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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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IPCC synthesis report

3 reasons to read the Latest Big UN Climate Report

For the past 13 months, the scientists and experts from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been pouring over the latest data that reflects the most up-to-date understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change. This week marks a big inflection point in this process with the publication of a so-called Synthesis Report to express the “current expert consensus about climate change and its consequences.” 

The report is more than just a cut-and-paste summary of the previous five IPCC reports, over 800 scientists’ viewpoints, and several thousand scientific papers. Rather, this paper provides a basis for action by policymakers and strikes a stronger tone for climate action than the scientific community has ever done before. Here are three reasons why you should add the report to your reading list this week:

Sets the stage for Paris

The document will serve as the foundation for any agreement that will ratified by member countries in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations.  Countries will convene in Lima this December, but the ultimate deadline will be at the summit in Paris at the end of 2015. In other words, the Synthesis Report is the voice of science in what world leaders hope will be a new global treaty on climate change.  If policy makers want science to drive this discussion, the Synthesis Report should be their climate action bible. 

From the tone of the final text, the scientists have done their best to address the economic factors weighing on politicians who may be opposed to costly mitigation efforts — a point that has held back negotiations up until now. In fact, the report points to the exact opposite. There is also a much more clear emphasis on the ‘big picture’ in this Synthesis Report compared to previous IPCC reports. The Report basically predicts that there will be major global food crises if global warming is not addressed in the shirt term (instead of waiting until 2020, when the Paris treaty goes into enforcement.) Demonstrating the stark connection between wheat production problems in the U.S. or Russia to increases in food prices and civil unrest in countries dependent on food imports, like the Middle East, central Africa, and small island developing states could force negotiators to come to the table with more conciliatory positions. 

Ending the debate

The final text essentially says the IPCC is 95% certain of man’s contribution to climate change. One paragraph states that if fossil fuels continue to be burned, causing emissions of greenhouse gases, there will be “further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.” It is fairly obvious from comments coming out of Copenhagen, where the report was finalized, that any information indicating the human role in contributing to climate change has been put in for political reasons and aimed towards countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia where there are powerful pockets of politicians that still doubt the human impact on climate. If there was any lingering doubt about the causes of climate change, they should now be fully put to rest. 

Voice of developing countries

For years developing countries and their booming populations have banded together and fought a hard battle in the climate negotiations.  The topic of loss and damages, the idea that developed countries should compensate developing countries in some way for the devastation and natural disasters the former’s actions have caused, has been a recurring nightmare.  As India and Brazil have rapidly grown though, a new developing country voice has emerged. Though it seems as they are opposed to implementing the stark ‘carbon budget’ proposed by the IPCC because coal is cheap and facilitates faster economic growth, they also realize the need to make increased investments in renewable energy as developed countries drag their feet.

The report does show that developing regions of South Asia and Africa are bearing the brunt of higher temperatures more immediately than the developed countries, but developing countries are coming to the negotiating table with the knowledge that they need to do their part in limiting emissions as well.

Overall the Synthesis Report will be an interesting read on the nexus of the political and scientific and well worth the read just for that.  Its importance cannot be understated either, as we head into Paris in 2015 with coal, emissions, damages, and infrastructure adaptation in tow.  The 175 page report issued on Sunday could make the difference between keeping the world under 2°C, and avoiding a nightmare scenario that the report predicts will befall humanity should that target not be reached. 

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Erica Chenoweth

Episode 39: Erica Chenoweth

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. Her book, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Non-Violence, co-authored with Maria J. Stephan, provides an authoritative study of how and why non-violent movements succeed. Chenoweth discusses her book, some of the current uprisings she is studying and tells Mark how growing up in Dayton, Ohio during the crisis in the Balkans helped propel her to a career in international relations.


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Picture: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development

A Profoundly Worrying Climate Change Report

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The latest from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change offers the starkest warning yet of the social and economic consequences of failing to act on climate change. “The gathering risks of climate change are so profound that they could stall or even reverse generations of progress against poverty and hunger if greenhouse emissions continue at a runaway pace, according to a major new United Nations report. Despite growing efforts in many countries to tackle the problem, the global situation is becoming more acute as developing countries join the West in burning huge amounts of fossil fuels…Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year.”  (NYT

The Gates Foundation is Significantly Boosting Funding for Malaria… “Philanthropist Bill Gates says he wants to end malaria in his lifetime and will give more money toward that goal, part of his broader fight against tropical diseases that are getting unusual public attention because of the Ebola epidemic. In an interview with The Associated Press and in a speech Sunday at a global health conference in New Orleans, the Microsoft co-founder said his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would increase its malaria program budget by 30 percent, to more than $200 million per year. That’s on top of the foundation’s other donations to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” (ABC

