Foreign aid
Angus Deaton won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Economics for his research on the effects of foreign aid on economic development in developing countries. The most important message to be taken from his work is that foreign aid is only one small piece of the equation. To say that foreign aid directly translates into economic growth is an oversimplification. Without transparent and effective governmental institutions and sound economic policies, research shows that aid is not always effective.

Foreign aid works when all of these different variables come together. It’s a simple equation. It has become popular sentiment to denounce aid as ineffective, based on specific case studies where all of these variables were not in place and results fell short of their targets. While not all aid is effective, this rhetoric flies in the face of all of the progress that has been made because of aid. The truth is that foreign aid works when all of the variables — effective institutions, policies, and transparency — are in place.

Aid has been especially effective in improving health in Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Malaria rates dropped by 51 percent between 2000 and 2012 after 300 million bed nets were given out by the World Health Organization (WHO). Ten million HIV-infected individuals are now receiving life-saving medicine. Tuberculosis rates have dropped by 45 percent since 1990, and 122 million children’s lives have been saved since 1990. This progress is largely due to the work of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), which has immunized 580 million children around the world. Extreme poverty has been cut in half since 1990, and African poverty rates have dropped by 10 percent since 1999.

These are huge success stories that deserve recognition. Foreign aid works. Not only does it work, but it is also in the interest of U.S. national security. Former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge said, “The programs supported by the International Affairs Budget are as essential to our national security as defense programs. Development and diplomacy protect our nation by addressing the root causes of terrorism and conflict.”

The questions asked in U.S. policymaking circles today shouldn’t be whether to cut aid or not; the question that needs to be asked is how to increase the efficacy of aid and to grow upon our successes. Cutting the International Affairs Budget would discredit all of the hard work and successes that have come out of these operations in recent decades.

Josh Ward

Photo: Flickr

Somalia
One of the world’s leading organizations in the fight for global health has just begun to carry out a nationwide campaign in Somalia to fight cholera. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, issued a press release on March 15 announcing its comprehensive strategy to stop the spread of cholera among Somali citizens. This Gavi cholera vaccine campaign seeks to save potentially thousands of lives in the drought-stricken African country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the southern half of the continent (where Somalia resides) is home to the bulk of cholera cases reported worldwide, and those cases have a higher likelihood of causing death than in other regions. This is primarily due to the lack of access to safe, clean water and sanitation as the disease-causing bacteria, Vibrio cholerae, thrives in public water sources and is spread through the waste products of those infected.

The situation in Somalia has been worsened by an ongoing harsh drought, which has forced people to use contaminated water and has hastened the spread of the disease.

Notorious for its contagiousness, cholera infected over 170,000 people globally in 2015. Year to date, more than 10,500 cases of cholera have been reported across 12 regions of Somalia, resulting in nearly 270 fatalities. The spread of the epidemic has been swift, with 400 new cases appearing in a single day in early March.

The Gavi cholera vaccine campaign plans to reduce these alarming numbers by delivering 953,000 doses of oral vaccine to a population of more than 450,000 people at risk of being infected. Administration of the vaccines will be completed by the Somali government, focusing on the regions of Somalia with the highest concentration of cases: Banadir, Beledweyne, and Kismayo. The doses will be administered over two waves, the first taking place from March 15-19, and the second from April 18-22.

The campaign marks an alliance between the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and Gavi, who has provided the vaccines themselves as well as an additional $550,000 to support the program.

“Cholera is a major health issue in Somalia. The current drought has worsened the situation for many. Therefore we’re very glad to have the support of Gavi to implement the first oral cholera vaccine campaign in Somalia,” said Dr. Ghulam Popal, Somalia’s WHO representative.

Recognizing that cholera is not bound by political borders, Gavi is also launching a simultaneous vaccine campaign of 475,000 doses in South Sudan. This latest campaign is another step in realizing Gavi’s continuous mission to save lives and protect the health of all people in lower-income countries.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr