In this blog we tend to talk in terms of making overseas aid better. Making aid smarter, giving more and being more effective... But a new report by Action Aid is going beyond this to suggest that aid in developing countries, while not always given effectively, is being spent wisely by recipient governments and boosting economic growth.
In the last ten years, aid dependency from the world’s poorest countries has been reduced by an average of a third, with African governments leading the way. Since the 1990’s Ghana and Mozambique have both cut their aid substantially - by 19% and 16% from 47 and 74% of Gross National Income (GNI - the total income of the country). In Rwanda, this figure is remarkable, with aid dependency falling from 85% of GNI at the start of re-elections in 2000 to just 45% by the time of the second elections in 2010. Aid dependency has also fallen by up to 15% in Mali, Tanzania and Senegal, Uganda and Zambia.
Image: BBC World News/Africa.
How is this possible?
Action Aid are joining others to suggest that aid itself is getting better – with a significant reduction in tied aid – aid that is provided on the condition of services provided by the donor - and an increase in the amount of real aid (read “good aid”) that is being directed to developing countries. Action aid describe real aid as:
“..targeted at the poorest and the recipient country must be given the space to own and lead its own development plans. Real aid is not tied, is administered efficiently and is used in the recipient country. If it comes in the form of technical assistance, it must be wanted by the recipient.”
But that is just a small part of the story, because it is the countries like Ghana, Botswana and Tanzania that have increasingly used this aid to focus on reducing poverty, stabilising the economy and freeing themselves of external dependence. By increasing tax revenues, investing in infrastructure for business and backing micro-finance projects for resource poor communities.
“Not all aid is the same. Real aid is effective and has few strings attached. It puts developing countries where they should be – in the driving seat of their own development. It makes governments answerable to their own citizens, rather than to the donors. And real aid can help countries do things like raising tax revenues more effectively, so they can generate more of their own funds for development.”
Outside Africa the story holds – with Guyana, Cambodia and Mongolia all moving away from aid dependence. Rapidly leaving the developing label behind, Vietnam is one example of aid supporting, but not leading the way out of recession, to a new status as the possible next biggest economy by 2020 alongside China and India. Like the other countries here, Vietnam was able to use aid to:
1. Foster a strong national policy for an economic plan, like Rwanda’s Vision 2020.
2. Pool aid into stabilising infrastructure, supporting the extension of existing systems to help businesses and domestic interests which generate independent income streams. Like Vietnam’s huge investment into the coffee trade.
3. Tackling corruption and supporting the growth of co-operatives and micro-finance banks – like Tanzania’s CRDB and Ghana’s plan for making sure donors of aid meet the countries criteria and policies.
4. Using aid to build better institutions and promote national programs for building Women’s participation and universal education.
The message is simple. Ending aid dependency is important, and aid dependency is falling. But supplying real aid – or ‘good’ aid can help reduce poverty further, by allowing foreign governments to prioritise funds into areas that are best suited for them and make bigger, longer term decisions about reducing poverty and economic stability.
Falling dependency doesn’t mean ending aid altogether, it means giving and using aid smarter.
11 years ago, when my home region of the Western Pacific was certified as polio-free, I was in India supporting Rotary International to distribute polio vaccines to children who were still very much at risk from contracting this debilitating disease.
Images courtesy of UNICEF/UNHCR
Volunteering in a community where polio is endemic, I was constantly reminded of the impact of this disease. I saw people who could only move about on all fours, people who rode skateboards as a way of moving about, people unable to use their legs, children who were ostracised and unable to play and children who were forced to resort to begging for an income. I had never seen such cruel disfigurement. Experiencing this while giving polio vaccine to kids to prevent this disease confirmed to me that the war against polio must be won - NO child should have such disability when it is so easily prevented.
After 11 years of supporting in the front lines of polio eradication, my passion to see the end of this disease is just as strong as ever. I’m driven, not only by those who share their polio stories with us as we work door to door reaching every child with polio vaccine, but also by the commitment and dedication of those I have had the privilege to serve alongside in this program in many communities across the globe.
