Ebola vaccinations in DRC, gender equality's income impact, PEPFAR at 15: This week in development

The flags of the G7 countries. Photo by: Georgina Coupe / Crown Copyright

Group of 7 development and finance ministers meet to discuss innovative financing and women’s economic empowerment, Ebola vaccinations begin in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and PEPFAR celebrates 15 years with an eye to the future. This week in development.

The G-7 development and finance ministerial kicked off Wednesday in Whistler, British Columbia, where representatives from the world’s seven largest economies are discussing innovative financing and women’s economic empowerment for the first time. It’s also the first time since 2010 that the country holding the G-7 presidency — Canada — has convened a development ministerial. Canada is taking the opportunity to shine the spotlight on its feminist foreign policy agenda, which aims to put women and girls at the center of everything it does to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and eradicate poverty. “We strongly think that [local women’s organizations] know what the problems are, they know what the solutions are, they know how to do it, and we want to give them a voice and the power to make these changes,” Canada’s Minister of International Development and La Francophonie Marie-Claude Bibeau told Devex. The main G-7 summit will kick off on June 8 in Quebec.

This week marks the 15th anniversary of PEPFAR, the largest-ever investment in a single disease in U.S. history. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief was a unique initiative from the start, combining an ambitious treatment agenda with a focus on results and accountability — and massive sums of money. It has provided antiretroviral medications to more than 14 million people and staved off an epidemic that threatened to consume entire countries and cripple their economies. But to end an epidemic, the flagship HIV/AIDS program will have to go even further. “Complacency is a risk. It is not headline grabbing, it is not an emergency crisis, but still tackling a disease of this magnitude is just an all-out effort. Political leadership and recognition have to be in it for long term,” former U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Jimmy Kolker told Devex. The initiative still enjoys bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, but advocates fear budget pressure could jeopardize its future success. PEPFAR launched a new strategy last September focused on 13 countries that have shown an ability to achieve epidemic control by 2020. While it will continue investing in the 50 countries where it operates, PEPFAR’s narrower focus begs the question of what might happen in non-focus countries, particularly Nigeria and South Africa, which have high disease burdens. Devex reporters Adva Saldinger and Michael Igoe explore how 15 years later, PEPFAR is still at war with a global epidemic.

Officials began vaccinating health workers and others against Ebola on Monday in Bikoro in the western part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where an outbreak of the disease was declared on May 8. The “ring vaccination” strategy, which relies on teams to trace all contacts and contacts of contacts, is attempting to vaccinate an estimated 1,000 people who could possibly be carriers of the virus. Response efforts are facing logistical challenges: underdeveloped health systems, remote and forested terrain, and most notably, strict ethical protocols requirements since the vaccine is not yet licensed. Individual informed consent is needed from every person who is volunteering to take the vaccine, but CNN reports that so far, “the vaccine is proving to be a very acceptable intervention to the community in Mbandaka.” As of Tuesday, there were “no reports of refusal of the vaccination” and more than 90 percent of eligible people were vaccinated.

Gender inequality could be costing the global economy an estimated $160.2 trillion — or about twice the value of the global gross domestic product, according to a World Bank report. The report measured lifetime earnings across 141 countries and found that human capital wealth could increase by nearly 22 percent globally, and total wealth by 14 percent, if there is gender equality in earnings, assuming women would earn as much as men. Globally, women account for only 38 percent of human capital wealth; that drops to one-third, or less, in low- and lower-middle income countries. To close this gap, the report recommends investments as early as childhood and in schools to build job-relevant skills, as well as efforts to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation later in life, and policies that ensure equal access to opportunities and resources.

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    Anne Paisley

    Anne Paisley is the Senior News Producer at Devex, where she oversees Devex’s newsletters, news website, and content management team. Prior to joining Devex in 2015, Anne was the managing editor at the Center for American Progress. She has previously held positions at CNN, the U.S. Department of State, and Cambridge Associates. She earned a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and Asian studies from George Washington University, including a semester abroad at Peking University in Beijing.