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Ebola, UN

How American Leadership is Succeeding in Ending the Ebola Outbreak

It is still far too early to declare that the ebola outbreak is firmly on the decline. The World Health Organization is — rightly — not abandoning its worst case scenario planning of 10,000 new infections per week by December 1. And top UN officials have issued stark warnings this week to remain vigilant.

But the fact is, reported cases of ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia are on the decline. Health officials credit this to better contact tracing and high rates of hygienic burials of those who have succumbed to ebola. (An individual is most contagious right after he’s died. Burials have become key points of transmission.) The outbreak is not yet under control, but the situation seems to be improving.

If present trends hold and this is in fact the beginning of the end of the ebola outbreak in West Africa, the US government deserves a great deal of credit for bringing this about.

The chronology here is instructive. The outbreak began last spring. It receded for a while, but then in the mid summer came roaring back, with infections spread across three countries and in crowded cities like Conakry, Monrovia and Freetown. On August 8, the WHO declared an emergency while NGOs like MSF began to scale up their operations in the region. New infections far outpaced the international community’s capacity to respond; patients were turned away at hospital doors and the number of new infections increased exponentially, doubling about every three weeks. The system was overwhelmed. The outbreak was spiraling out of control.

This was the situation when, on September 16, President Obama visited the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to announce a major increase in the American response to the crisis. This included the dispatch of thousands of American troops to the region and establishing an air corridor to transport needed personnel and equipment to the region. Obama had stated that the ebola outbreak was a top national security priority earlier in the summer, but his speech at the CDC was a turning point in the US government’s response.

Obama’s decision to make stopping the ebola outbreak a top tier international priority was manifest at the United Nations two days later in an unprecedented emergency Security Council meeting, convened at the behest of Samantha Power. The Security Council meeting declared the ebola outbreak a threat to international peace and security, which is exceedingly rare for a public health issue. At the meeting, the Secretary General announced a new United Nations Emergency Ebola Response Mission to provide on-the-ground logistical coordination of the response across three countries. The resolution that accompanied the meeting was co-sponsored by a record 134 countries. It called for all countries to substantially increase their commitments to the ebola outbreak and for countries to lift harmful travel restrictions that undermined the response.

The action that day at the Security Council amounted to the internationalization of President Obama’s decision to elevate the ebola outbreak as an American national security priority. Six weeks later, it appears that things are finally getting better. We are not out of the woods yet. Far from it. But if the slowing down of infections is a trend that continues, we may be able to credit American leadership at the United Nations and elsewhere for finally bringing this outbreak to heel.


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Obama ebola

Obama’s Big Ebola Ask

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A day after his party got walloped in the elections, the President has asked congress to authorize $6.2 billion to fight ebola. Obama wants swift action on this request, meaning it may be taken up during the lame-duck session. “Administration officials say $2 billion of the total would be apportioned to the United States Agency for International Development and $2.4 billion would go to the Department of Health and Human Services. More than $1.5 billion would be for a contingency fund to deal with any unanticipated developments like a flare-up in West Africa or a need to vaccinate U.S. health care workers…The nearly $2 billion for USAID and $127 million for the Department of State would help carry out the U.S. anti-Ebola mission in West Africa. More than $2.4 billion would go to HHS, but administration officials would not break down the request on the basis of what was to be used to fight the disease overseas and what was meant to boost defenses in the United States. The Pentagon would get about $112 million.” (ABC

The foreign policy implications of the Mid-Term elections…Mark speaks with Michael Cohen of the Century  Foundation about the consequences of the elections for a potential nuclear deal with Iran and more. (Global Dispatches Podcast


Sierra Leone said Wednesday it was holding a journalist in a maximum security prison after a guest on his radio show criticised President Ernest Bai Koroma’s handling of the Ebola outbreak. (Yahoo

Scientists across the United States say they cannot obtain samples of Ebola, complicating efforts to understand how the virus is mutating and develop new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics. (Reuters

The World Bank’s president on Wednesday reported mixed progress in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa, pointing to encouraging signs in Liberia and a more worrisome trend in neighbouring Sierra Leone. (Reuters

Australia’s prime minister said Wednesday that his government expects to staff a British-built Ebola hospital in Sierra Leone by the end of the month after reaching a deal with Britain on treating Australian health workers who might become infected with the deadly disease. (AP

With nearly 5,000 dead of Ebola in West Africa, the World Health Organization elected a new director Wednesday of its Africa regional office, which has been accused of bungling the response to the outbreak in its early stages. (AP


The U.S. delegation to the United Nations informed members of the Security Council that it would circulate a draft resolution establishing an international sanctions regime for conflict-torn South Sudan, a U.S. official said. (Reuters