While working in Nigeria, I saw the determination of the Traditional Leaders in ensuring all the children in their area received the oral polio vaccine each and every campaign. These men would lead vaccinators (often through extremely difficult terrain) to reach each and every child; their wives would hold women’s meetings to encourage mothers to vaccinate & men had dialogues in the community to discuss polio issues. For me in the villages I was invited to vaccinate the newborn babies – often within minutes of their birth. What a privilege.
When in Ethiopia I learned of a remote community where the village leader walked six hours to take vaccinations to the ten children in his community, and after giving the drops he would begin the six hour journey to return the remaining vaccines – such commitment to those children. Sharing his concern for his community was inspiring.
Following an Immunization campaign in Pakistan, I met Amir, an Afghan boy who was moving on all fours. When we told him we were looking for unvaccinated kids, his eyes filled with tears. He told us how he got polio when he was one year old, that he had never stood upright, always having to crawl & wear shoes on his hands to move, while his affected leg dragged on the ground and how his disfigurement had made him a burden on is family. HE was meant to be the bread winner, HE was meant to care for his mom and dad, HE dreamed of school & marriage, but because of polio his family had to care for him and they worried constantly about what would happen when they died. He wept openly as he thanked us for trying to stop polio and he asked that we not miss ANY child with drops.
The close partnerships in polio have been a key to the successes of the program. As WHO, UNICEF, CDC and Rotary International along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation join with the national governments to implement this program the results are visible. As a Rotarian I am extremely proud of the efforts of Rotary International, a service organization that is committed to support this program throughout the world.
With polio cases reduced by 99% and just four countries that have never interrupted poliovirus circulation the world has a monumental opportunity to wipe this disease out for good – and ensure no other child has to feel the debilitating impacts of this disease.
As World Leaders arrive in Australia for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this October, we need to ensure this issue is on their agenda. Please join the call to support funding of polio eradication to ensure NO one ever again will have to live with a polio disability.
Join the global movement to end polio by signing The End of Polio petition – for every signature, the Rotary Club of Crawley will provide a vaccine for someone in need- you can help change the course of history.
My name is Piper Paquen, and I’m on a mission. Last week, my professional interest was piqued by the arrival of a peculiar package- and ever since I have been drawn into a profound personal journey, uncovering an epic tale of huge proportions… and the monumental opportunity to change the planet.
This is what happenned...
Following the pictographs on the mysterious ring, I discovered the story of a powerful public figure paralysed by a crippling disease and a communities gripped by fear of infection. The story of a disease that could strike anywhere and destroy the lives of millions of children and adults, a disease that created a movement by the people, creating a vaccine for the people. A disease called Polio.
But did it end there? and if so, what did the other pictographs mean? I had more digging to do...
Polio in America was just the start. Dimes came flooding in, followed by dollars, followed by the first ever polio vaccine.
By inventing the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk gave birth to a miracle – creating a way to defeat polio in America and spread the potential for immunising against cases of polio across the whole world. When asked who owned the patent for the miracle vaccine, he hesitated then famously remarked"Could you patent the Sun?".
Armed with the vaccine, the story of polio spread far and wide, leading to a sea of volunteers across the world.
An Australian man - Sir Clem Renouf, then President of Rotary International - had a vision of a polio free world. And his vision would kick start a global movement to realise the end of polio.
Over the next three decades this vision would not only mobilise a sea of volunteers across the world – raising over a billion dollars for polio eradication and the development of a new oral polio vaccine – making it easier to reach at risk children in some of the world’s most remote communities.
Albert Sabin, father of the modern oral polio vaccine, would then pave the way for vaccinations to be delivered easily and cheaply to communities across the globe – enabling a global movement towards eradication. His vision gave rise to a global movement - the greatest non-violent army the world had ever seen.
But there was a catch..
The 1960s saw massive changes in the global landscape. Martin Luther King had a dream, Nelson Mandela was put in prison and Mao Zedong changed the face of Chinese society. Rioting broke out in Los Angeles and the Beatles made it big.
