Zika's 'explosive pandemic potential': This week in development news

By Michael Igoe 28 January 2016

A member of the response team deployed in Brazil to eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. The Zika outbreak is described as having “explosive pandemic potential.” Photo by: Tony Winston / Agência Brasília / CC BY

A global pandemic threatens the 2016 summer olympics, Haiti indefinitely suspends elections, world leaders revisit the definition of “development assistance.” These headlines and more in your weekly development briefing:

“Explosive pandemic potential” is how the World Health Organization is describing the Zika virus, the mosquito-born disease that has swept across Central and South America and the Caribbean with alarming speed and has left evidence of a link to severe birth defects in its wake. The WHO was widely criticized for not acting fast enough to stem the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Zika, unfortunately, offers another opportunity to get it right.

Haiti’s development gains since the earthquake six years ago haven’t included a flourishing democracy. Development efforts have mostly proceeded in spite of, not in tandem with, the country’s national political institutions. Last weekend U.S.-backed runoff elections were cancelled due to a lack of faith in their integrity. A Haitian development professional working in the country wrote to Devex with this sobering assessment: “I’m afraid that one day even if there is an election; the Haitian people won’t even want to participate because for most of them it’s a masquerade.”

What did you pay for that? A controversial new law in Denmark requires refugees to pay for their own asylum by turning over valuables worth more than about $1500. Human rights advocates, as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, are calling the law an affront to migrants’ dignity. Next month Devex will zero in on migration as both a solution and a challenge to global development efforts in our ‘Across Borders’ campaign.

‘Official development assistance’ by any other name. Devex reported on efforts to clarify the meaning of ODA at a time when significant portions of European “aid” budgets are being redirected to pay for domestic refugee-related expenses. Next month the Organization for Economic Cooperation in Europe will meet in Paris to consider some new rules that would standardize the meaning of ODA across nations, to help ensure spending comparisons begin with a common agreement for what counts and what doesn’t.

The malaria bandwagon is getting a little more crowded. While health professionals battle Zika in the Americas, global donors are putting more money on the table to tackle that other mosquito-born disease, which kills roughly 500,000 people every year. The Gates Foundation and the U.K. Department for International Development committed another $4.3 billion to the cause this week. Malaria eradication advocates in the U.S. enjoyed their moment in the sun when President Obama dropped the issue into his State of the Union. Devex will report soon on what influence that one sentence can have in a world of competing global health priorities.

Making the IMF great again. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde announced plans to run for a second term after her current one ends on July 5. A bevy of world leaders have already endorsed Lagarde, effectively sealing her confirmation and with it more European leadership at the institution. The former French finance minister has fought for IMF reforms that would redistribute influence to better reflect the power of emerging economies.

Join the Devex community and access more in-depth analysis, breaking news and business advice — and a host of other services — on international development, humanitarian aid and global health.

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.


Join the Discussion