Ugandan security forces committed “reprisal killings” in a remote mountain region earlier this year to crush tribal clashes, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday, highlighting reports of torture and mass graves. (AFP

One of the world’s leading AIDS activists has accused Britain of “signing a death warrant” for South Africans in need of treatment after withdrawing aid from an influential campaign group, which now faces ruin. (Guardian

The WHO says the ongoing polio vaccination campaign is facing resistance in Central African countries. The United Nations has been assisting six countries in the region with synchronized vaccinations after Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea reported more than a dozen cases of the wild polio virus in less than three years. (VOA

In Uganda, an estimated 16 women die every day from childbirth-related complications. Obstetric fistula is usually a result of prolonged, obstructed labor, but socio-economic factors such as poverty, lack of education and early marriage contribute to its onset and development. (Guardian

Royal Dutch Shell pushed South Africa on Wednesday to decide on its application, now nearly four years old, to explore for shale gas in the Karoo, a pristine semi-desert that may contain some of the world’s largest reserves. (Reuters

Three West African presidents urged Burkina Faso on Wednesday to appoint a transitional government to guide the country to elections next year following the people’s overthrow of longtime ruler Blaise Compaore last week. (Reuters

Local UNHCR chief in South Sudan says all efforts are being made to find new sites for those waiting at border sites – and for the thousands more who may pour into the country. But existing camps are already struggling. (AFP

Sudanese troops denied U.N. and African Union peacekeepers access to a town in the country’s western Darfur region to investigate reports of an alleged mass rape of some 200 women and girls, the United Nations said on Wednesday. (Rueters

Angola’s government is tightening the noose around free expression, according to a top Angolan journalist and an international rights watchdog. (VOA


Amnesty International on Wednesday accused Israel of committing war crimes during the war in the Gaza Strip this summer, saying it displayed “callous indifference” in attacks on family homes in the densely populated coastal area. (AP

The United States and other countries on Wednesday slammed the human rights situation in Egypt at a United Nations meeting reviewing the country’s record for the first time since the 2011 ouster of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. (AP

At least 11 children were killed in Damascus when mortars fell on a school in an eastern district of the Syrian capital, a monitoring group said on Wednesday.  (Reuters

Britain will boost the number of its army trainers in Iraq in the coming weeks to support the Iraqi armed forces’ battle against Islamic State militants, the British defense secretary said on a visit to Baghdad on Wednesday. (Reuters


The incidence of polio in Pakistan hit a 15-year high on Wednesday, as the prime minister vowed to rid the country of the crippling disease in the next six months despite a Taliban campaign to kill workers distributing vaccines for it. (AP

Nearly one week after a central Sri Lankan village was hit by a deadly landslide on 29 October, officials are reviewing how dozens of injuries, at least six deaths and hundreds of displacements could have been avoided with better disaster preparedness. (IRIN

Mongolia’s parliament voted on Wednesday to remove Prime Minister Norov Altankhuyag amid concerns about a serious economic downturn as gold, copper and coal prices and foreign direct investment slump. (Reuters

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has a message for President Barack Obama and other world leaders as they head to Myanmar: The international community’s faith in its military-dominated government came too early and too fast, and democratic reforms stalled long ago. (AP

Myanmar authorities exhumed the body on Wednesday of a journalist killed in military custody, and one rights activist said the body bore what he thought were marks of torture. (Reuters

The Americas

Students in Mexico call a 72-hour strike to demand the authorities do more to find 43 trainee teachers who went missing in September. (BBC

A federal prosecutors’ office has alleged irregularities in the way Brazil pays Cuban doctors participating in a program set up to provide health care in remote areas, and is urging the country to pay the physicians directly rather than through their government. (AP

Twelve people have died in Haiti as a result of heavy rains unleashed by a cluster of storms in the northern Caribbean, authorities said Wednesday. (AP


Fighting worsens as South Sudan keeps famine at bay, for now (Humanosphere

A helpful Ebola map for people who think Africa is a country (A View From The Cave

The Open Government Partnership’s Commitment to Development and Contract Transparency (CGD

Why Your Brain Wants To Help One Child In Need (NPR

Shaping the Market for Global Health Data (CGD

Rethinking US Foreign Assistance: Six Development Proposals for the Next Republican-Led Congress (CGD

Global Governance – We Need to Bring Civil Society to the Table (IPS

Tackle Malnutrition Head On (allAfrica

Africa Is Rising and So Africa Is Uprising (The Star

Interview with Gilles Yabi on protests in Burkina and lessons for other countries (Congo Siasa