Wars were fought in Vietnam and in Independent Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, risking the lives and preventing the movement of health workers vaccinating against polio.
Then something magical happened.. Days of tranquillity were named.
Armies parted and bullets stopped flying, replaced by vaccines.
Did it end there? As I looked at the last picture I wondered about the effects of polio today. I marvelled at the scale of the global movement to end this disease. And I saw a chance for people today to help write the last chapter in a monumental story.
With a global funding gap limited the crucial final stages of polio eradication, I knew that I must join the movement- and call on World Leaders to provide the funding needed to write a polio free chapter in our history books.
With polio still endemic in four countries worldwide – and three of those in the Commonwealth – I saw a unique opportunity to talk about polio at this year’sCommonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia.We could put this issue in the international spotlight, and get the funding needed to finish this monumental story.
Can you help finish my story?
Together we can end polio and complete the missing piece. With a signature you will be adding your voice to the thousands of supporters calling for an end to a crippling and potentially fatal disease.
That's 5 million children who can now play, learn and grow free from polio. That's 5 million reasons to make this the monumental achievement of our generation.
The End of Polio is within reach. Together, we can make it reality.
My name is Janice Flood Nichols and I’m a polio survivor.Let me tell you my story...
On October 30, 1953, my twin brother Frankie was rushed to City Hospital in Syracuse, NY USA. Suffering from a slight cold, he had suddenly found it difficult to breathe. He was immediately placed in an iron lung and given a spinal tap to confirm a diagnosis of polio.
For two years prior to our epidemic, doctors had been experimenting with a blood component containing antibodies called gamma globulin. It had been demonstrated that a dose of this “liquid gold” could sometimes lessen or prevent a case of polio. Because Frankie was so gravely ill, the staff physicians opted to give me multiple doses of the serum. My physicians told my parents that this intervention probably saved my life...
On November 1st, sixty-one hours after admission, Frankie died. On the night he was buried, I was admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of paralytic polio. Later on that week, my mother suffered a miscarriage. Within a few days, eight children out of our first grade classroom had been stricken. Within twenty days, thirteen residents of our suburb had been diagnosed. In the end, three children died … Tragically, this story was being repeated, on a daily basis, all over the world before the advent of the polio vaccine.
Five months after our epidemic, hope for a vaccine became a reality, though it came too late for my twin and friends. In April 1954, I became one of the 1,829,916 children in the U.S., Canada, and Finland who participated in the world’s largest vaccine trial, the Salk Vaccine Trial. Our participation paved the way for the 1955 licensure of the first polio vaccine. We were called “Polio Pioneers.”
I eventually made a complete recovery, choosing to become a medical rehabilitation counselor as an adult because of my childhood experience. I received a bachelor’s degree from Seton Hill University and a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, Jonas Salk’s research university. I was proud to walk the same halls that Salk had once graced. My last recollection of American polio outbreaks occurred in 1979... I thought we were done with polio. How wrong I was!
I like to call it my “wake-up call” — the day that I learned that polio continued to plague children and young adults in several countries. In March 2003, I received a copy of the March 2003 Rotarian from a lifelong friend. She attached a short note: “Jan, now you have to tell your story.” I couldn’t believe what I was reading.
As a private individual, I accepted that my options were limited but I knew I could write and speak out about polio… With the support of family and friends and the medical expertise of my husband, a surgeon who had trained under my childhood orthopedic surgeon, my book became a reality.
Relying only on word-of-mouth recommendations, I now spend my time speaking to Rotary groups, immunization coalitions, medical schools, public health students, grammar and high school students, book clubs, and various civic groups in both the United States and Canada.
My message is a simple one: We must eradicate polio. It is now predicted that failure could render more than 10 million children paralyzed by mid-century. I can’t live with that thought! I live for the day when I am no longer asked to tell my story because polio is a thing of the past.
- Jan Nicholls, Author of 'Twin Voices: A Memoir of Polio, the Forgotten Killer'.
Join the movement to end polio here and find out more about why ending polio could be the most important achievement of our generation. Make a difference now and sign the petition to call on our world leaders to make the end of polio a reality - for every signature Rotary International will vaccinate a child in need.
