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Malawi WFP ant-stunting program

Not on A-1: Stopping Stunting in Malawi

Stunting occurs when a child does not receive proper nutrition in her first months and years of life. The child does not grow properly, intellectually or physically. This can have wide ranging social consequences and perpetuate cycles of poverty. Combating stunting through providing education and access to proper nutrition is therefore one key way that the international community and local partners are fighting extreme poverty. This video from the World Food Program in Malawi shows one way that’s being accomplished.

It’s a good news story for a bad news cycle!


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A WFP food voucher WFP/Challiss McDonough

This Does Not Bode Well For Afghanistan

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Funding shortfalls have forced the World Food Programme to cut rations for up to a million people in Afghanistan, an early sign that aid money may dwindle as the international combat mission winds down. They need $30 million to close the gap. “We have had to cut down the rations of the people we are assisting, just so that we can buy some time so we don’t stop altogether,” said country director Claude Jibidar.” (Guardian

The Rich Keep Getting Richer…The richest 1% of the world’s population are getting wealthier, according to a Credit Suisse report which warned growing inequality could be a trigger for recession. “Taken together, the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets,” said the annual report, now in its fifth year. (Guardian

Rather discouraging news on ebola…The death rate in the Ebola outbreak has risen to 70 percent and there could be up to 10,000 new cases a week in two months, the World Health Organization warned Tuesday. (AP

Legitimately encouraging news on ebola…The WHO may declare the outbreak over in Nigeria and Senegal in the coming week, demonstrating that traditional epidemeological methods to contain the outbreak can work, (UN Dispatch

Quote of the Day: “He is really the first World Bank president who thinks of the bank as being primarily about relief rather than development,” — Bill Easterly, from an otherwise glowing article about Jim Kim. (NYT


MSF says that despite promises from various countries to help stem the spread of Ebola, to date, few pledges have translated into concrete action on the ground. (VOA

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has exposed major gaps in development aid, prompting a rethink of the balance between building health systems and tackling specific diseases like AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. (Reuters

France said it agreed to set up new treatment centres for Ebola in Guinea after the United States asked for further assistance to fight the deadly epidemic in West Africa. (Reuters

The US and UN leaders called for “more robust” international efforts to tackle Ebola, after medics in Liberia demanded danger money to treat patients in what officials termed the worst health crisis of modern times. (AFP

The head of the United Nations’ Mali mission is to quit to take up a new job as the Netherlands’ foreign minister, the Dutch government said on Tuesday, opening up a vacancy in the west African nation at a time of growing instability. (Reuters

Mozambique’s upstart opposition vowed to take on the two traditional political heavyweights by offering a non-violent alternative in polls taking place this week amid low-level conflict. (AFP

German hospital says UN medical worker infected with Ebola in Liberia has died. (AP

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. (VOA


War against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq threatened on Tuesday to unravel the delicate peace in neighbouring Turkey after the Turkish air force bombed Kurdish fighters furious over Ankara’s refusal to help protect their kin in Syria. (Reuters

Shiite rebels who recently overran Yemen’s capital on Tuesday seized control of a key port city on the Red Sea and a province south of Sanaa in a stunning new blitz that is certain to deepen the country’s turmoil, security and military officials said. (AP

The U.N. chief visited Gaza on Tuesday to give a push to international reconstruction efforts following a devastating summer war, saying the destruction was “beyond description” as Israel allowed the first shipment of construction materials to enter the coastal strip since the fighting ended in August. (AP

Despite a highly-symbolic British vote to recognize Palestine as a state, the road to official recognition is still fraught with obstacles, experts say, with the hoped-for two-state solution a long way off. (AFP

In Zarzis, a small port city of some 70,000 in southeastern Tunisia, fishermen plying the Mediterranean have become inadvertent saviours, rescuing boatloads of illegal migrants to Europe setting out from the shores of Libya. (IRIN


