Category: Grantmaking

British aid to help vaccinate more than 400 million children a year against polio

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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.

[ReliefWeb]

White House won’t move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts

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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.”

 [The Hill]

Tackling the issue that 883 million people lack water and sanitation

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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]

How a community brought down child mortality by 95%

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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.

[NPR]

Google offers tech aid to take on humanitarian crises

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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 humanitarian crises.

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 globe.”

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 to humanity.”

[Cheddar]

Polio vaccine now introduced worldwide

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By the end of 2017 Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, backed by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Norway and the United Kingdom, had helped more than 75 million children to be immunized against polio with IPV. (Nepal was the first Gavi-supported country to introduce the vaccine in September 2014.) Today, every country worldwide has now introduced the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV)  which protects children against polio.

“Introducing IPV into routine immunization programs is a critical milestone on our journey towards a polio-free world,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization and Chair of the GPEI Polio Oversight Board. “It’s also vital that we use the infrastructure that has built up around polio immunization programs to ensure that all children receive other nationally-recommended vaccines. Achieving universal health coverage means making sure that all children, rich and poor, receive the same protection from vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Polio is a highly contagious viral infection, mainly affecting children under the age of five, which can lead to paralysis or even death. Only three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan – remain endemic to wild poliovirus. Thanks to global efforts and vaccination, since the beginning of 2019 only fifteen cases of wild poliovirus have been recorded in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Moreover, Nigeria, the third endemic country could be declared polio-free by the end of the year. Polio cases have fallen by 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases to 33 reported cases in 2018.

[GAVI Alliance]

Poorest countries bear the brunt as aid levels fall for second successive year

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Experts have warned that the fight against global poverty has taken a backward step after new figures show foreign aid has fallen for a second successive year. Aid levels dropped last year by 2.7% from 2017, with the poorest countries worst hit, according to figures published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Bilateral aid – direct, country-to-country assistance – to the least developed countries fell by 3% in 2018, with support to the African continent down 4% and humanitarian assistance dropping by 8%.

Toni Pearce, Oxfam’s head of advocacy, said: “The overall fall in aid globally is a worrying trend that risks exacerbating poverty and inequality worldwide. Cutting aid to the poorest and most vulnerable countries is a step backwards in the fight to end extreme poverty.

“With refugee numbers at their highest since the second world war, disasters like Cyclone Idai devastating lives, and food crises looming in Yemen and elsewhere, the fall in humanitarian aid is particularly alarming. Vulnerable people across the world rely on this essential lifeline when disaster hits.”

Angel Gurría, the OECD secretary general, also expressed concern: “This picture of stagnating public aid is particularly worrying as it follows data showing that private development flows are also declining. Donor countries are not living up to their 2015 pledge to ramp up development finance, and this bodes badly for us being able to achieve the 2030 sustainable development goals.”

Only five of the 30 development assistance committee (DAC) members met or exceeded the longstanding aid target of 0.7% of gross national income target: Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the UK. Turkey and the UAE donated 1.10% and 0.95% of their gross national income.

[The Guardian]

Humanitarian groups say sanctions placed on North Korea have created complications to secure funds and deliver assistance to the country

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Humanitarian groups are continuing to face complications, including funding shortfalls, when delivering aid to North Korea as the U.S. maintains its “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign on the country.

In order to deliver assistance in North Korea, U.S. charities need to secure approvals from the U.S. Commerce Department, the Treasury Department, and the U.N. Security Council sanctions committee, and American relief workers are required to obtain special travel passports from the State Department to travel to North Korea, according Foreign Policy.

With an estimated 11 million men, women and children lacking sufficient nutritious food, clean drinking water, or access to basic health and sanitation services, in 2018 North Korea received less than half of the $111 million that international humanitarian agencies deemed necessary.

Roy Wadia, spokesperson for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) at the Asia and Pacific Regional Office in Bangkok, said 1.4 million people in North Korea, including 190,000 kindergarten children and 85,000 acutely malnourished children, did not receive food assistance last year due to the shortage of funds.

“If humanitarian programs were to be forced to further scale back or draw down completely, the impact would be devastating on the lives of millions of vulnerable people, jeopardizing the access and results gained overtime,” said Wadia.

[VoA]

Humanitarian investing gathers speed at Davos

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Finding ways to channel more private investment into humanitarian settings was a hot topic this year at Davos — the World Economic Forum’s 48th annual meeting in Switzerland — which included the tentative launch of a development impact bond to create jobs for Syrian refugees.

The IKEA Foundation said it will provide €6.8 million ($7.7 million) to fund the outcomes of the bond, which has been put together by impact finance firm KOIS, and aims to help up to 12,000 Syrian refugees and host populations in Jordan and Lebanon earn a living. 

New research by British think tank the Overseas Development Institute shows that job creation activities have the potential to offer a financial and social return on investment. But some delegates expressed reservations about the role the private sector should play in financing humanitarian efforts.

Mark Lowcock, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that while he sees a big opportunity for the private sector to come in where there are “investable activities,” it is important not to assume too much from investors and businesses that are ultimately profit-driven.

The development impact bond is part of a broader effort to attract new financing for humanitarian efforts in the face of an increasing number of protracted crises. Between 2005-2017, the number of active crises nearly doubled from 16 to 30 and the average length of active United Nations interagency appeals also increased, according to UNOCHA. Despite these growing needs, donor financing has not kept pace. Experts also say funding needs to be longer-term and to embrace the humanitarian-development continuum in order to reflect the extended nature of the crises.

Per Heggenes, CEO at the IKEA Foundation, said that financial tools such as development impact bonds could help bridge the funding gap. “The needs are increasing, and we can’t expect it all to be covered by donors; we have to look to involve the private sector partly on the funding side but also [for] their knowledge and networks which can be more valuable than just money.”

Speaking during a session Tuesday, Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said aid actors tend to see fragile states as “places where it is impossible to do something.” While many organizations are working on income-generating activities, they tend to be “left alone by the international aid system,” he said.

[Devex]

Warren Buffett following through on his Giving Pledge

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Warren Buffett just donated $3.4 billion to five charitable foundations. The massive philanthropic effort is a part of Buffett’s lifetime pledge to divest part of his stock in Berkshire Hathaway each year.

Buffett, 87, announced the pledge in 2006. His donations — which total about $31 billion to date — go to five organizations including the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named for his wife and run by his children, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In 2010, Buffett partnered with Gates to create the Giving Pledge, a public commitment through which billionaires commit to donating half of their wealth to philanthropic causes of their choice. As of May 2018, there are 183 pledgers from 22 countries. The list includes the cofounders of Airbnb, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, former New York City mayor and Bloomberg CEO Michael Bloomberg, and Oracle founder Larry Ellison.

Buffett is the world’s third-wealthiest person with a net worth of about $83 billion, trailing only Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Gates. On Monday, it was announced that Bezos is the richest person in “modern history.” His worth recently hit $150 billion. Bezos has yet to sign onto Gates’s and Buffett’s pledge.

“I’m not an enthusiast for dynastic wealth, particularly when 6 billion others have much poorer hands than we do in life,” Buffett famously said in 2006.

He updated his pledge in 2010, writing: “More than 99% of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death. Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day.”

[Yahoo News]