Devex Newswire: Syria’s last border crossing lifeline could be closing

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Aid to more than 4 million people in northwest Syria is almost entirely dependent on a single border crossing at Bab al-Hawa — which needs to be reauthorized in July.

If the U.N. Security Council is unable to overcome Russian opposition to reauthorize the Bab al-Hawa border crossing by the July 10 deadline, aid groups fear humanitarian assistance — and COVID-19 vaccines — will have to be routed through Damascus, where the Syrian regime could turn them into a weapon against civilians.

Mat Nashed reports for Devex on Syria’s tenuous lifeline for cross-border relief.

Three of the four main crossings used by aid agencies in Syria have already been closed.

SETTLING UP

President Joe Biden unveiled the first U.S. International Climate Finance Plan Thursday, during the Leaders Summit on Climate he is hosting to prove that America is back at the climate action table. Here are some of the key elements:

•  Biden pledged to double U.S. climate finance to lower-income countries by 2024. That amounts to roughly $5.7 billion per year, $1.5 billion of which will be targeted at climate adaptation. Given how long the U.S. government has been missing in action, Joe Thwaites from the World Resources Institute described the pledge as “not particularly ambitious.”

•  The U.S. International Development Finance Corp. announced that its portfolio will achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, which is earlier than any other DFI in a G-7 or G-20 country, Adva Saldinger reports.

•  U.N. climate chief Patricia Espinosa, speaking at a separate Earth Day event, chastised world leaders for not yet meeting their climate finance targets. “We still don't have those $100 billion with clarity on the table,” she said.

NOT SO FAST

On Wednesday, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe suggested that a stalemate with USAID over a large shipment of lifesaving HIV medication had been resolved and that the drugs had been released to the country.

Sara Jerving has been reporting on this diplomatic impasse, and asked USAID to confirm it had come to an end. The agency’s response: not so much.

A USAID spokesperson told Sara that the medication and medical supplies “that were stuck at Mombasa Port remain in USAID’s possession until our deliberations conclude.” In the meantime, the dispute has put at risk patients’ ability to acquire treatment for multiple months at a time — a key service at a time of lockdowns and travel restrictions.

EXCLUSIVE: USAID says no Kenya HIV medication deal

FILL IN THE BANKS

The pandemic has forced a rethink about economic growth in Latin America. That has big implications for how multilateral development banks should work together in the region, says IDB President Mauricio Claver-Carone, who predicted “record sustained lending is going to be needed by all of our institutions.”

Devex Pro: Record sustained MDB lending needed in Latin America, IDB says

READ MY LIPS

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Amid ongoing backlash against the U.K. government’s big aid spending cuts — and its process for carrying them out — Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Thursday that “no one is going hungry because we haven’t signed checks.” NGO representatives took issue with that claim, calling it “shocking” and “simply not true.”

Will Worley reports on yet another blowup between U.K. officials and the country’s aid sector.

WORLD MALARIA DAY

“We have to focus on those areas, and sometimes that means confronting what some have called ‘structural urbanism’: the idea — the bias — that people in remote communities or rural areas are too hard to reach or too expensive to serve.”

— Raj Panjabi, U.S. global malaria coordinator, speaking in advance of World Malaria Day.

Opinion: Empower youth to end malaria for good

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF MUSK

Elon Musk has committed almost $150 million to charities in the first four months of 2021. Billionaire altruism skeptic Anand Giridharadas wonders if there might be a more democratic system for funding community needs. Perhaps an innovative new service called “Gvrnmnt.”

IN OTHER NEWS

The world's first malaria vaccine is 77% effective according to preliminary results of a phase 2 trial in Burkina Faso. [The Telegraph]

The Peace Corps, the U.S. volunteer program, has a track record of mishandling sexual abuse reports by its volunteers, according to a USA Today investigation. [USA Today]

Venezuela's opposition on Thursday greenlit the use of $100 million in frozen funds in the U.S. to pay for COVID-19 vaccines. [Reuters]

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.