South Asia's floods, Feed the Future's next phase, and World Water Week: This week in development

A view of the opening plenary at the 27th annual Stockholm World Water Week. Photo by: Stockholm International Water Institute / CC BY-NC

Monsoon floods cripple South Asia, India questions Bloomberg’s tobacco fight, and World Water Week opens in Stockholm. This week in development.

Mark Green, the USAID chief, is traveling overseas this week on his first trip since taking office four weeks ago. Green has so far visited Ethiopia and Sudan, where he traveled to North Darfur State to observe efforts by the U.S. Agency for International Development to help people internally displaced by conflict in the region. Green’s visit to Sudan comes in the midst of the U.S. government’s sanctions review process, which the administrator said he hopes will help accelerate Sudan’s efforts to improve humanitarian access and stem conflict in the region. In July President Donald Trump delayed an Obama administration order to ease U.S. sanctions against Sudan, pending further review. In Ethiopia — on site at the Jijiga Export Slaughter House — Green announced a new phase of Feed the Future, the U.S. global food security initiative launched in 2009. In this new phase, Feed the Future will focus its efforts on countries “that show national leadership and real potential for growth,” Green said. The 12 focus countries in this new phase will be: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda.

A critical U.S. global health project is faltering, according to progress reports uncovered by Devex. The Global Health Supply Chain – Procurement Supply Management program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Chemonics International, reported a troubling 7 percent “on time and in full” delivery rate during its last-reported quarter. That means that 93 percent of the lifesaving health supply shipments delivered through the contract failed to arrive at their destination as ordered. After Devex published an article about the project, USAID Administrator Mark Green said he is “angry” about the $9.5 billion program’s shortfalls, and that it has increased his motivation to tackle procurement reform during his tenure at the agency. Chemonics also responded to the article, acknowledging challenges with the project and citing efforts to improve performance after problems came to light. Devex will continue to investigate this health supply chain project — and efforts to fix it.

India has scrutinized Bloomberg Philanthropies’ anti-tobacco campaigns, according to a report from Reuters. A “secret” memo delivered by the home ministry’s intelligence arm detailed how Bloomberg has worked to promote a tobacco-free India — which government officials worried amounted to an attack on Indian tobacco businesses, according to the Reuters report. India’s scrutiny of the charity — founded by former New York City Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg — comes amid a wider effort by the Indian government to tighten restrictions and exercise more control over foreign-funded organizations operating inside the country. Critics have alleged that India uses laws restricting foreign funding to harass and marginalize groups that criticize Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. India’s heavy-handed oversight of NGOs is just one example of a broader global trend toward shrinking civil society space. This week Devex reported on Cambodia’s sudden order requiring the National Democratic Institute to shut down and its foreign staff to leave the country. NDI’s closure reflects Cambodia’s increasing hostility toward foreign influence, which it tends to wield against government critics.

Ministers, water experts, donors and civil society groups with a mission to achieve SDG 6 — universal access to clean water and sanitation for all by 2030 — gathered in Sweden this week for the 27th annual Stockholm World Water Week. The weeklong conference, which was attended by more than 3,000 people, focused on the theme of waste water — how to reduce, recycle and clean the amount produced by households, businesses and industry. Hundreds of discussions and panels were convened on this topic and other longstanding issues, including how to attract commercial financing into the water and sanitation sector, how to make WASH services more gender sensitive, and how to change behavior among populations. The problem of urban sanitation — how to provide the developing world's rapidly growing and densely populated cities with affordable and reliable toilet facilities — dominated many conversations, partly because of the urgent need, but also because it's where the most innovative developments are taking place, according to Sophie Trémolet, a senior economist in the World Bank’s water global practice. Watch for more Devex coverage and takeaways from Stockholm next week.

Severe floods have crippled large parts of South Asia, where the seasonal monsoon has struck with relentless ferocity. Oxfam’s staff in Bangladesh have reported that up to two-thirds of the low-lying and densely populated country is currently underwater. Transportation services, schools and colleges in Mumbai have shut down. In Nepal, the situation is particularly dire, since flooding has affected some of the poorest regions of the country. Thousands of homes are reported to be destroyed, and many people are missing and presumed lost to the raging floodwaters. The United Nations estimates that 41 million people have been affected by the torrential rains, flooding and landslides, and nearly 1,000 are already believed to have been killed. “There is the possibility that the situation could deteriorate further as rains continue in some flood-affected areas and flood waters move south,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in an update last week.

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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.