Global Poverty Good News

In the effort to eradicate global poverty, the sheer magnitude of the problem can be easily overwhelming. Often, the pervasiveness of it is perceived as too great to be solved, which can lead to a kind of hopeless apathy in people who might otherwise be mobilized to action. This perception is understandable, considering the ubiquity of stories about abject poverty that dominate coverage of the matter by various media outlets. Indeed, only hearing bad news makes the prospect of ever beating global poverty bleak, if not impossible. For this reason, while it is important to be aware of the problems that exist, it is equally necessary to hear about the successes that have been made in fighting global poverty. Balancing the good and bad news is a healthy way to both educate people and encourage progress.

For that reason, here are five pieces of good news regarding global poverty:

1. According to the World Bank, almost 1.1 billion people have ascended from extreme poverty since 1990.
2. In 2014, half of all Sub-Saharan African countries had reduced their maternal mortality rates by at least 40%.
3. In 2016 alone, USAID provided food assistance to more than 53 million people in 47 countries.
4. In collaboration with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), USAID has helped 11.5 million people attain live-saving AIDS treatment.
5. Literacy rates have increased by 33% around the globe in the last 25 years, with enrollment in primary school increasing threefold in that same timeframe.

These are not small victories. They are the result of improved economic conditions and innovative healthcare technologies that, in turn, were made possible by the deliberate decision of the developed world to solve extreme poverty. On a larger scale, global poverty has been cut dramatically in recent decades. In 1990, nearly half of all people living in developing countries lived off of $1.25 per day. That number was reduced to an impressive 15% in 2015.

This giant leap in progress is thanks in large part to the establishment of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which made global poverty a priority of U.S. foreign policy. Bearing these morsels of global poverty good news in mind, nearly 800 million people still live in extreme poverty. Efforts to alleviate this problem cannot be allowed to let up, especially not for the belief of it being a hopeless endeavor. These triumphs are proof that the concerted efforts of the international community to combat global poverty have positively impacted millions of people thus far. The so-called lofty goal of eradicating poverty is far from impossible.

Micaela Fischer

Photo: Flickr

AIDS Prevention in AfricaDespite its relatively low prevalence in the U.S., AIDS continues to be a seemingly uncontrollable global epidemic. But nowhere else on earth suffers as much from this tragic disease as Sub-Saharan Africa, where 69 percent of all those infected reside. Although poor sanitation, lack of preventative treatments and education are doubtlessly responsible, the inaccessibility of healthcare technologies also substantially inhibit AIDS prevention in Africa.

Many people in developing countries lack access to even the most basic of healthcare technologies. Access to these innovations are hindered by a variety of complex obstacles. Sometimes the treatments exist, although it is often impossible for the average person to afford them. Other times, however, the healthcare infrastructures are so poor that they are unable to support the life-saving technologies that wealthier countries can enjoy. The festering epidemic has caused the U.S. to make AIDS prevention in Africa a priority for U.S. foreign policy. This led to the creation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Since its inception in 2003, PEPFAR has received strong bipartisan support for its leadership in the containment of the HIV/AIDS crisis. It currently provides 11.5 million patients with antiretroviral treatment. This number is up from the mere 50,000 individuals receiving treatment before PEPFAR was established.

These numbers confirm the success of the program’s strategy. Through a new partnership with the financial leader Mastercard, however, PEPFAR plans on elevating its approach to AIDS prevention. The private-public partnership will introduce digital technologies and data analytics to improve access prevention and treatment plans. Research conducted by PEPFAR shows that the greatest cost in HIV/AIDS treatment is in treatment delivery rather than the cost of drugs. Through its partnership with Mastercard, the organization hopes to improve efficiency of its efforts.

Mastercard has a history of developing digital solutions for impoverished regions through its Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity (FRP). Since its formation in 2015, FRP has financed 19 projects across Sub-Saharan Africa that widen the economic inclusion of poor people living in rural areas. This unique charitable expertise makes Mastercard the perfect partner for PEPFAR in the endeavor to promote AIDS prevention in Africa.