Major Suicide Attack on the Pakistan-India Border…”At least 45 people were killed on Sunday when a suicide bomber blew himself up near the Pakistani-Indian border, police said, just after a daily ceremony when troops from both sides simultaneously lower the two nations’ flags. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was a response to the Pakistani army’s actions against their positions in tribal areas straddling Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.” (Reuters


Quarantines ordered by some US states for doctors and nurses returning from West African countries hit by Ebola have a “chilling effect” on aid work in those countries, aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has said. (Al Jazeera

This is what it’s like inside an ebola testing lab in Mali. (Quartz

Ebola is spreading up to nine times faster in parts of Sierra Leone than two months ago, a report by the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) said on Sunday. (AFP

Visiting Guéckédou, Guinea, where the unprecedented outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is believed to have started, the United Nations envoy coordinating the massive global crisis response said that while there are now “basically zero” cases in the town, the challenge will be to replicate the strategy to defeat the disease throughout the country and the wider region. (UN


Burkina Faso’s military has said it will install a transitional government, days after it seized power as President Blaise Compaore’s resigned. (BBC

The Malian military says two soldiers were killed by an explosive device in the country’s volatile north. (ABC )

A portrait of the hardships faced by African migrants in Russia (LAT


A gunman shot dead Sunday the head of a Yemeni liberal political party in Sanaa, his family said, as Al-Qaeda suspects killed 18 troops and captured 15 others further west. (AFP

1.9 million people are displaced in Iraq. (OCHA


Bangladesh has restored power in most of the country, a day after a transmission line bringing electricity from neighbouring India failed, causing a nationwide blackout, officials have said.  (Al Jazeera

Latin America

Haiti’s President Michel Martelly vowed Sunday to call elections early next year if a political impasse that saw long-delayed polls postponed last week forces him to rule by decree. (AFP


Ebola Outbreak Highlights Struggle for Science in Africa and Inequalities in Global Health Research (HuffPo

The Missing Campus Climate Debate (NYT

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Blaise Compaore Steps Down

One of the longest standing African leaders has bowed out, following intense public pressure for him to vacate power. After 27 years as head of state, Blaise Compaore has stepped down from the presidency of Burkina Faso. Popular discontent with Compaore’s plans to modify the constitution to allow him to run in the upcoming presidential election hit a fever pitch over the course of the last week. The groundswell of opposition to Compaore has been growing steadily over the course of the past year, but it was yesterday’s massive protests – which saw protesters take over the Parliament building and the national TV station, and during which at least four people were killed, and hundreds were injured – that tipped the balance, and forced Compaore to resign. In his statement today, Compaore said he decided to step down “in light of the severely deteriorated sociopolitical situation and the threat of division in our national army and out of a desire to preserve the peace.”

With the government and National Assembly dissolved, a potentially damaging and significant power vacuum emerged, though it was quickly filled by military chief General Honore Traore. In a news conference today, he said “Considering the urgency of saving the nation, I have decided that I will assume from this day the responsibility of the head of state [...] I undertake a solemn engagement to proceed without delay with consultations with all parties in the country so as to start the process of returning to the constitutional order as soon as possible.”

Burkina Faso’s military has now taken over the reins of power – not an ideal outcome for the protesters, who have been calling for democratic reform, not a military take-over of the state. Indeed, while Compaore’s statement called for elections within 90 days, General Traore has said that he intends on restoring constitutional order within 12 months. Following General Traore’s announcement one of the key opposition leaders, Zephyrin Diabre, said that it appears the military did what it had to do. He said he was “satisfied and now waiting for the transition to be put in place”, and that civilian leaders will soon begin discussions with the military. He also acknowledged that Compaore’s 90 day time frame for elections was “likely a bit short.”Meanwhile, an opposition MP, Blassé Ouédraogo, described the situation as “total confusion“.

The situation is still unfolding in real time. Compaore is rumored to be heading to the Ghanaian border, via a 20 vehicle convoy, though it is unclear what his destination is at this point. Ouagadougou is still reeling from the massive demonstrations that rocked the city this week, as the dust is – literally and figuratively – far from settled. What we know for sure is that the Burkinabe people toppled one of the African continent’s most long-standing leaders. That, in itself, is momentous. What happens next for Burkina Faso is unclear, but the history books will tell the story of how the people got rid of the man they thought was coopting their country. 

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