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Pascoe in Nepal, SG Gives Press Briefing, Security Council in Uganda

SG: this morning the SG held his monthly press briefing, in which he touched on several notable issues including the outcomes of the MDG Summit and Launch of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, the upcoming G20 Summit in Seoul, Middle East peace talks, Sudan and sexual violence in the DRC.  A full report will come tomorrow.

SC Mission: today the SC delegation visited the UN’s logistics base in Entebee, Uganda (where the UN houses much of its supplies for regional peacekeeping missions), and held a meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.  The delegation then left for Juba, South Sudan, where it is expected to hear a briefing from UNMIS.

USG Pascoe in Nepal: today USG for Political Affairs Pascoe arrived in Nepal for a two-day visit to review progress on the peace process there and preparations for the withdrawal of  the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN).

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Image from State of Food Insecurity in the World 2010

Introducing the World’s 22 Most Crisis Prone Countries

Which countries around the world are in chronic states of crisis? In a report out today, the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization classify 22 countries as suffering from what they call “protracted crisis.”

The report, which is the second installment of the WFP and FAO’s flagship State of Food Insecurity in the World, offers three measurable criteria for determining of a given country makes the cut for being designated as being in protracted crisis.

1) If the country appears on something called the FAO Global Information and Early Warning System for at least eight years between 2001 to 2010 or 12 years between 1996 and 2010. This presumably demonstrates the longevity of the crisis.

2) If 10% or more of the official development assistance the country receives comes in the form of humanitarian assistance.  (As opposed to, say, building hospitals and schools or supporting entrepreneurship.)

3) If the country makes this FAO list of Low Income Food Deficit Countries.

The following countries meet all three of these criteria and are thus designated to be in a “protracted crisis:”

Central African Republic
Côte d’Ivoire
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Sierra Leone

The report is quite detailed, but it offers two specific ways the international community can help these chronic cases: investing in agricultural development and education.

On the former, the report notes that “only 3.1 percent of development assistance received by countries in protracted crisis is dedicated to agriculture, compared with an average of 5.8 percent for other [Least Developed Countries.] Yet the agriculture sector accounts for an average of 32 percent of protracted crisis countries’ GDP and employs an average of 62 percent of their populations.”

On the latter, the report states the percentage of development assistance allocated to education is only 3.8 percent, compared with an average of 9.6 percent for other Least Developed Countries and “Primary education receives just 1.6 percent, compared with an average of 3.5 percent for other LDCs.” This is problematic because there are several studies that link individual educational attainment with a farmer’s productivity.

Anyway, the report is far too nuanced to be summarized in a blog post. you should read the whole report if this sort of issue interests you. (And it should!)

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gold3592551910_99453e6287_m (1)

Mass Poisoning Kills 400 Children

Terrible news out of Nigeria. The UN confirmed reports from NGOs and local activists that at least 400 children have died from lead poisoning since March in one Nigerian province.

What happened is this: communities have long maintained backyard, informal (and illegal) gold digging operations in Nigeria’s Zamfara state. In at least two villages, the gold digging sites were heavily contaminated with lead.   Medicins sans Frontier noticed a spike in lead illness earlier this year, but the affected communities had powerful economic incentives to keep up the gold extraction.

From IRIN:

The trade is profitable: it takes about two hours to extract about one gram of gold, which miners can sell for US$23. In comparison, 50 kg of millet, which takes four months to cultivate, sells for $40, said Umaru Na-Ta’ala, who lives in Kirsa village, where 50 children have died and there have been 20 stillbirths since 2010.

In addition to lead poisoning, mercury levels are extraordinarily high:

At one former mine processing site in the village of Bagega, with some 8,000 inhabitants, air mercury levels of 5,000 nanogrammes per cubic metre were registered, a hundred times the maximum recommended level of 50. Mercury, which is used in the gold extraction processes, affects the nervous and digestive systems when inhaled.

The World Health Organization is expected to release a report of their findings later this month. In the meantime, this is just one more testament to how economic depravity seems to always hit children the hardest.