A Dull, Boring, Humdrum, Unimaginative, Prosaic Proposal to Combat Corruption (Global Anticorruption Blog


The world’s biggest companies disclose little or no financial details about their operations outside their home countries, watchdog Transparency International said in a report. (Guardian

Gates Foundation pushes back on the report we highlighted yesterday, which accused the foundation of only spending a small fraction of its food security funds directly in Africa. (Reuters )

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US Senate Map

The Foreign Policy Implications of the U.S Mid Term Elections

The foreign policy implications of the U.S. midterms could be profound. How might Republican control of the U.S. Senate affect sensitive nuclear negotiations with Iran? How would it impact President Obama’s Foreign Affairs budget requests (particularly for UN funding and foreign aid)? And what do the election results say about foreign policy debates between disparate wings of the Republican party? Here with me to discuss these questions and more is Boston Globe columnist Michael Cohen, who is a senior fellow with The Century Foundation. Enjoy (or not, depending on your political preference!)

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Boko haram logo

Boko Haram on the March

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Three incidents over the last three days suggest that Boko Haram is becoming more and more audacious and bold in its attacks, and that the situation is spiraling out of control. On Sunday, Boko Haram fighters orchestrated a prison break that freed over 130 inmates and compatriots. On Monday, a suicide attack killed dozens of shia worshippers. And yesterday, Boko Haram fighters took control of commercial town, including a large cement factory, renamed the town, and are now effectively holding thousands of residents hostage. The Nigerian government very clearly does not have the situation anywhere close to being under control.  Two stories: (The Premium Times and (AFP

Stat of the Day: 94,000 people die of snake bites every year, mostly in Southeast Asia. At the big American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene meeting, scientists announced a new method to deduce the species of snake based on DNA samples from the bite mark.

US Midterm Elections: The fate of the US senate is up for grabs.  We recommend FiveThirtyEight’s Live Blog for wonky and thoughtful coverage of the results. Stay tuned over the next few days  for analysis of the implications of this election for US foreign policy and international development.


Thousands of people in Sierra Leone are being forced to violate Ebola quarantines to find food because deliveries are not reaching them, aid agencies said. (AP

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim Tuesday urged Asia to send trained health workers to Ebola-stricken West Africa, warning the focus on stricter border control was not the solution. (Yahoo

From using Bitcoins to fundraise, to adopting new strategies to prevent malaria victims appearing to be Ebola cases, to working with new partners – aid agencies in West Africa are learning to adapt fast. (IRIN

Thirty-nine people who travelled on buses with a toddler who died from Ebola in Mali are still being sought for checks, although the country is believed to be free of the disease, the World Health Organization said. (Reuters

Guinean authorities say they are planning to move the country’s main Ebola treatment center to a larger site. The center has been overwhelmed by new cases in the past month. (VOA


International envoys tried Tuesday to resolve Burkina Faso’s political crisis, with the specter of a power vacuum looming after the country’s longtime president fled last week. (AP

Zambia’s acting president on Tuesday rescinded his decision to dismiss the ruling party’s chief in a bid to defuse a political conflict that triggered overnight riots. (AP

Several hundred magistrates in the Democratic Republic of Congo began an “indefinite” strike over pay. (Yahoo

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir was in Khartoum for talks with his Sudanese counterpart on Tuesday after a new flare-up of fighting in his country’s 11-month civil war. (Yahoo

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court said they want to put Côte d’Ivoire’s former president and another suspect alleged to be one of his key supporters on trial together on charges of involvement in deadly violence that erupted after the country’s 2010 presidential elections. (AP

The UN refugee agency on Tuesday voiced alarm at violence raging in a sprawling complex of refugee camps in northwestern Kenya that has left eight dead in the past week. (AFP

At least one Democratic Republic of Congo soldier was killed in clashes with a Ugandan rebel group blamed for massacres at a national park in the country’s remote north east, the U.N. peacekeeping mission said. (Reuters

Aid and some small harvests have helped stave off a feared famine in South Sudan, but any more fighting there could still leave millions facing severe hunger next year, a senior World Food Programme official said. (Reuters


There is still not an effective or united Palestinian government in place in Gaza and unless stability is achieved rapidly, another conflict will engulf the territory, a senior United Nations official said. (Reuters

Iraq’s reckless spending on its battle against Islamic State, including over $1 billion on Shi’ite militias accused of human rights abuses, is undermining efforts to keep the country functioning, the finance minister said. (Reuters

A Human Rights Watch report says Kurdish children between the ages of 14 – 16 were tortured and abused while detained by the Islamic State militant group in Syria. (VOA


