World Hepatitis Day and a Zika success story: This week in development news

By Michael Igoe 28 July 2016

U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs Thomas Gass briefs journalists on the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals 2016 report. Photo by: JC McIlwaine / United Nations

The United Nations paints a clearer picture of the road ahead for the Sustainable Development Goals, Colombia tells a Zika success story, and advocates for an AIDS-free generation want to know who will pay for the end of an epidemic. This week in development news.

On World Hepatitis Day — July 28 — advocates are fighting to draw attention to a disease eradication effort that struggles to find champions, despite the fact that viral hepatitis kills roughly 1 million people per year. “The fact that there’s such low awareness, it’s really hard to get people to actually say, ‘yes, this is a compelling issue and we will fund you,’” Jennifer Johnston, executive director at the Coalition for the Eradication of Viral Hepatitis in Asia-Pacific, told Devex in an interview in August 2015. Specifically, groups focused on the disease are working to get governments to adopt strategies to reduce new infections by 90 percent and annual deaths from hepatitis by 65 percent by 2030.

Ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games, Brazil is still trying to get a handle on the worst Zika virus outbreak in the region. The country might find some reason for hope in neighboring Colombia, which this week declared the end of their Zika epidemic. The government of Colombia mounted a public health and mosquito fumigation campaign after the disease began in September. In the U.S., domestic politics have hampered funding to aid international Zika efforts. Devex recently spoke with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards about the risk posed by failing to adequately confront a crisis that is also a reproductive health issue.

The United Nations released its first Sustainable Development Goals report, painting a clearer picture of the most significant gaps and challenges with respect to the 17-goal development agenda. The news is relatively encouraging when it comes to extreme poverty — Goal 1. “The proportion of the global population living below the extreme poverty line dropped by half between 2002 and 2012, from 26 to 13 percent,” the report reads. That equates to roughly one in eight people in the world currently living in extreme poverty. Childhood malnutrition and maternal and child health also show encouraging trajectories. But the report points to emerging challenges that could threaten the SDGs success: childhood obesity increased by nearly 20 percent between 2000 and 2014; and 757 million adults — two-thirds of them women — are unable to read or write.

The Philippines Commission on Human Rights has asked 47 major carbon-producing companies to respond to a complaint that their greenhouse gas emissions have infringed on the human rights of people affected by climate change. The potential landmark legal case is expected to lead to an official investigation into whether 47 “carbon majors,” including Shell, BP, Chevron, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, can be held responsible for infringing on people’s basic rights to “life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and to self determination.” NGOs and survivors of Typhoon Haiyan filed the complaint. While the complaint cannot hold companies liable for damages, it can produce recommendations for the government of the Philippines on how to hold major carbon producers accountable for climate-related impacts, and require them to explain how they will mitigate additional human rights violations.

Health advocates pressing for an AIDS-free generation have the tools they need to achieve that goal, but not the money. At the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, high hopes ran up against a harsh funding reality — $1 billion less spent on HIV/AIDS programs in 2015 than in 2014, and big questions about who can and should foot the bill to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, according to Andrew Green, who reported for Devex from Durban. The international community has asked middle-income and AIDS-endemic countries to bear a larger share of the funding burden. But many in these countries say they already are. Domestic spending made up 57 percent of total resources in 2015, or $10.9 billion, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS. Lower-income countries point out they already support HIV/AIDS intervention, by funding the health systems, workers and centers that make the delivery of AIDS services possible.

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About the author

Igoe michael 1
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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