Bringing healthcare technology to rural, impoverished communities may be the single most powerful step toward combating deadly diseases. Healthcare in developing countries is impeded by many obstacles such as a lack of formal training, research tools and funding. As a result, medical technology is only as useful as those implementing it are resourceful. With the partnership of two global leaders in health and innovation, PEPFAR and Mastercard promise to bring AIDS containment to regions that are suffering most.

Micaela Fischer

Photo: Flickr

A U.S. global initiative has made significant strides in helping with the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, has provided substantial support programs to the African nation including clinical services, HIV counseling and testing and various programs emphasizing treatment to adolescent girls and young women.

The PEPFAR initiative came into effect during the Bush administration, providing the president with declarative powers to help fight HIV/AIDS and other diseases. The program was renewed and expanded in 2008, and its funding was tripled.

In an article published by the Christian Science Monitor, Sharonann Lynch, the HIV and TB policy advisor for Doctors Without Borders, notes PEPFAR as one of the most significant AIDS relief programs in the region.

“It’s not every day in global health where a program gets to essentially say they’ve turned the tide on an epidemic, and that’s what PEPFAR has done,” Lynch said.

Lynch believes that PEPFAR is integral in bringing awareness to the disease and to the possibility of its future eradication across the globe.

“When PEPFAR was announced, you didn’t have anyone talking about ending AIDS – and now that’s exactly what the US and other governments have committed to. They can see it in sight,” Lynch said.

According to a report published on the PEPFAR website, seven million people of all ages were living with HIV in 2015. Approximately 180,000 deaths were attributed to AIDS the same year.

In 2016, the plan and various other partners and organizations contributed HIV testing and counseling to more than 10.4 million people. These programs have also been integral to providing life-saving antiretroviral treatment to more than 3.4 million people.

PEPFAR focuses heavily on women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. The organization provided antiretroviral treatment to 220,626 expectant mothers to reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission in 2016. The plan has also provided care and support for 407,056 orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS by providing funding to the health and social welfare systems of South Africa.

According to a report published by the CDC, approximately 52 percent of deaths in South Africa were caused by HIV/AIDS in 2006. With the help of programs such as PEPFAR, the number of fatalities has dropped significantly, from roughly one-half to one-third, in South Africa.

Drew Hazzard

Photo: Flickr

Foreign aid has been a part of American culture ever since the end of World War II. Under this modern international order, the U.S. has been able to successfully flourish and spread its message of democracy. Former Secretary of State John Kerry said, “The money we devote to international programs … amounts to just one percent of the total federal budget.”

The main piece of legislation that authorizes the use of foreign aid is the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1960. While this act provides an outline and structure for dealing with foreign aid, Congress decides on most budget decisions and distribution of funds through various bills. This year’s proposals for specific financing have already been laid out in the FAA.

In order to properly finance obligations made in the 1960 legislation pursuant to section 476, more than $1 billion is to remain available until the fall of 2018. This specific bill makes $1.7 billion accessible for assistance to foreign countries. Although this seems like a lot of money, this is an $877 million cut in aid compared to the 2016 foreign aid budget. However, aid to Eurasia will remain the same at $930 million in order to combat Russian aggression in countries like Ukraine.

Congress sets the standard and fosters the responsibility of stabilizing funds responsibly. By enforcing specific conditions on the distribution of foreign aid, international goals can be successful. This affords leverage in critical situations of destabilization, like negotiating democracy with countries that erupt into a military coup.

Destabilization of a nation can reduce access to basic health services. Through the effort of international funding, governments can “control pandemics before they reach our shores.” The current budget that the U.S. Congress has agreed on includes $8 billion toward funding worldwide healthcare initiatives. A portion of this money was used to successfully implement the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), ultimately ending child and maternal deaths that previously had been unavoidable.

In addition, supporting the international community allows for the stabilization of nations and prevents the spread of terrorist activity. In the current 2017 budget, $71.1 billion is to be distributed in order to combat terrorist networks like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al Qaeda.

Through international efforts, nations have been assisted from destabilization and diseases have been contained. The budget plan for foreign assistance this year will be distributed appropriately once budget decisions are finalized and approved.

Nick Katsos

Photo: Flickr

HIV in Africa
Big data is buzzing in the healthcare sector. As more and more data becomes available, analysts are looking for ways to improve the healthcare industry. While developed nations, with their multitude of activity trackers and smart devices, are better positioned to leverage big data, developing nations are also taking advantage of the rapidly growing pool of information being recorded.