Inspectors hired by a group of Western clothing brands found 80,000 safety problems at all the Bangladesh factories they visited as part of an initiative launched after a building collapse last year killed more than 1,100 workers. (GlobalPost

Despite worsening U.S.-North Korean relations, an American charity is ramping up efforts against an epidemic of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in the isolated country, where it says it is making inroads in fighting the deadly disease. (AP

Thai authorities have arrested two men charged with human trafficking, police said on Tuesday, following the discovery of 134 suspected victims in southern Thailand at a time when the military government is under international pressure to tackle the crime. (VOA

The Americas

Bolivian leader Evo Morales says he will not run for a fourth term as president in 2020, as exit polls suggest he has been re-elected for a third time. (BBC

A magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck late on Monday off the coast of El Salvador and Nicaragua and was felt across Central America, killing at least one person, but there were no immediate reports of major damage. (Reuters

One of Colombia’s most violent cities is successfully using science to combat crime. (BBC

Corruption and tax evasion are flagrant violations of human rights in Latin America, where they contribute to inequality and injustice in the countries of the region, according to studies and experts. (IPS


Why I am Afraid of the African Disease of Ebola (Africa is a Country

With Ebola Crisis Looming, Where is the Surgeon General? (Global Information Network

The majority of Burkinabé favor progressive change on gender rights (Africa is a Country

We can no longer ignore Ebola’s wider impact particularly on women (Guardian

Cuba’s Aid to Ebola-Hit Region Overlooked (SACSIS

Does the introduction of ambulances improve access to maternal health services in rural Ethiopia? (Development Policy

Money Transfer via Twitter Coming Soon (CFI

The Guardian view of new thinking on global inequality

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Image credit Samaritans Purse

Some Good News On Ebola

First, the bad news. As of today, there’s been 8,914 cases and 4,457 reported deaths from ebola. There is no evidence that the outbreaks in Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia are coming under control. “It’s still moving geographically and it’s still increasing in capitols,” said Bruce Alyward, the WHO’s point person on Ebola response in a briefing to reporters this morning. So long as the outbreak is out of control in these countries, we can expect more imported cases elsewhere in the world, both the countries bordering the affected countries and here in the United States.

But even as the outbreak metastasizes in those three countries, the WHO is preparing to declare the outbreak over in two other West African countries: Nigeria and Senegal

Ebola was first brought to Nigeria by a sick Liberian on July 20. Nigeria’s patient zero resulted in twenty infections and eight deaths in two cities: Lagos and Port Harcourt. In late August, an infected student from Guinea brought ebola to Senegal. He survived and did not infect anyone else.

The incubation period for this ebola virus is at most 21 days. The WHO will declare an outbreak over 21 days after the last high risk exposure–which includes health care workers treating an infected patient. So, for the WHO to declare an outbreak over requires rigorous monitoring over 42 days with no new cases detected.

If no new cases emerge in Senegal, that 42 day period will be reached on Friday. And if no new cases emerge in Nigeria, the WHO will declare on Monday that the outbreak is over in Nigeria. In both instances, contact tracing, palliative care and rigorous infection controls have stopped the outbreak. This demonstrates that traditional epidemiological strategies to contain the outbreak can work, even in resource poor settings like Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. It’s just a matter of getting the resources and political to scale up the response. Therein lies the rub.




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Sign outside Mostar, Bosnia // Photo by Dennis Jarvis

A Big Election in Bosnia Brings More…Stasis

Bosnians went to the polls on Sunday amidst growing frustrations with the government over deadlock and poor economic opportunity. While the election presented the chance to alter the direction of the country, results so far demonstrate that change is much harder to come by as unresolved tensions from its civil war remains.

Nearly 20 years after the Bosnian War ended, the country is often referred to as “the most over-governed country in the world.” Multiple layers of government at the local, provincial and national level – often divided among Bosnia’s three main ethnic groups – has led to unprecedented levels of bureaucracy that leads to a lot of process, but few results. Unemployment remains persistently high with the official unemployment level in 2013 at 44%, but youth unemployment remains over 60%. Frustration with this led to major protests across the country in February, but few concessions by the government to address the key sources of anger.

