sweep through communities.

Recently, the head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa Abdoulaye Bathily suggested that even if the current February 2015 timetable for elections can’t be observed, they should be held within a few weeks of that time frame. That will be a tall order. Indeed, the transitional government – with its limited democratic mandate – doesn’t have the strength or authority to support a strong political, social and economic reconstruction.  As Veronique Barbelet from ODI points out in a recent piece, “painting a positive picture of fragile situations never ends well.” An arbitrary elections calendar should be eschewed. Instead, focusing on ramping up the UN peacekeeping mission so it’s at full capacity, and ensuring that the humanitarian needs of the population are met, should be the priority. Without security, a genuinely democratic process will elude the CAR, and only create the foundation of dissatisfaction and disenfranchisement for the next crisis to fester.


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Episode 37: Anneke van Woudenberg

Anneke Van Woudenberg first came to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997 on a drunken dare. The rest is history.

In this episode, the famed human rights investigator discusses her life and career working for human rights in Africa. Woudenberg was born in Holland, raised in Canada, and schooled in the United Kingdom before she set foot in the country that would define her career. The name Anneke Van Woudenberg may not ring a bell to you –though it should!–but Congolese warlords know and fear her. This is a fantastic episode with one of my personal human rights heroes.

Subscribe on Itunes! 

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Joko Widodo, a famous photo

A Remarkable Politician Takes Office

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Joko Widodo is sworn into office as president of Indonesia today. He was born in a slum, and he’s run a remarkable campaign as a “man of the people” and true outsider to Indonesia’s often corrupt political elite. He oozes charisma. But can he lead? “Mr Widodo, or Jokowi as he is known, has several significant tasks immediately in front of him, and will be judged by how well he handles them. Among the first is dealing with a fuel subsidy bill that is blowing out to more than $US20 billion, draining a hole in a budget when funds are needed for education and health programs, and overhauling the nation’s shoddy infrastructure. The cheap fuel provided by the government’s subsidy is mainly enjoyed by the well-off, according to the World Bank, but a rise in the fuel price hurts the poorest the most. As does any subsequent rise in inflation. This is the tricky scenario that Mr Widodo will face first.” (ABC-Australia

Some Good News on the Ebola Vaccine Front…”A senior investigator at the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center, Dr. Sullivan has worked for years on a vaccine that has been proven to block Ebola in research monkeys. NIH is now racing to telescope what would have been a five- to 10-year testing plan into a few months. The vaccine is scheduled to undergo full human testing by early 2015 and could be in use potentially in time to help stem the disease in stricken West Africa.” (WSJ

And… Britain’s biggest drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline said on Saturday work to develop a vaccine to combat Ebola, which has killed thousands in West Africa, was moving at a rapid pace. (Reuters


Canada will start sending more than 1,000 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine to Switzerland this week as part of the global fight against the deadly virus, a Geneva hospital said. (AFP

Oxfam is appealing to European Union foreign ministers to do more to fight Ebola; a disease Oxfam said could be the “definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation.” (VOA

France’s foreign minister said Sunday a call by unions representing Air France cabin staff to suspend flights to Ebola-hit Guinea would encourage riskier forms of travel that could spread the virus even faster. (AFP

Spain has agreed to allow the US to use two military bases in the southwest of the country to support its efforts to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. (AP


The United Nations peacekeeping chief on Saturday urged the Malian government to show a strong signal of its commitment to peace as negotiations with rebels restarted. (Reuters

UNHCR reports that the number of South Sudanese refugees in Sudan has passed the 100,000 mark, while funding remains low. (OCHA

A wave of violence hours after Nigeria’s government announced a truce with Boko Haram raised doubt on Sunday about whether more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist militants will really be released, deflating the new hopes of their parents. (Reuters

Zambia’s main workers union is threatening to embark on an indefinite strike and hold a series of protests later this month if President Michael Sata’s government fails to lift an ongoing pay freeze for all public sector workers. (VOA

Attorneys for Mozambique’s main opposition RENAMO party are gathering evidence to launch a legal challenge of the credibility of the recently concluded presidential and parliamentary elections, citing “overwhelming” instances of voter irregularities. (VOA

The UN rights chief on Sunday condemned Kinshasa for expelling his top envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and accused the authorities of intimidating other members of his staff. (AFP

Between heeding a message from officials to remain calm and another to flee looming attacks by Ugandan rebels, the choice for many residents in the Democratic Republic of Congo town of Beni is clear – they are leaving. (AFP


The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused more than 400,000 residents to flee to Turkey. (VOA

Some 40,000 persons are confirmed displaced in Iraq’s Anbar Governorate, but the total figure could be much higher as insecurity continues unabated and people continue to flee. (OCHA

Award-winning Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh told AFP Sunday that she has been barred from practising for three years and will hold a protest against the decision this week. (AFP

Iraqi authorities have executed at least 60 people so far in 2014, a United Nations report said Sunday, expressing concern that “irreversible miscarriages of justice” were taking place in some death penalty cases. (AP


Violent clashes erupted in Hong Kong early on Sunday for a second night, deepening a sense of impasse between a government with limited options and a pro-democracy movement increasingly willing to confront police. (Reuters

At least 40 people remain missing, and presumed dead, after a deadly, unexpected blizzard struck a popular Himalayan trekking route last week. (VOA

The most important meeting of the year for the 205 members of China’s ruling Communist Party’s Central Committee, beginning Monday, will focus on how to rule the country in accordance with law. (AP

The Americas

Twenty-two people have died in Nicaragua during several days of heavy rains, nine of them in the capital Managua when a wall collapsed. (BBC

Global anti-corruption campaigners at Transparency International elected Peruvian lawyer José Ugaz as its new head on Sunday marking a shift from quiet diplomacy in combating fraud and bribery toward more grassroots activism. (TRF


How Ebola Could Save Thousands of U.S. Lives (allAfrica

Ebola: Africa’s image takes a hit (AP

Liberians Wonder If Duncan’s Death Was A Result Of Racism (Goats and Soda

This is the World Health Organization that Member States Created (UN Dispatch

Is fighting rebel groups the only way to defeat them? (Rachel Strohm

Zero poverty? The Sustainable Development Goals aren’t quite there yet  (ODI

Ebola: Where we are; where we should be (Africa is a Country

Let them drown (Roving Bandit

Which countries are driving global growth? (The Interpreter

State violence and domestic abuse (Journeys towards Justice

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