The International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP) at Columbia University was clearly aware of the value of data when it proposed the Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (PHIA) Project. In partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ICAP has been gathering data to measure the level of success against HIV in Africa. With the help of the ministries of health in the affected countries, they have been conducting surveys and diagnostic tests to measure national HIV incidence, pediatric prevalence and viral suppression. Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia were the first countries to release their survey and test results. Over the next several years, 17 other countries will participate in the project and publish their findings.

So far, the results have been encouraging. The data indicates that the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is achieving success against HIV in Africa. PEPFAR is the largest commitment by any nation to combat any single disease internationally. If the results from Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia are early indicators, then the PEPFAR has been well worth the investment.

The initial results of the PHIA Project indicate that these countries are on track to achieve the 90-90-90 targets set by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The goal is to have 90% of HIV patients diagnosed, 90 on antiretroviral therapy and 90% with adequate viral suppression by 2020. Models predict that the AIDS epidemic can be ended by 2030 if these goals are reached.

In Zimbabwe and Zambia, the treatment and viral suppression goals are almost a reality; more than 85% of patients are on treatment and virally suppressed. In Malawi, the viral suppression target has already been reached. The percentage of patients on treatment is just shy of 90%. Ninety percent and 86% of women and men, respectively, are on treatment. In all three countries, though, improvements in diagnosis are needed. Three out of every 10 patients are unaware of their status.

However, these early indicators of success against HIV in Africa are not signs that there is no more work to be done. Rather, in the words of Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, the director of ICAP, “Now more than ever, we have to keep our foot on the pedal and push even harder.”

Rebecca Yu

Photo: Flickr

PEPFAR Progresses Toward AIDS-Free GenerationDecember 1 marked World AIDS Day, which this year brought hopeful news about the 35-year-old epidemic. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) shared new data demonstrating significant progress in HIV reduction in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The announcement revitalized PEPFAR’s resolve to yield an AIDS-free generation by 2030.

In the press release, three countries represented the progress-at-large toward AIDS eradication due to the astonishing prevalence of the disease there. Respectively, Zimbabwe globally ranks fifth in most HIV cases among adults, followed by Zambia at seventh and Malawi at ninth.

Even so, reductions of the disease in these nations is appreciable. The incidence of HIV in adults since 2003 have decreased by 76 percent in Malawi, 51 percent in Zambia, and 67 percent in Zimbabwe. Across the three countries, the community viral load suppression among HIV-positive adults averages 65 percent, indicating HIV transmission is nearly under control. These shocking results are inspiring broader action and reinvigorating the AIDS-free dream.

Surpassing President Obama’s 2015 targets of global AIDS reduction, PEPFAR now provides about 11.5 million people with antiretroviral treatments, has performed 11.7 million voluntary medical male circumcisions, and has facilitated 2 million HIV-free births.

The momentum is gaining. Along with their World AIDS Day press release, PEPFAR announced their $4 million, two-year partnership with the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF). The project will enhance HIV service delivery to men in the Mulanje District of Malawi through mobile clinics and door-to-door household level testing. According to the project’s success, it will serve as a community-based-treatment model for other areas that are difficult to service, improving health care opportunities for hard-to-reach places around the world.

While there is still a long road ahead, PEPFAR’s announcements last week served as reminders that an AIDS-free world is not only possible but well within sight. Now is the time to redouble global efforts to prevent and treat HIV so that a new generation can live completely AIDS-free.

Robin Lee

Photo: Flickr

PepfarLiving in the depths of AIDS-plagued Rwanda, Jacqueline, a single mother of five, was faced with the task of providing for and feeding her family alone. Shortly after losing her husband on the battlefield, she also lost her teaching job. Just when she thought all was lost for her and her children, Jacqueline was provided with a loan and business training by a PEPFAR-supported program called World Vision.

World Vision is just one of 30 organizations supported by PEPFAR, or the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. This program, implemented in 2003, is the world’s largest donor responding to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children overseas that are affected by HIV/AIDS.