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Global Fund Replenishment; UNHCR on Pakistan Flooding; SG to brief press tomorrow

Global Fund Replenishment: The SG chaired the 3rd Global Fund Replenishment talks today, stating that the Global Fundhas been one of the major success stories of the 21st century and calling on the international community to defeat AIDS, TB and Malaria completely. Due to its support, roughly 5.7 million lives have been saved, AIDS drugs have been provided to 2.8 million, TB treatment for 7 million and 122 million bed nets have been distributed – supporting the SG’s projection that malaria can end by 2015.  In a press conference this afternoon, the SG, Michael Kazatchkine (Executive Director of the Global Fund) and Richard Manning (Vice-Chair of Replenishment of the Global Fund) informed the press that more than $11.5 billion was raised in the talks, a 20% increase.  Notable commitments were made by the U.S., Japan, Canada, France, Australia and Norway. In particular, the U.S. made a multi-year commitment for the first time, with a 38% increase in contribution. Other donors include the European Commission, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Chevron. The Global Fund also welcomed new contributors such as the United Methodist Church, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, and the Africa Initiative. While the Global Fund did not reach its proposed goal of $20 billion, Kazatchkine stressed the understanding that it will not cut programs, but rather efforts to scale up will not be as fast as they ideally want.

UNHCR on Pakistan Flooding: UNHCR is reporting that since the flooding began in mid-August, nearly a third of the Sindh province’s 30.4 million residents have been affected. Around 1.6 million people are still displaced. UNHCR has helped with tents, plastic sheeting, and other relief items.  UNICEF explains that as more schools opened up in September, people have begun to return to their villages. As of the end of the month, 2,800 schools have served as temporary shelters for more than 660,000 people, which is in addition to the nearly 10,000 schools that have been damaged by the flooding.

SG to Brief Press Tomorrow: the SG will hold his regular press conference tomorrow at 11 AM.

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Screen shot 2010-10-05 at 12.24.48 PM

US Announces its Pledge to Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria. But is it Enough?

The United States is pledging $4 billion over three years to the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  United States Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby announced the pledge on a call with reporters moments ago.  It represents a 38% increase over prior American commitments to the Fund.

The America pledge comes on the first day of a triennial “replenishment conference” for the Global Fund, which was created in 2002 to pool donor resources to fight AIDS, TB, and malaria and to strengthen the heath care systems in the developing world.  To date, the fund has raised about $19 billion and paid for approximately one quarter of all AIDS treatments in the developing world and two thirds of treatment for Malaria and TB. In all, 2.5 million people are on ARV treatments because of the Global Fund. 35% of Fund dollars are earmarked for health systems strengthening.

So what will the U.S. commitment mean for those that depend on the kinds of health care interventions that the Global Fund makes possible?

Prior to the replenishment conference, the Global Fund released three estimates based on different funding scenarios. The top scenario, based on a $20 billion commitment, would let the Fund introduce new programs and significantly scale up pilot programs that have proven to be successful.  The middle scenario foresaw a commitment of $17 billion, which would let the Fund continue its current operations and fund new programs at the same level as recent years.  The bottom scenario is a $13 billion commitment. This would let the Fund sustain its current operations, but far fewer new programs would be introduced or brought to scale.

Despite the American pledge, it looks increasingly like the bottom scenario of $13 billion will not even be met at the conference.  The global financial crisis seems to be taking its toll.

Here is what that means in human terms:

About 3 million fewer people on anti-retro viral treatment.

A bout 80 million anti-Malaria bed nets not distributed.

And a difference of about 1 million babies unable to receive protection from contracting AIDS at birth.

Advocates have a somewhat mixed reaction to the US contribution. The One Campaign, for example, called it a “solid increase, given difficult economic times.” But One, which had called for a $6 billion US pledge, added, “We are disappointed that the U.S. is not making better use of the Global Fund to achieve its goals on AIDS, TB, and malaria.”

On the press call, Ambassador Goosby said, “There is no stronger supporter of the Global Fund than the United States.”  He is right. But as you can see, it would appear that the global financial crisis is taking a toll on overall funding.

Here is a list of the major public sector contributions to the Global Fund, as of this afternoon.  (The “fair share” calculations are estimated by Global Fund based on donor countries’ Gross National Income.  By statute, the United States does not pay more than 33% of the total annual contributions to the global fund. You will also note that Italy, which typically pays about 6% of the Global Fund, is not on this list. Italy is not making a contribution this round.)

US: $4 billion over three years.  38 percent increase over their 2007 to 2009 commitments.  91% of fair share of $13b scenario based on GNI

France: $1.4 billion over three years.  20 percent increase over their 2007 to 2009 commitments.  194% of fair share of $13b scenario based on GNI

UK: $1.012 billion over four years (as remaining amount of their one billion GBP pledge for 2008-2015)

Germany: $827 million over three years.  flatline over their 2007 to 2009 commitments.  87% of fair share of $13b scenario based on GNI

Japan: $800 million over three years.  28 percent increase over their 2007 to 2009 commitments.  67% of fair share of $13b scenario based on GNI

Canada: $540 million over three years.  20 percent increase over their 2007 to 2009 commitments.  142% of fair share of $13b scenario based on GNI

European Commission: $455 million over three years.  10 percent increase over their 2007 to 2009 commitments.  75% of fair share of $13b scenario based on GNI

Norway: $225 million over three years. 20 percent increase over their 2007 to 2009 commitments.  97% of fair share of $13b scenario based on GNI

China: $14 million over three years.  133 percent increase over their 2007 to 2009 commitments.  19% of fare share of $13 bn based on GNI

The bottom line is that the Global Fund has been a remarkably successful mechanism for adding coherence to global health strategies.  By short changing the fund, the international community is risking to undermine the great progress that has been made in the fight against the developing world’s three deadliest scourges.   It is a perilous gamble that will undoubtedly cost lives.