Thai authorities have distributed hundreds of assault rifles to village volunteers in the insurgency-battered south, in a move seemingly at odds with a pledge to find peace to a decade-long conflict within a year. (AFP

India on Tuesday ordered that Delhi’s legislative assembly be dissolved for a new election after the three main political parties failed to form a government this year for a city of nearly 25 million people. (AP

People in northern Afghanistan describe how increasingly extreme weather patterns are making their lives harder every year, they map out many of the symptoms of climate change. As a new UN report warns that “irreversible” climate change is affecting more people than ever, these Afghans are on the front line. (IRIN

Thailand’s military government appointed a committee to draft a new constitution on Tuesday in a move seen aimed at preventing ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies from returning to power. (Reuters

Sri Lanka confirmed that at least 10 people died and 28 are still missing from a mudslide at a tea plantation last week, as officials began using voting and school records to count how many more people may be buried under the mud. (AP

As the number of ethnic Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar hits record levels, the prospects for a lasting settlement of the crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine State look bleak. (IRIN

The Americas

Mexican police detained Tuesday a fugitive ex-mayor and his wife accused of ordering a police attack that left six people dead and 43 college students missing since last month. (AP

Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro announces he will raise the minimum wage by 15% to counteract an inflation rate of more than 60%. (BBC


Global tax reform is on the agenda at the G20 in Brisbane to prevent aggressive tax avoidance, but developing countries are being excluded from decision-making. DAWNser Rosalina Press reports in the Guardian

More than sexual exploitation, human trafficking is forced labor (GlobalPost

The painfully obvious Core Humanitarian Standards highlight a humanitarian system that’s out of touch (MSF UK

What If We Had a Safe and Natural Way to Capture and Store Carbon? (CGD

My Two Big Worries about the World Bank (CGD

Where’s the evidence that land grabs are good for economic progress? (The Guardian

Ending Violence Against Women – A Global Responsibility (Inter Press Service

U-report Liberia Launches in Westpoint – Keep Chillin at 8737 (Stories of UNICEF Innovation

“Shocking” Report On Flu Vaccine Is Neither Shocking Nor Correct (Forbes

Seven myths about disasters (Trust

The dilemmas of Ebola, and an African state on the edge of genocide (Devpolicy Blog


More than two-thirds of the investments made by the private sector arm of the UK’s aid programme last year were channelled through “notoriously secretive” tax havens, according to a report that calls on European development agencies to be more transparent and accountable in their business dealings. (Guardian

 A new report published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) shows that nine out of 10 cases of journalist killings go unpunished. The report found that between 2004 and 2013, 370 journalists were murdered “in direct retaliation for their work” and that in 90 percent of these cases there was total impunity – “no arrests, no prosecutions, no convictions.” (IPS

The Gates Foundation’s spending on fighting hunger overwhelmingly goes to NGOs and consortiums based in the global north. Only around 10% of nearly 3 billion in Grants has been spent in Africa according to new research.  (GRAIN

The U.N. Refugee Agency Tuesday launched an ambitious campaign to wipe out statelessness in the next decade with the goal of preventing millions from spending their entire lives without legal documentation. (AP

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Liberia WFP

The Ebola-Hunger Nexus

The danger stemming from the ebola crisis in west Africa is hazardous beyond simply the immediate threat of contracting the deadly disease. Rather, the social and economic consequences of this emergency are widespread and is affecting the economies of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. People are out of work, and food prices have skyrocketed in some regions. This fascinating video from the World Food Program demonstrates the economic affects of the ebola outbreak as it relates to food prices, food availability and the prospect of hunger.

It’s an angle of this crisis that is rarely explored by the media, but is critically acute for people living the region.

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FP 2020

New Data on Access to Family Planning

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Report: Access to Modern Contraceptives Family Is Not Spreading Quickly Enough… “The number of women and girls accessing contraceptives in developing countries rose by 8.4 million last year, but efforts to bring family planning to millions of women who have not been reached are not moving fast enough, according to a report published on Monday. The Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) report, the group’s first set of annual data since its formation two years ago, found that the number of women and girls with access to contraceptives was still below FP2020’s projected benchmark of 9.4 million. However, widening access to family planning services helped avert 125,000 maternal deaths last year, compared with 120,000 in 2012, and avert 24m unsafe abortions, compared with 23m in the previous year. (The Guardian

The Report

Burkina Faso’s interim military leaders have two weeks to give up power or face sanction from the African Union. A quote from an African Union’s Peace and Security Council: “The African Union is convinced that the change has been against democracy. However, we know that popular pressure led to the resignation of the president. Those circumstances were taken by the armed forces to get into power, but it originated from the people…Having taken note of the origin of the popular revolt which led the military to assume power, we determined a period of two weeks, and after that period we are going to apply sanctions.” (AFP

Hey Americans: Your Midterm elections are today. Vote Please!


