Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called for speeding up the distribution of coronavirus vaccines in poorer nations, arguing the United States and global economies are threatened by the impact of covid-19 on the developing world.
While the United States and other rich countries are hoping for a return to normalcy as soon as this fall, many parts of the developing world are not on pace to have widespread vaccination of their populations until 2023 or 2024. Those countries have largely suffered more devastating economic impacts from Covid-19, in part because they do not have the fiscal capacity to authorize the levels of emergency spending approved in the United States.
In prepared remarks Monday to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs ahead of meetings this week of international finance officials, Yellen called on richer countries to step up both economic and public health assistance to poorer nations reeling from covid. She noted as many as 150 million people across the world risk falling into extreme poverty as a result of the crisis.
“This would be a profound economic tragedy for those countries, one we should care about. But, that’s obvious. What’s less obvious — but equally true — is that this divergence would also be a problem for America,” Yellen said. “Our first task must clearly be stopping the virus by ensuring that vaccinations, testing and therapeutics are available as widely as possible.”
[The Washington Post]
In May 2019, when MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, signed the Giving Pledge—a commitment by some of the world’s wealthiest couples and individuals to give away their fortunes—she made an additional vow to swiftly dispense of her billions: “I won’t wait,” she wrote.
Based on the past 18 months, we should take her at her word. The nature and rapid pace of Scott’s giving are nearly unheard-of in the philanthropic world.
“She’s disrupting the norms around billionaire philanthropy by moving quickly, not creating a private foundation for her great-grandchildren to give the money away,” says Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Still, Scott is accumulating wealth faster than she can give it away. Her fortune, totaling $60.9 billion, has grown by $23.8 billion this year, making her the world’s 18th richest person.
The COVID-19 crisis, as we well know, has exacerbated inequalities that already existed. Scott is one of the few beneficiaries of the pandemic to acknowledge—even indirectly—this ugly truth; that she’s gotten richer because of a crisis that’s devastated so many.
She says as much in her Medium post: “This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling. Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”
Scott could let her money do all the talking, but she seems determined insert herself into the conversation about mass wealth and inequality.
The costs of responding to coronavirus are challenging healthcare systems and governments in some of the world’s richest countries. In poorer countries and war zones, as well as host countries for refugees and other people on the move, the costs could be overwhelming.
In the most vulnerable countries, where public healthcare is weak at the best of times, adding to public debt is not an attractive solution. The numbers that really matter are for grants – to governments, aid groups, or service providers. Aid funding can pay for more staff, treatment facilities, drugs, and protective equipment.
Some of that money will have to be redirected from existing pots of funding: for example in Afghanistan, a contingency fund managed by the UN has allocated $1.5 million for corona preparedness. The Global Fund for HIV, TB and malaria – a large multi-donor aid pool – will allow some funds to be redirected to coronavirus. The UN’s global emergency response fund, the CERF, has put up $15 million. Aid budgets may have to be adjusted in the coming months more radically as the pandemic evolves, potentially diverting spending from other priorities.
It’s likely to become a major area of international aid spending.
The WHO had, as of 1 February, estimated new global spending requirements of $675 million for three months of “priority public health measures”, uses a three-step process:
- It ranks 194 countries on five elements of preparedness and response needs: community transmission, localized transmission, imported cases, high risk of imported cases, preparedness.
- On average, it proposes a country would need roughly $65 million in extra expenditure.
- Then, the document tabulates the amount of foreign aid needed proportional to the country’s readiness: “category 5” countries would need 100 percent of the spending package and “category 1” countries can look after themselves.
As for its own role, the biggest donors to the WHO are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the US and UK governments – all three paying over $7 million.
[The New Humanitarian]
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos, has
divested herself of about $400 million worth of the Amazon stock she received
as part of the couple’s divorce settlement — potentially providing the
wherewithal for the charitable activities she’s planning.
no indication what the proceeds were used for, but shortly after the divorce
was announced, MacKenzie Bezos said she signed the Giving Pledge, which commits her to giving half
her fortune to philanthropic causes.
Bill Gates and
Warren Buffett may have pledged to give most of their wealth away to charity
but the billionaire philanthropists appear to be engaged in a losing battle
with that as latest figures show their wealth over the last decade has in fact
In August 2010,
Gates and Buffett spearheaded a movement of the U.S.’ richest people to promise
to give away most of their wealth to address problems in society. Known as the
Giving Pledge, it now includes 200 people around the world with the aim of
setting a “new standard of generosity among the ultra-wealthy.”
But The Bloomberg Billionaires Index released on Friday shows that the Microsoft co-founder can’t outrun the growth of his fortune, which is worth $22.7 billion more than it was last year, putting his total net worth at $113 billion. (Back in 2010, he was listed as having a net worth of $53 billion.)
Meanwhile, Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, according to the latest Bloomberg list, is worth $89 billion. (In 2010, he was listed as having a net worth of $47 billion.)
That the billionaires have been generous is indisputable. According to one estimate by Vox, published in April 2019, the founder of Microsoft had given away more than $45 billion through The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, mostly to causes working to combat global poverty.
Buffett had made charitable contributions of $27.54 billion in the 10 years to 2017, according to USA Today.
UK International Development Secretary Alok Sharma has pledged new aid support to help vaccinate more than 400 million children a year against polio.