“Because of the loan, my children have food to eat. They have clothes. They go to school. Our community is really happy,” Jacqueline told Word Vision. More than $52 billion PEPFAR funding goes to bilateral HIV/AIDS programs. In the past year, PEPFAR has provided care and support for more than 5.5 million orphans and vulnerable children worldwide.

The program has successfully reduced vulnerability in AIDS-plagued communities. PEPFAR has supported 15,000 savings groups in over 15 different countries. It has been able to strengthen household economic stability of at least one million children affected by the HIV virus.

Geoffrey Matiya is one of these children. A 14-year-old boy diagnosed as HIV-positive, Geoffrey lives with his great aunt and uncle in Zambia. He was orphaned at a young age by the AIDS epidemic.

Yet through all these hardships, Geoffrey is a lively and happy teenage boy. He thrives amidst an AIDS-populated community and shows no signs of illness. His spirits remain high thanks to a successful program supported by the funding of PEPFAR and implemented by World Vision.

Twice a week, a caregiver visits Geoffrey to ensure his physical and mental health. This caregiver is a part of a network of 40,000 healthcare workers that are supported by the Ministry of Health.

Each caregiver makes bi-weekly visits to households such as Geoffrey’s. They also provide counseling, psychosocial support to AIDS orphans and testing for HIV and malaria. Thanks to their commitment and care, children like Geoffrey are able to thrive.

Programs like these are made possible by the significant amount of funding set aside by the PEPFAR budget. Partners receiving funding include organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Academy for Education Development, the National Association of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, Cross International, the Foundation for Reproductive and Family Health, World Relief and Food for the Hungry.

It is the goal of PEPFAR to continue to help organizations build upon their successes. There are over 13.3 million children living without one or both parents due to the AIDS virus, with 95 percent of these children living without their extended family as well. It is the hope of PEPFAR that with continued support and funding, an AIDS-free generation can and will one day be achieved.

Katie Grovatt

Photo: World Vision

UNAIDSUNAIDS and United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) collaborated with faith-based organizations (FBOs) in East Africa to launch a two-year initiative to strengthen their capacity to respond to HIV.

On Sep. 15, 2015, in the seventieth session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, it was revealed that the five focus areas of the U.S. $4 million program are: collecting, analyzing and disseminating data; challenging stigma and discrimination; increasing demand for HIV services and retaining people in care; improving HIV-related service provision; and strengthening leadership and advocacy.

This new program is the result of suggestions made by faith leaders at a deliberation in April 2015. The conference hosted over 50 faith leaders from Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The faith leaders called for more access to data, heightened accountability and better collaboration between FBOs and international partners.

The report, Building on Firm Foundations, which was released by the United Nations General Assembly, UNAIDS, PEPFAR and Emory University last month, highlights the impact of faith-based responses to epidemics in the four East African countries.

FBOs provided a majority of health services and sustained collaborative communities which maintain a disease-free environment for future generations.

PEPFAR’s partnership with FBOs has allowed them to reach 7.7 million people with lifesaving antiretroviral treatment, and treat 14.2 million pregnant women, thus decreasing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

The recently launched PEPFAR 3.0 – Controlling the Epidemic: Delivering on the Promise of an AIDS-free Generation set the ambitious goal of 90-90-90.

By 2020, PEPFAR aims to achieve: 90% of people living with HIV who know their status, 90 percent of people who know their status and are receiving treatment and 90% of people on HIV treatment who have a suppressed viral load.

Thus it is important to strengthen partnerships with FBOs, as they are primary health providers for many communities, and allow UNAIDS and PEPFAR to expand their impact.

Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, stated that “Faith-based organizations are essential partners, particularly in the areas of health service delivery and addressing stigma and discrimination. The partnership with faith-based organizations is critical to ending the AIDS epidemic and making sure that no one is left behind.”

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: UNAIDS, PEPFAR Report
Photo: Flickr

Tracking foreign aid successes is essential to understanding how state actions affect the world’s poorest places, as well as dispelling myths about the ineffectiveness of aid. Aid works, and there have been dramatic improvements in education, health and the basic quality of life in the developing world because of it.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established and adopted by all members of the United Nations in 2000. Some of these goals include reducing child mortality, combating HIV/AIDS rates and severely curbing extreme poverty by 2015. While not all of these goals have been met, there has been remarkable progress in others. Tracking progress toward these goals thus far can help fill in knowledge gaps about which aspects of global poverty need to be addressed the most.

