Cholera fears mount in Haiti, while the UN looks to Wonder Woman: This week in development

By Michael Igoe 13 October 2016

A scene from Les Cayes, Haiti, in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Photo by: Logan Abassi / U.N.

Global health responders attempt to stave off a cholera outbreak in Haiti after Hurricane Matthew. The World Health Organization takes a swipe at the soda industry, and the Colombian peace process gets a “Nobel bump.” This week in development news.

Global health responders are battling to stave off a cholera outbreak in Haiti after Hurricane Matthew slammed into the island nation. The World Health Organization plans to send 1 million cholera vaccine doses to Haiti and will dispatch Dr. Dominique Legros, WHO’s cholera focal point to the country. Nearly 900 people are estimated to have died as a result of the hurricane. Ten times that many people died as a result of Haiti’s last cholera outbreak, which spread through the island after the devastating earthquake in 2010 — and after U.N. responders to the disaster inadvertently introduced the disease. In addition to destroying health centers and eliminating many Haitians access to safe drinking water, Matthew decimated crops in the southwest of the island, raising big concerns about food security in a region heavily reliant on subsistence agriculture.

The World Health Organization weighed in on sugar taxes, urging countries to raise the price of sugary drinks to help curb a growing obesity epidemic that is no longer just a “first world problem.” In a new report, the WHO concluded that raising the retail price of sugar-sweetened beverages by 20 percent or more would produce a significant decrease in consumption, particularly among low-income populations. “Vulnerable populations, including low-income consumers, are most price-responsive and, in terms of health, benefit most from changes in the relative prices of foods and beverages,” the report reads. The health organization has long advocated for less consumption of obesity-causing foods, but had previously not weighed in on the politically charged topic of excise taxes on certain products. The report also notes that it will be important to be “proactive in counteracting” efforts by the sugary beverage industry to oppose the taxes.

António Guterres was unanimously appointed to be the next U.N. secretary-general by the 193 member general assembly on Thursday. Guterres, the former Prime Minister of Portugal and the former U.N. high commissioner for refugees, will replace Ban Ki-moon on Jan. 1, 2017. Guterres’ appointment comes after a competitive contest to assume the top spot at the U.N., with candidates offering public vision statements for the first time. Many hoped this competitive process would lead to the appointment of the U.N.’s first-ever woman secretary-general — and the campaigns pushing for it have expressed disappointment that it did not. On Wednesday, following the International Day of the Girl Child on Oct. 11,  the U.N. announced that the cartoon character Wonder Woman will be its new mascot, which many people have pointed out is not the same thing as appointing real women to senior leadership positions at the international organization.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the Western hemisphere’s longest-running war — a 52-year insurgency by the FARC rebel group. The announcement comes at a critical juncture in the peace process, after Colombians narrowly rejected the terms of the peace deal that Santos worked for years to broker with the FARC, and as the president and his rebel counterparts return to the negotiating table to discuss possible adjustments. Some have suggested a “Nobel bounce” could reinvigorate the talks. Even if a peace deal does get approved, the Colombian government faces an uphill task to meet the expectations they’ve created. Santos has promised massive outreach to communities long-isolated by the fighting, as well as an exhaustive land restitution effort that could take decades to complete.

The chief executive of Ireland’s biggest aid organization, Goal, has resigned. Barry Andrews’ departure comes amid an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s inspector general into instances of bid-rigging and bribery within the NGO’s Syria operations. “It has become clear to me that Goal requires a fresh start in terms of leadership. To that end, I informed Goal’s board of directors last August of my intention to step down as CEO as soon as a suitable replacement could be identified,” Andrews told The Irish Times.

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About the author

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Michael Igoe@AlterIgoe

Michael Igoe is a senior correspondent for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers U.S. foreign aid and emerging trends in international development and humanitarian policy. Michael draws on his experience as both a journalist and international development practitioner in Central Asia to develop stories from an insider's perspective.


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