A Sierra Leone doctor died on Monday from Ebola, making him the fifth local doctor in the West African state to have succumbed to the disease that has taken a heavy toll on the country’s medical personnel. (Reuters

Citizens of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will need a visa to enter Singapore as part of measures against the spread of Ebola, the city-state’s health ministry said.

The importance of western aid in helping to build effective health systems in the developing world has been highlighted by a respected international think tank finding that Sierra Leone, an early source of the Ebola outbreak, was the country least likely to be able to deal with the virus. (Guardian


Burkina Faso’s interim President Isaac Zida said on Monday that the army would cede power to a transition government headed by a consensual leader, in a bid to calm accusations that it had seized power in a military coup. (Reuters

At least eight people have been killed in fighting between South Sudanese refugees at a camp in northern Kenya, according to an aid agency official. (VOA

Scientists in Kenya say that next year, a new malaria vaccine will be available that could add an important component to malaria control and potentially eradicate the disease. (VOA

The United Nations and the European Union have warned that a dispute between Somalia’s president and prime minister could inflame tensions and undermine the country’s recovery from more than two decades of conflict. (Reuters

Mali’s government has cancelled about a dozen petroleum exploration agreements in its Taoudeni and Nara basins awarded by a previous administration, citing various offences by firms who held the concessions, a cabinet statement said. (Reuters

UN peacekeepers and the Congolese authorities must act urgently to protect civilians from a spate of sporadic attacks by armed rebels which has left at least 100 dead in the last month said Amnesty International.

Namibia’s Supreme Court on Monday found that HIV-positive women were forcibly sterilised after giving birth — a decision hailed by activists as a victory for women throughout Africa. (AFP


An inside look at how ISIS smuggles oil from Syria to Turkey and sells it on the black market. (BuzzFeed

Rescuers pulled 24 bodies from the sea at the mouth of Istanbul’s Bosphorus strait on Monday and rescued seven people after the sinking of a boat carrying migrants including children, the Turkish Coastguard Command said. (Reuters

Iraq boosted security Monday amid fears of the Islamic State group launching major attacks on Shiite pilgrims flocking to the shrine city of Karbala as further reports emerged of mass killings. (Yahoo

The Islamic State jihadist group killed at least 36 more people in its execution campaign targeting a tribe that fought against it, an Iraqi tribal leader and an officer said Monday. (AFP


The Supreme Court of Bangladesh on Monday upheld the death sentence of an Islamist leader for atrocities committed during the war of independence from Pakistan more than four decades ago. (VOA

When early warning systems fail, death comes quickly to unsuspecting victims of natural disasters. It is a reality that millions of Sri Lankans have experienced repeatedly in the last decade, and yet those responsible for preventing human fatalities continue to make the same mistakes. (IPS

Thailand’s military government vowed on Monday to bring peace to the Muslim-dominated south within a year, despite stalled peace talks aimed at ending an insurgency that has cost thousands of lives in the past decade. (Reuters

The Americas

The death of 11 babies over three days in October at the Dominican Republic’s Robert Reid Cabral hospital brought what some say is long-overdue attention to one of the country’s most important medical institutions. It also raises questions about overall quality of health care for the poor in the Dominican Republic. (AP

Argentina’s tax office has stripped US multinational company Procter & Gamble of its registration, for alleged fraud, the office announced Sunday. (AFP

Bolivia’s ombudsman says he is alarmed at a rise in sexual violence against young girls, after a four-year-old was raped and murdered. (BBC

Cuba is asking international firms to invest more than $8 billion in the island as it attempts to kick start a centrally planned economy starved for cash and hamstrung by inefficiency. (AP


Erica Chenoweth is a pioneering academic whose groundbreaking research on the strategic use of non-violence showed that movements that use non-violent tactics when fighting for the overthrow of a regime are twice as likely to succeed as movements that use violence as a tactic. (Global Dispatches Podcast )

Eliminating malaria: how close can we get? (The Guardian

Learning by asking: a modest proposal to engage those who did the doing (Innovations for Poverty Action

Meet TB’s new partner in crime: Diabetes (Humanosphere

Let’s all eat cake: The terrible inefficiency of inequality (From Poverty to Power

#SwaziJustice: A Tipping Point For Africa’s Most Quietly Repressive Nation (Okayafrica.

Five ways to make labour markets work better for workers (ODI

The Irresistible Attraction of Radical Islam (IPS

Australian aid for the Gavi Vaccine Alliance — additional yes, more no (DevPolicy

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