UPDATE:  MSF/Doctors without Borders explains one consequence of short changing the Global Fund.

This year, the United States participated in the Global Fund replenishment for the first time. It has pledged $4 billion over three years – a disappointing amount given that the US generally contributes one-third of the Fund’s finances.  The US has already flatlined funding for the bilateral President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Countries including France, have increased their contributions to The Fund, albeit modestly. Germany’s funding levels remained the same.

Malawi is one example of what is at stake.  The Malawian government recently submitted a Global Fund application for a program that would dramatically reduce the transmission of HIV from pregnant women to their children. The program, which could reduce the rate of mother-to-child infections down from 35 percent to as low as two percent, may no longer be possible. Similarly, efforts in Kenya and South Africa to provide treatment to all who require it will be made nearly impossible without a well-financed Global Fund.

UPDATE II: The Global Fund released its final tally of contributions.  The verdict: $11.7 billion over three years. This of course,  is below the minimalist scenario. But it does include some huge contributions from new players, namely the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, which is pledging $300 million.

Health | | 4

HRC Session Concludes, SG Speaks with Netanyahu and Abbas, Heads of ME PKO’s Meet With Shimon Peres

General Assembly: today the GA committees began their programs of work for the main part of the 65th session.  For its part, the Fifth Committee will cover several topics; most notably, procurement reform, OIOS, human resources management (likely implementing continuing contracts, a key part of streaming the UN’s contractual arrangements), the administration of justice and the UN’s new Enterprise Resource Planning system called Umoja.  Budget-related topics on the agenda include revised estimates for the current (2010-2011) biennium and an outline of the 2012-2013 budget.  Budgetary implications of Special Political Missions and PKOs are also likely to be discussed.

HRC 15th Session: last Friday the HRC wrapped up its 15th session in Geneva, with the adoption of several resolutions.  Highlights of the session include a resolution on the freedom of assembly and association introduced by the U.S., which creates a Special Rapporteur on the issue; a resolution creating a group of experts to report on discrimination against women; and the mandate extension of the Independent Expert on in Sudan by one year.  Other topics addressed include human rights in Somalia and the mass rapes in the DRC.  Laura Rozen’s post on Politico today is a useful resource on U.S. accomplishments.

Security Council: this morning the Security Council adopted its program of work for October and Ugandan Ambassador Rugunda briefed the press on key dates.  Highlights will include a debate on peacebuilding (including the 5 year review of the PBC) on October 13, a debate on support for AU peacekeeping on the 22nd and the tenth anniversary of Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security on the 26th , which is likely to be at the ministerial level.  Mandate expirations this month include MINUSTAH and ISAF.  A Council delegation is also leaving for Sudan tonight, and will visit Khartoum, Juba and El Fasher.  The trip will also include a stop in Uganda.  A week from tomorrow the GA will hold Security Council elections for 5 rotating seats for 2011-2013.  Canada, Germany and Portugal will compete for two WEOG seats.  Africa, Asia and GRULAC are likely to be uncontested.

Prepping for Cancún: Speaking at the opening of Tianjin climate meeting, Christiana Figueres, head of the UNFCCC, called governments to accelerate their search for common ground and agree on what is doable at the conference before it launches on November 29, 2010.  Figueres stressed that a concrete outcome was urgently needed in order to restore faith in the ability of Parties to drive negotiations forward.  Roughly 3,000 participants from more than 176 countries are currently attending the Tianjin meeting.

Peace talks: the SG spoke with PM Benjamin Netanyahu, President Mahmoud Abbas, and Senator George Mitchell on Friday, renewing his hope that Israel will extend is settlement restraint policy and discussing the current status of talks between Palestinians and Israelis.  A meeting of foreign ministers from the Arab states will take place later this week.

PKOs in the Middle East: today, the heads of three UN peacekeeping missions in the Middle East (UNTSO, UNDOF, and UNIFIL) met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, discussing the evolving regional affairs and the dangers of terrorism.  Peres expressed his gratitude for the work of UN peacekeepers.

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