- UK support will help vaccinate more than 750 children a minute against polio in developing countries around the world
- The UK package of up to £400 million will help support 20 million health workers and volunteers, via the Global Polio Eradication Initiative
- Three countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria – are still not officially polio free
This funding which runs from 2020 to 2023 will help buy tens of millions doses of polio vaccine every year. Without this new support, tens of thousands of children would be at risk of paralysis from the disease, which leaves many unable to walk for the rest of their lives.
Sharma said: “We have made tremendous progress to fight this
debilitating disease, but our work must continue if we are to eradicate it forever.
… If we were to pull back on immunizations, we could see 200,000 new cases each
year in a decade. This would not only be a tragedy for the children affected
and their families, but also for the world. We cannot let this happen.”
Thanks to global efforts, backed by the UK, more than 18 million people are
currently walking who would otherwise have been paralyzed by the virus.
The White House will no longer move forward with a proposal to cut billions of dollars in foreign aid that was allocated in the latest congressional budget deal, according to a senior administration official.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were among those encouraging President Trump to at least scale back the cuts. Democrats and Republicans alike had expressed concerns.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close Trump ally, had called the proposed cuts “concerning,” while Democrats such as House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) decried what she called “the Trump administration’s continued efforts to illegally withhold funding that Congress has approved.”
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the chair of the House Budget Committee, celebrated the decision as “a win,” tweeting “The Constitution grants Congress the power of the purse, and we will not cede that authority to this Administration and their constant executive overreach.”
What does it mean to give one person access to clean water or safe sanitation? For them and their family, it means the world: dignity, health, more time to work, study, or care for others.
In a new report, Running Dry, factors are identified as to what holds back action in providing clean, affordable water and safe, dignified sanitation reaching all citizens living in urban areas.
– Utilities are often seen as the reason why water access is not universal, because they have failed to extend their networks to keep pace with the expanding urban areas which they serve. But utilities can be supported to reach the poorest.
– Residents without piped water close to their houses almost certainly have to buy it at a much higher price on the black market. Proper connections, from the main system, not only save under-served residents money, but ensure that the utilities providing the water can be financially viable. – Community ownership is traditionally seen as the goal in development – but in urban water and sanitation, it can be problematic. To manage effective distribution of water across an urban area, a single institution must have oversight and accountability for managing the entire system.
– In cramped urban settlements where the poorest and most marginalized live, there simply isn’t the space – nor money – for each household to have their own toilet. High quality shared sanitation can be a useful stepping stone to give residents immediate benefits.
– If sanitation was just a construction issue, the world would likely have tackled it by now. But in urban areas, just as important as building toilets is figuring out what to do with the human waste. Much more needs to be done to improve the business of removing sanitation waste from the environment.
[Excerpts of article by Neil Jeffery – Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor]
Imagine a world in which pregnant women and little kids get regular home
visits from a health worker — and free health care. That’s the ground-breaking
approach that’s being adopted in one of the world’s poorest countries: the West
African nation of Mali.
A nurse from the country’s cadre of community health workers visits each of
the homes in her designated area, which contains roughly 1,000 people, at least
twice a month. She diagnoses, treats and refer patients. It’s part of a free
door-to-door health-care plan that began in 2008 as a trial by the government.
When data from seven-year trial was compiled by a team including researchers from the University of California, they found that child mortality for kids under age 5 dropped by an astounding 95%, according to findings published last year in BMJ Global Health. The population in the study area was 77,132 in 2013. During the seven years of the study, child mortality rates for that demographic fell from 154 deaths for every 1,000 live births in Yirimadio, among the worst in the world, to 7 – comparable to the 6.5 figure in the U.S.
And now the program will be extended to the entire country. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta announced a target date of 2022 for nationwide coverage — at a cost of $120 million. This localized, free health care for pregnant women and children under age 5 could help the West African nation meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. A key factor will be the provision of community health care workers who’ll be trained to do the door-to-door work.
The decision has earned praise from policy experts and patients alike. “This is long overdue,” says Dr. Eric Buch, a medical doctor and professor of health policy and management at South Africa’s University of Pretoria, who was not involved in the study. “Free health care for mothers and children under 5 is a very effective way of reducing mortality, and it could have a huge impact.”
The key to long-term success is long-term funding. Mali’s planned reforms
rely on external funding from bodies such as the Clinton Health Access
Initiative to supplement government spending. But there is no guarantee this
funding source will last in future decades, and Mali will need to find a
long-term solution that may involve restructuring its budget.
Frontier technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence have
revolutionized Google’s business, and now the tech company is looking to share
the wealth with those that need it most: people on the front lines of
From among 2,600 applicants, 20 winning nonprofits and social enterprises
walked away from Google’s AI Impact Challenge with access to a pool of $25
million in funding, expertise from “Googlers,” and a shot to mitigate
humanitarian challenges in their local communities.
“We want to see if we can help make the world a better place by
bringing the best of Google,” said Jacquelline Fuller, vice president of
Google, and president of the company’s humanitarian arm, Google.org. “We
look at issues and see where do we think we could have a differential impact.
And so some of those areas include economic opportunity, the future of work,
thinking about how to bring digital skilling to millions across the
This year’s winners
include the American University of Beirut, which is developing a tool to
help Middle Eastern and African farmers save water; Eastern Health of
Australia, which uses machine learning to identify patterns in suicide attempts
for more effective prevention; and Hand Talk, a startup that is using AI to
translate Portuguese into sign language for disadvantaged, deaf Brazilians.
Fuller said the project helps unite tech companies, civil society, and
governments to ensure “everyone has access to the benefits of this
technology, and that we are applying it to the problems that really matter most