Has the rise in international food prices since the mid 2000s hurt the poor, or helped them? Until recently, everything we knew about this topic came from simulation analyses rather than survey data. Simulation approaches invariably predict that poverty and food insecurity increases as the result of higher food prices, but there are many reasons why these predictions might not eventuate. On the other hand, standard household surveys yield information only after long lag periods. In light of these constraints, in some of my work I use an indicator of self-assessed food security from the Gallup World Poll (GWP). Since 2005, Gallup has survey men and women in a large number of developing countries and asked them (among other things) whether they have had “any trouble affording sufficient food in the last 12 months?” I take the percentage of respondents who answer yes to this question as a measure of national food insecurity.
In a recent blogpost I asked whether Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is old wine in a new bottle, and if so whether that’s so bad.
I argued that UHC is ultimately about making sure that “everyone – whether rich or poor – gets the care they need without suffering undue financial hardship as a result.” I suggested UHC embraces three important concepts:
• equity: linking care to need, not to ability pay;
• financial protection: making sure that people's use of needed care doesn't leave their family in poverty; and
• quality of care: making sure providers make the right diagnosis, and prescribe a treatment that's appropriate and affordable.
As we celebrate the 102nd International Women’s Day today, what do women of the world hope to achieve this year? An end to gender-based violence. The Guardian has put together a page to highlight the voices from all over the globe on tackling violence and discrimination against women. Read them all here on this interactive page.
While on the subject of Women’s Day, where is best place to be a working woman in the rich world? Apparently, the answer is New Zealand. The Economist has compiled a “glass-ceiling index” to show where women have the best chance of equal treatment at work. See the index here, which compares data from 26 countries.
In the policy discussions related to hunger, malnutrition, poverty and wellbeing, calorie intake is often the focus. Increasingly, however, micronutrient malnutrition appears to be a critical problem in many developing countries. Women and children are most vulnerable to micronutrient malnutrition due to their elevated micronutrient requirements for reproduction and growth. According to some estimates, nearly three billion people (including 56% of the pregnant and 44% of the nonpregnant women) suffer from iron deficiency anemia (IDA), and one-third of the world's population suffer from zinc deficiency. Twenty percent of the maternal deaths in Africa and Asia are due to IDA. One in every three preschool-aged children in the developing countries is malnourished. Undernutrition, coupled with infectious diseases, accounts for an estimated 3.5 million deaths annually. At levels of malnutrition found in South Asia, approximately 5% of GNP is lost each year due to debilitating effects of iron, vitamin A, and iodine deficiencies alone.
A commitment to gender equality in economic outcomes, as in other areas of social development and human rights, has emphasized women's empowerment. There is evidence that expanding woman's opportunities - particularly in the areas of health, education, earnings, civic rights, and political participation - decreases gender inequality and accelerates development. However, despite important advances towards equality, gender differences in many socioeconomic outcomes still persist. In light of this, policy makers and social scientists have shifted attention to the role of men in reducing gender disparities.
In Sierra Leone's rainy season, the Sewa River, feared by many locals for its powerful currents, floods over its banks separating entire villages from basic services. Konta health clinic in Kenema district operates near the shores of the Sewa, and during the six-month rainy season, five of Konta’s 17 dependent villages cannot access the clinic. If women in those villages give birth during the rains, they entrust care to traditional birth attendants; if children fall ill, they turn to traditional medicine, stockpiled drugs, and, often, prayer. As one woman explained during a recent community meeting in Konta, these are the only options, even if the all-too-frequent consequence is death. Hearing her account, it’s difficult not to feel a strong sense of injustice, even in an incredibly resource-constrained country like Sierra Leone. But is there a role for the law in remedying this situation?
I am heartened by the discussions at the recently-concluded Global Thematic Consultation on Governance and the Post-2015 Development Framework, held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The meeting, facilitated by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and hosted by the Pan-African Parliament, brought together a wide range of stakeholders across regions and constituencies, including from government, grassroots to international civil society, national human rights institutions, youth groups, parliamentarians, and representatives of the media and the private sector, allowing them to share their views and concerns about the post-2015 agenda.
The exchanges at the two-day meeting have been thoughtful, articulate and yet passionate. And they have all pointed in the same direction: the need for a new and more effective framework that will improve the mixed outcomes achieved by the current MDGs. As Varun Gauri elegantly pointed out (MDGs that Nudge – Ask your mom or dad), we need a new MDG framework that “captures the attention and enthusiasm of non-experts (regular people)”. We also need a framework that can make a difference on the ground.
By encompassing social, political, and feudal factors in development, Rural Support Programmes have enjoyed success in India and Pakistan for the past 30 years. Why did they work? For one, the approach acknowledges that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ and second, it looks for a holistic growth. Read the article on the Guardian to find out how communities can unlock their own potential.
What is a middle-income trap? The concept has been quite popular for some time, but only recently has been tested and defined. The concept broadly defines the fast-growing economies that suffered steep slowdown, and hence their dilemma of being caught between poverty and prosperity. There has been a lot of debate on poverty or prosperity, but it has substantially benefitted from work done by Barry Eichengreen, Donghyun Park, and Kwanho Shin. Read the post on Free Excgange to get an insight on their work.
Sea-level rise from climate change is a serious global threat, and there is overwhelming scientific evidence that sea-level will continue to rise for centuries even if green house gas concentrations were to be stabilized today.
Recently, Brian Blankespoor, Benoit Laplante and I investigated potential impacts of sea-level rise on coastal wetlands. Our study indicates a rise in sea levels due to climate change of just one meter could destroy more than 60 percent of the developing world’s coastal wetlands currently found at one meter or less elevation. We estimate that such a rise would lead to economic losses of around $630 million per year.
I had been warned—I found it hard to believe—that WHO ministerial meetings can be rather dull affairs of little consequence. Ministers typically take it in turn to read their prepared speeches; their fellow ministers appear to be listening attentively through their headsets but some, it seems, have been known to zap through the simultaneous translation channels in search of lighter entertainment. Speeches aren’t played over the loudspeakers for fear of waking jetlagged ministers from their afternoon naps. WHO is a very considerate organization: it likes to make sure that while on its premises visitors reach “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.”
Well I’m happy to report that last week’s ministerial meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC)—held in Geneva on February 18-19, jointly organized by WHO and the World Bank, and attended by delegates from all over the world (see map)—didn’t fit the stereotype.