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Lauren O'Connor is Polio Communications Officer for the Global Poverty Project and works on The End of Polio campaign
Guess what? Angola has now passed more than 12 months without a single case of polio! Watch this video from UNICEF to see how Angola turned the tide against the disease:
This month it was officially confirmed that Angola had passed a year without a single case. The last of the pending samples have been tested and Angola’s most recent case was all the way back in July 2011.
Angola had originally been officially declared ‘polio-free’ in 2001, but had been struggling with re-established transmission since 2005. While the country will have to pass three years without a single case before it is officially declared ‘polio-free’ once more, this is fantastic progress…
And further proof that a world without polio is possible.
But most of all, it is a testament to the determination of the Angolan people to stamp out this disease once and for all. People from all walks of life have made this possible: the parents who allowed their children to be vaccinated, the volunteers who worked through the heat of the day to reach every child, the local leaders who inspired and motivated, and the Government who provided 89% of the program’s operational costs.
All of us here at The End of Polio campaign send our best wishes to everyone involved in ending the transmission of polio in Angola. Congratulations and keep up the good work!
The simple truth is change is possible within one generation. Whilst a great deal of today’s media paints a very negative picture of the world’s level of development, Africa’s ‘tremendous success story’ highlights the reality: great progress is being made. The top rates of decline in African child mortality are the fastest seen in the world for at least 30 years and these rates show no sign of slowing. In actual fact, for most countries, they are speeding up with child mortality falling twice as fast as it was at the very beginning of the 21st century. However, the striking thing about this decline is how widespread it has been. The fall in the number of deaths of children under 5 has been happening in countries both vast and small, Muslim and Christian, and in every region of the continent.
The World Bank recently reported that 16 of the 20 African countries whose living conditions they have been thoroughly surveying since 2005, are experiencing mass declines in their child-mortality rates. In fact, twelve countries had falls of over 4.4% a year which is the rate of decline required to meet the Millennium Development Goal of cutting child-mortality rates by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. The top three in this group- Senegal, Rwanda and Kenya- have actually achieved declines of almost twice this rate, enough to cut child mortality by one-half in the next decade. This level of child mortality places these countries on par with India, one of the most successful economies of the decade. If this isn’t a promising sign, I don’t know what is.
On the whole, there is no geographical or demographic correlation. Instead, the World Bank believes it is a combination of broad economic growth and specific public-health policies, in particular the increase in the use of insecticide-treated bednets (ITNs), which is responsible for such progression. Bednets are constantly used as an example of how positive foreign aid works. The nets discourage mosquitoes, lowering the incidence of malaria and improving the wellbeing of the populace.
On board with the view that aid is vital, Jeffrey Sachs, an American economist, recently claimed that the large fall in child mortality, in the group of African villages that his Earth Institute of Columbia University are helping, is the result of increased aid to the villagers. Yet, Mr Demombynes, the senior economist of the Nairobi office of the World Bank, points out, the mortality decline in these villages was no greater than in the countries as a whole.
So does aid appear to have been the focal factor in cutting child mortality? Possibly, but it is likely it is a mixture of factors which has seen the decline including new technology, better policies, more sensible governing, aid and due to the work of Africans themselves.
Michael Clemens of the Centre for Global Development said “This will be startling news for anyone who still thinks Africa is mired in unending poverty and death,” This overall sharp decline in mortality rates is just one way that Africa is showing us that this image is unjustifiably negative and basically false.
Guest blog by Nelson Oppong, an independent analyst with Think Africa Press. His main interests are in the political economy of resources and state building in Africa and the British Carribean.
Ghana’s Rural Enterprise Project (REP) demonstrates that – with clear-sighted goals, well-defined targets and determined international donor support – state-driven social intervention can succeed.
Initiated by the government in 1995 under the auspices of the GRATIS Foundation and with the support of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the project seeks to reduce poverty and improve living conditions in rural areas through increased productivity for the rural poor.
Making a real impact
According to Ulac Demirag, the Country Programme Manager of IFAD-Ghana, REP is one of IFAD’s best performing programmes in West and East Africa. With an initially modest target of about ten districts in the Brong Ahafo and Ashanti regions, the project has expanded and recorded achievements which have received glowing recognition from other international donors such as the African Development Bank.
In 2002, the Ghanaian government and IFAD scaled up the project to cover 66 districts that were considered amongst the poorest in Ghana. Within these operating districts, there have been verifiable success stories as exemplified by the number of businesses operating sustainably and making profits over the last decade.
With 70% of Ghanaians - and around 86% of the population who live below the poverty line - living in rural areas, REP’s targeting of economically-active youth and women in the rural areas lends support to a strategic area of the country’s development.
Conservative estimates from the government indicate that over 170,000 people have been trained under REP in various community-based trading and enterprise development undertakings. Between 2003 and 2010, almost GHS150000 ($83,000) was been disbursed by financial institutions involved in the project. A Graduate Apprenticeship Scheme initiated in 2009 has so far produced over 12,000 new businesses. And several rural-based small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) dealing in things such as clothing, textiles, soap-making, carpentry, hairdressing and food-processing have benefited from the project’s business development services, technology transfer, apprenticeship training, and rural finance services.
Many of the major beneficiaries have been women. In the Garu-Tempane District of the Upper East Region, for instance, half of the 1,200 clients using support services are female. And in the same district, women are healthily represented in the 150 new businesses and 700 jobs created in 2011.