Poliomyelitis, also polio or infantile paralysis, is an acute infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. It invades the nervous system and can lead to permanent paralysis, and in some cases death, in a matter of hours. Although it chiefly affects children under age 5, it can strike at any age, and since it has no cure, the only way to deal with it is through immunization.
Over the years great progress has been made to eradicate polio, however, there are still countries where transmission has never been blocked, these are the polio-endemic countries and include Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.
In recent times African countries such as Angola, Chad and Sudan have seen the disease re-established; and Congo, Kazakhstan, Mali and Nepal have experienced outbreaks due to importation.
Source 1: www.polioeradication.org.
In the fight against polio, Nigeria is a crucial player because:
It’s the only country where all three serotypes of polio: wild poliovirus type 1, wild poliovirus type 3 and the circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) type 2 are being transmitted.
Northern Nigeria is the source of infection to other parts of the country as well as neighbouring African countries.
In Nigeria those living in poverty are most affected by polio and suffer most from the paralysis that results from the disease, because there’s very little or no provision for those with physical disabilities.
Imagine how difficult it must be for a person with post-polio paralysis or any physical disability to survive in such a system. There is no disabled access in Nigeria!
Over the years Nigeria has achieved remarkable strides in its fight against polio due primarily to the government’s commitment and cooperation with international organisations.
In 2010, only 21 cases of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) were reported in 8 states, compared with 388 cases in 27 states in 2009.
Nigeria has seen a 95% reduction in the number of children paralysed by polio. However, the reported total number of polio cases in Nigeria for 2011 is now four times the number reported last year.
There are several challenges facing eradication efforts in Nigeria. There are constraints in gaining political commitments and maintaining engagement with leaders’ at all necessary levels, and in dealing with the operational realities of trying to reach every child in some of the toughest places in the world. Almost by definition, these areas have weak infrastructure, weak governance, high rates of poverty and illiteracy, and sometimes armed conflict or social unrest.
Conflict can prevent vaccination teams from reaching every child and lead to a decrease in immunisation, providing the opportunity for polio to spread. Health workers may flee or shut down their practices, or funding and resources can be shifted elsewhere. In some cases, there was never much in the way of health infrastructure in the first place. Such areas are much more difficult to operate in and can really compromise access to children. Consequently, health workers need to be very flexible with programs in conflict areas and be able to capitalise on whatever opportunities can be found for access.
Why Should You care?
Polio eradication and the elimination of other preventable diseases are crucial to ending extreme poverty.
The re-introduction of polio into non-endemic countries is a very real threat and is already happening. The fight is thus not just that of the endemic countries but that of the entire world.
Eradicating polio is cheaper than containing it. The incremental net economic benefits of eradication are estimated to be between $40- $50 billion compared to routine immunisation.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) launched in 1988 has made immense progress in achieving its goal to eradicate polio. Since its launch, the number of polio cases has fallen by 99% and about 2.5 billion children have received polio immunisation to date:
Source 4: GPEI ANNUAL REPORT 2010
Often seen as the key to wiping out polio in Africa, Nigeria remains one of the last outposts of polio in the world and is responsible for a majority of outbreaks in other African countries. According to our partners at the WHO, if we can eradicate polio in Africa's most populous state then we stand in good stead to be able to root out the disease in other parts of the continent.
Yes, conflict and other challenges continue to hamper efforts, as tragically illustrated a few weeks ago when a suicide bomber drove his vehicle into the UN's building in Abuja. Nonetheless, the existence of conflict doesn’t mean we can’t achieve eradication – it’s an issue the WHO has been managing since the eradication program started, and we’ve succeeded in eradicating polio from Somalia, Southern Sudan and Cambodia during times of heavy conflict. By and large though the biggest challenge impeding eradication efforts is a funding gap of US$590 million that currently limits the work of the GPEI.
That's why the Global Poverty Project is working with Rotary International, the World Health Organisation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to build public support needed to close this funding gap, and make the end of polio a reality in both Africa and the rest of the world.