In many ways, Bosnians appear to have accepted that things will not change. Despite the renewed attention the protests brought to the problems facing the country, election turnout was lower for Sunday’s election than in 2010. Likewise, the three main nationalist parties – the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the Croatian Democratic Union (HZD), and Serb Democratic Party (SDS) – continue to dominate the election results as they have since the war ended in 1995.

The lead politicians vying for the three-person presidency highlight just how divided Bosnia remains. Bakir Izetbegovic, son of Bosnia’s first president Alija Izetbegovic and head of the SDA, campaigned on a stronger, unified Bosnian state. Dragan Covic of the HZD campaigned for the creation of a separate Croat entity within Bosnia to appeal to the smallest of the three major groups who increasingly feel overshadowed by Bosniaks within the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Both politicians have claimed victory already while the election for who will hold the Serb seat within the presidency is still undecided. For once the Serb opposition has the chance to dislodge the ruling SDS in the national presidency but general Bosnian Serb sentiments still seem to lean towards the breakaway of the Serb Republic.

Thus after 20 years, Bosnia remains in much the same predicament it was when the Dayton Peace Accords were being negotiated. Change is greatly needed but in such a highly charged environment, Bosnians are still scared of what change may bring. Sunday’s election was seen by many as a possible turning point, but a day later is yet another missed opportunity. Without further engagement by the international community, it is unlikely Bosnia will be able to break this cycle and find the progress it desperately needs.

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Global Hunger Index

These Countries Have the Worst “Hidden Hunger”

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The Global Hunger Index released its annual report of micronutrient deficiency, otherwise known as “hidden hunger.” In all 16 countries have “alarming” levels of this undernourishment. Burundi, which tops the Global Hunger Index for the third year in a row, is followed by Eritrea, East Timor and Comoros. Some 805 million people around the world are still chronically undernourished, according to the report, despite progress in combating hunger – three years ago, the index recorded 26 countries with “alarming” or “extremely alarming” hunger levels. South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa face the highest levels of hunger. Countries showing the largest improvement since 1990 include Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chad, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Thailand and Vietnam.” (Reuters

Trouble for Tanzania…”International donors have suspended nearly $500 million in budget support to Tanzania in response to claims that senior government officials siphoned off funds from the country’s central bank under the guise of energy contracts.” (Guardian

Today’s Quote of the Day is cause for concern:  I have never seen a health event threaten the very survival of societies and governments in already very poor countries.” — WHO Director Margaret Chan.  (NYT

And in brighter news…George Mitchell is on Mark’s Global Dispatches Podcast! He’s one of his generation’s greatest peacemakers (as in the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland) and tells Mark his life story.


Many Liberian health care workers on the frontline of the battle against Ebola ignored calls on Monday to strike over poor pay and working conditions, and most hospitals and clinics were operating normally, officials and charity workers said. (Reuters

As Liberia tries to end a months-long Ebola crisis, local and international media rights groups report an intensifying crackdown on journalists in the country. But some of those journalists say this is only a continuation of Liberia’s bad record on press freedom. (VOA

Women and children in South Sudan have been the victims of horrific sexual violence since the country plunged into conflict 10 months ago, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura, said after a week-long visit. (VOA

One of Sudan’s main opposition parties will boycott elections set for April because a lack of democracy will not allow a fair vote, a senior party official said on Monday, diminishing the credibility of the ballot. (Reuters

Mozambique’s ruling Frelimo party and its presidential candidate look likely to win elections this week despite voters’ dissatisfaction with graft and inequality in one of Africa’s fastest growing economies that boasts abundant energy reserves. (Reuters

Madagascar’s former president has been arrested, just hours after he returned to the country following more than five years in exile. (VOA