REP is also among the few national interventions that have survived the turbulence of Ghana’s schizophrenic development planning since 1992. While the country’s policy atmosphere has considerably fluctuated under different governments, with many initiatives either being abandoned or significantly altered after general elections, REP has done well to maintain a degree of steadiness.
Room for improvement
As many Ghanaians revel in the remarkable success and well-noted institutional and operational strengths of REP, there are also some legitimate suggestions that the project could benefit from a more holistic approach from the government, especially in tackling the structural unemployment and underdevelopment of rural communities.
In spite of REP contributions, there are also some concerns that progress could be undermined by the decreased attention given to other rural development priorities, especially in areas such infrastructure building. In addition, increased partisan involvement in local governance has also produced various policy initiatives that have sought to promote similar objectives to REP but which have no meaningful harmonisation with REP.
The many parties involved in REP’s success must be wary of these upcoming challenges to ensure the project continues to yield the impressive successes it has thus far, and go from strength to strength.
The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) celebrated the first anniversary of its pledging conference last week. As we reported last year, during the conference GAVI received contributions from a diverse range of countries including the UK, USA, Australia, Brazil, Korea and Norway, as well as the Gates Foundation. In total a significant $4.3 billion was pledged to promote global health through immunisation. This anniversary does not only give us a chance to mark this occasion but allows us to reflect upon what GAVI has achieved since the conference.
As promised, GAVI has supported countries to distribute life-saving vaccines. The two biggest global childhood killers are pneumonia and severe diarrhoea, which is why two thirds of GAVI’s approved programmes, in late 2011, involved vaccinating against pneumococcal disease and rotavirus. In April of this year Ghana launched both programmes, which you can find out more about in their ‘Doing the Double’ video. This was followed by Rwanda, who in May introduced rotavirus vaccines – (in addition to the pneumococcal vaccines launched in April of 2009). However, GAVI is increasingly investing in vaccinations against measles, rubella, hepatitis B to prevent liver cancer, and HPV which is the main cause of cervical cancer in women. Last week, the Gavi Board announced up to an additional $162 million to combat a recent resurgence of measles, and will target high risk countries such as Afghanistan and Ethiopia.
GAVI have also managed to work with manufacturers to bring down the price of vaccinations so that the world’s poor can get quicker and cheaper access to them. For instance, agreements with their industry partners have resulted in a 67% reduction in the price of rotavirus vaccines. GAVI has clearly had a successful year and the routine immunisation rate across all GAVI supported countries is 80%. You can view an online version of their full report card, which charts their progress so far. The below chart estimates how many deaths GAVI have averted through vaccination.
Nevertheless, much more needs to be done if they are to meet their goal of immunising an additional 250 million children by 2015 and creating fair access to immunisation for all. In the world, one out of every five children still doesn’t receive their basic vaccinations. Both poverty and socio-economic inequality have created a situation where some have access to vaccination but others do not. GAVI strive hard to tackle this inequality; but it is only one element of a larger movement to promote global health and tackle extreme poverty. This includes vaccinations against diseases GAVI does not cover- such as polio which desperately needs further investment if it is to be eradicated. However it also goes beyond vaccination and tackling wider issues which cause inequality and extreme global poverty.
What GAVI have shown us in the past year is that through collaboration, investment, and a global desire to make a difference, something can be done.
* Images: GAVI 2011 Doune Porter Tanzania and GAVI 2011 Future Deaths Averted by Vaccine.
Guest blog by Dan Thomas, the Head of Media & Communication at the GAVI Alliance, a public-private global health partnership which aims to save children’s lives and protect people’s health by increasing access to immunisation in developing countries.
The Great, the Good and the Glamorous are gathering in Washington DC this week to talk about some really big issues affecting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable children and adults.
Anyone who is anyone in Global Health and Development is in town.
Mandy Moore, Christy Turlington Burns and Ben Affleck will add a little glamour but also a ton of heartfelt commitment. And, only slightly less exciting if you are a “development insider”, members of the GAVI Alliance Board will meet at the Capitol Hilton from 12-13 June to review progress since the historic GAVI Pledging Conference one year ago when generous donors made unprecedented commitments to childhood immunisation.
Of course, everyone is wondering if President Obama might even make an appearance? Now that would really help focus attention on important subjects like child and maternal mortality in the world’s poorest countries.
To raise awareness about the huge number of children who die before they reach the age of five (7.6 million in 2010) (and because they are good sports), many of these global health advocates have sent photographs of themselves taken when they were five to USAID’s excellent new website.
Even the media are getting in on the act with the likes of Judy Woodruff and Ray Suarez from PBS, Femi Oke of WNYC and CNN’s Kaj Larsen bringing professional TV-style moderation in order to keep the debates focussed and strategic.
And as they sit in their various sessions at the Hilton and Georgetown University, The Great, the Good and the Glamorous will no doubt all be discussing and wondering “What does success really look like?”
It’s a big question. But fortunately I know where they can find one answer at least.
It’s in this short film produced by GAVI about Ghana’s ambitious and unprecedented introduction of two vaccines at once – vaccines that have the power to help protect against the two diseases that kill more of the world’s children before they reach their fifth birthday than any others.
So if, like so many people, you occasionally feel overwhelmed by the problems facing children and parents in the world’s poorest countries, I encourage you to watch this film. It’s guaranteed to vaccinate you against despair and give you some hope.