For example, the rate of extreme poverty since 2000 has been cut in half (extreme poverty being defined as living on less than $1.25 per day). In about a decade, nearly half a billion people were pulled out of extreme poverty, especially in China and India. Poverty rates in Africa are also expected to fall below 40% this year. A Brookings Institute report estimates that this halving of extreme poverty rates took place as early as 2008, a full seven years before the deadline, and continued despite the global recession.

Foreign aid has also had a huge impact on global health. Another one of the MDGs was to reduce under-five child mortality by two-thirds by 2015. This goal was met in Rwanda, a country which only two decades ago was engulfed in a violent civil war; additionally, child mortality was reduced by one- to two-thirds in the last decade in some of the top U.S. aid recipients, such as Ethiopia. Globally, this amounts to a 10% reduction in infant mortality between 2005 and 2013.

Another oft-overlooked example of foreign aid successes are the health services and products that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provides to millions of people in the developing world. These products and services, among other things, have led to a total eradication of smallpox. One specific example of the effectiveness of USAID health programs is that U.S. foreign aid saves 3 million lives annually in the developing world through immunizations. USAID was also instrumental in providing 1.3 billion people with safe drinking water, and 750 million others with sanitation by supporting the United Nations Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade.

Millennium Development Goal 6 calls to combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases. The U.S. leads the way in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, having established the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Since its inception, this program has, according to the National Academies Institute of Medicine, saved millions of lives by providing antiretroviral drugs to affected regions. Additionally, the program has served as a proof-of-concept that HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services can be effectively implemented on a large scale, something that was thought to be impossible only a few decades ago.

USAID has also helped affect change in education in the developing world. Since 1950, the rate of enrollment for children in primary school has gone from less than half to about 90% globally. Consequently, literacy rates have increased by a third in the last 25 years. Two of the Millennium Development Goals were to achieve universal primary education as well as promote gender equality. USAID is pursuing these two goals by promoting robust programs that expand access to education for women in countries like Liberia and Mali.

There are many reasons to be optimistic about the efficacy of foreign aid. Aid programs should be subject to scrutiny and review so that they may be made more efficient and target the populations that most need them. However, it is also important to take into account the many foreign aid successes that USAID and other donors have had in the developing world. Acknowledging that aid works is the first step in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

– Derek Marion

Sources: Washington Post, Brookings Institute USAID, World Bank Foreign Affairs, IOM
Photo: International Institute for Sustainable Development

The largest public health problem in the developing world is currently non-communicable diseases, or NCDs. NCDs like cardiovascular disease and cancer kill around eight million people before they are 60 years old each year in developing countries. NCD-attributed deaths make up about 90 percent of  premature deaths in the world.

Urbanization, higher life expectancy and global trade drive NCDs in developing countries. Even though developed countries may have similar public health issues, they are much more equipped to deal with them because they have better and less expensive prevention and management tools and more experience dealing with the diseases.

Non-communicable diseases cause early deaths and debilitation for those in poverty in both developing and developed countries. However, the people effected in developing countries are, on average, younger and have worse outcomes than their counterparts in developed nations.

On a global scale, NCDs will cost developing countries $21.3 trillion over the next 20 years. Even though global focus and aid goes towards communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, non-communicable diseases effect a much larger portion of the population and are growing quickly in middle- and low-income countries.

The last time a global public health crisis that disproportionately affected the developing world was attacked was the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The effort originated in the U.S. with PEPFAR and grew to a worldwide effort. While lessons can be gleaned from that effort, the growing NCD crisis presents different challenges. Of course, the U.S. cannot make resource allocation decisions or policy solutions for other countries. An effort to attack this crisis has to be at the national level with the help and support of the international community.

Because most NCDs are characterized by chronicity, they have devastating socio-economic consequences. Patients require more care for longer periods of time. This not only takes them out of the workforce and reduces productivity but also uses up scarce healthcare resources. With a sicker, smaller workforce, economic growth can be stunted and have reverberating economic, social and political impacts for the country and region.

– Caitlin Huber

Sources: Council on Foreign Relations, Harvard University
Photo: Business Insider