Ugandan health officials said Monday that they are continuing to monitor five people feared to have contracted the Ebola-like Marburg virus, even though all suspected cases so far have tested negative. (AP

Somalia’s government remains riddled with corruption while Shabab Islamists are as deadly as ever, United Nations investigators warned in a damning report seen by AFP Monday. (AFP

Thousands of northerners who experienced human rights abuses during the occupation of Mali’s north are struggling to find redress amidst concerns that a climate of impunity is continuing and the government’s control in many areas of the north is at best shaky. (IRIN


International donors pledged $5.4bn towards the rebuilding of Gaza after the recent 50-day war, but 100,000 Palestinians will still be homeless in the territory as winter arrives. (Guardian

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon is chastising Israel for allowing settlements to advance in east Jerusalem and calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for leadership to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. (VOA

Kurdish defenders held off Islamic State militants in Syria’s border town of Kobani, but the fighters struck with deadly bombings in Iraq, killing dozens of Kurds in the north and assassinating a provincial police commander in the west. (GlobalPost

Pledges of $2.7 billion for reconstructing the Gaza Strip may seem impressive, but huge challenges lie ahead as the Palestinian government had asked for more and its prime minister questioned Monday whether all of the money would actually arrive. (AP

United Nations aid convoys cannot reach vast areas of Syrian territory under Islamic State control, a senior U.N. official told Reuters, although the Damascus government is allowing better access to besieged areas elsewhere. (Reuters


Activists and supporters of Pakistani political parties October 12 took to streets of the southern port city of Karachi to protest against shelling on Pakistani border villages by neighbor India. (VOA

Three of the Philippines largest child rights organizations, Save the Children, Plan International, and World Vision, unite to push passage of House Bill 5062 or the “Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act,” which calls for a comprehensive plan to be put in place to protect the rights of children in disasters and emergencies.​

Hong Kong authorities were accused for the second time of hiring thugs after clashes at democracy protest site. (GlobalPost

The death toll from a powerful cyclone which battered India’s eastern coastline rose to 24 on Monday, as the storm weakened and moved inland, leaving a swathe of destruction and triggering fears heavy rains would bring flash floods. (Reuters

The Americas

A Texas health worker has contracted Ebola after treating a Liberian who died of the disease in Dallas last week, raising concern about how U.S. medical guidelines aimed at stopping the spread of the disease were breached. (Reuters

Severe drought has struck California for a third year. The lack of water is affecting farms, cities and small communities. California’s Central Valley is usually fertile. (VOA

Scientists here are warning Caribbean countries, where the fisheries sector is an important source of livelihoods and sustenance, that they should pay close attention to a new international report on ocean acidification. (IPS


The Priest, the Killers, and a Looming Genocide (The New Yorker

Visualizing how Syria’s war undermines health (Humanosphere

A risky business: Aid workers in danger (Devex

Understanding the World Bank’s Estimate of the Economic Damage of Ebola to West Africa (Center For Global Development

The Disturbing Expansion of the Military-Industrial Complex (IPS

Why the IMF’s poor forecasting matters (The Interpreter

“Should I go into international development?” (Lessons I Learned

What does the Ebola crisis mean for long-term progress in Sierra Leone and Liberia? (The Guardian

Leading global banks hop aboard infrastructure train (Humanosphere

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Sen George Mitchell

Episode 36: George Mitchell

Most people know George Mitchell for overseeing successful peace talks in Northern Ireland and his celebrated tenure in the United States Senate. He’s led an incredible life. He grew up in Maine in relative poverty, and emerged as one of his generations greatest politicians and peacemakers. Mitchell discusses his life story, including how a military posting in post-war Berlin led to law school in Washington, DC, and how his mentor Edmund Muskie helped launch his political career. Sen Mitchell and I kick off with a conversation about his work as President Obama’s special envoy for Middle East peace. This was a great episode.

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