Tedros' team, Patel's crackdown, Oxfam's fighting words: This week in development

Priti Patel, United Kingdom secretary of state for international development. Photo by: The CBI / CC BY-NC-SA

Global health organizations look to women leaders, partners pledge to end cholera by 2030, and the U.K.’s aid chief takes on contractor transparency. This week in development:

U.K. aid chief Priti Patel signaled a crackdown on the Department for International Development’s contracting partners, which she hopes will improve transparency and accountability while fostering more competition among potential DFID suppliers. Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference on Tuesday, Patel announced a set of reforms her department is putting in place, including “open-book accounting” policies and a “name and shame” accountability measure that will reveal which DFID contractors aren’t delivering value for money. “I am setting out tough reforms that will encourage the private sector to work with DFID and end the appalling practice of fat cats profiteering from the aid budget,” Patel said in her keynote address. Many in the U.K. development community have welcomed a push for greater transparency, but some of DFID’s implementing partners have also complained that the process for formulating the reform plans was itself not sufficiently transparent. Some implementers have had greater visibility into what the reforms include, critics say, offering an unfair advantage as the new policies take effect.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus unveiled his senior leadership team Tuesday. The list is 60 percent women and drawn from each of the WHO’s six regions. Dr. Soumya Swaminathan and Jane Ellison will both serve as deputy director-general. Swaminathan, former secretary of India's Department of Health Research, will be in charge of programs. Ellison, who served as U.K. public health minister from 2013-2016, will handle corporate operations.

In other global health leadership news, the United Nations Population Fund has a new executive director. Dr. Natalia Kanem — who had been leading UNFPA in an acting role since the sudden death of former UNFPA Director Babatunde Osotimehin in June — will become the first Latin American to take the post.

A global partnership of health and development organizations issued the first-ever pledge to stamp out cholera, a preventable disease that still afflicts nearly 3 million people per year. The Global Task Force on Cholera Control, which includes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the WHO Health Emergencies Program, and more than a dozen organizations set out a roadmap Tuesday to reduce cholera deaths by 90 percent by 2030. Nearly 100,000 people die every year from the disease, which is spread through contaminated water — and is particularly prevalent in countries like Yemen, where sanitation services and basic infrastructure have been crippled by persistent conflict. Northern Europe and the United States successfully eliminated cholera more than a century ago, but it has continued to plague people and communities marginalized by disaster and cut off from basic services.

The president of Oxfam America delivered a stinging critique of U.S. response efforts on the hurricane-ravaged island of Puerto Rico, where the majority of the population is still without power and fresh water and food remain in short supply. “We’re hearing excuses and criticism from the administration instead of a cohesive and compassionate response,” Abby Maxman said in a statement, which also announced Oxfam’s unusual plans to intervene in a disaster response effort inside a U.S. territory. According to a statement, Oxfam will “join forces with Puerto Rican leaders to appeal to Congress and other federal agencies in Washington to dedicate resources to the response and remove barriers that are keeping aid out.” The humanitarian advocacy organization has also sent a team to San Juan to assess how Oxfam might support local leaders with technical assistance in the response effort.

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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.