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Posts Tagged ‘health’

Of all the pressing issues confronting the developing world, cancer gets comparatively short shrift. And yet, a majority of new cancer diagnoses come from developing countries.

The fact that these countries are significantly less capable to care for the afflicted than, say, the United States, where cancer has been a leading health priority for many decades, means that cancer is “a time bomb waiting to explode,” says Princess Dina Mired of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation. At last month’s Clinton Global Initiative, Mired said that addressing cancer depends on a sophisticated medical infrastructure above and beyond traditional health care. Much of the world is ill-equipped to tackle the disease, and increasing numbers are dying because they can’t reach or afford adequate treatment. As such, it’s disturbing that cancer is not a part of any global health agenda, Mired asserted.

A special session on the topic at CGI offered a rare spotlight on this global issue, which has striking parallels to HIV/AIDS in the level of ignorance and stigma surrounding it. For example, widespread concern that the disease is contagious leads victims to refrain from publicly disclosing their status. In turn, a lack of visible cancer survivors leads people to think it’s always a deadly disease, or less common than it really is. And then there’s the omnipresent issue of gender discrimination and the need for funding to specifically advance women and girls, a major theme at CGI this year as it was last. When it comes to cancer, for example, some women in the developing world who get a diagnosis of breast cancer forego a mastectomy for fear of losing their husbands, according to Felicia Knaul of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative.

Paul Farmer of Partners In Health and the Harvard Medical School called for the creation of a Global Fund for Cancer, one focused on all areas of need, from prevention to diagnosis to care. But, a recent study from the Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine, as reported by VaccineNewsDaily, found that single disease campaigns in developing countries “interfered significantly with routine health care delivery.”

So, while cancer demands greater global attention and care, this work should be approached in such a way as to strengthen the general health infrastructure in developing countries, rather than compete with it for needed funds.

—Jane Wales

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Six months after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake ravaged Haiti, much attention has shifted to other needs and other crises elsewhere. But the Caribbean nation is still very much in crisis, and, as the Wall Street Journal reports, there’s still too much rubble and too little progress. With a new hurricane season now bearing down on the region, the situation may very well get worse before it gets any better.

In addition to helping to provide for continued relief and humanitarian assistance, philanthropy will be an essential player in long-term rebuilding. And the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy has conducted research and analysis to identify some of the most fruitful long-term philanthropic opportunities. Haiti: How Can I Help? Models for Donors Seeking Long-Term Impact outlines ways in which donors can help Haitians develop the capacity they need to build a brighter future for themselves, their communities and their nation.

The guide focuses in three interrelated “pillars of socioeconomic development” – health, livelihoods and education – and notes that promising nonprofit models already exist in these three areas.

In health, the guide emphasizes supporting community-based primary care systems because the chief causes of sickness and death in Haiti – from infectious diseases to injuries to complications during childbirth – continue to be mostly preventable and treatable.

With regard to livelihoods, the focus is on enabling households to provide for themselves by building assets and promoting environmentally sustainable ways to make a living. Finally, in education, the focus is on addressing the needs of children. More than one million Haitian children currently have no access to schools, in part because schools are physically or financially out of reach. The community schools model, focused on rural residents, helps overcome these barriers, and it also helps address the high teacher turnover by recruiting teachers from the local villages.

Working in these three key areas of development may not only provide long-term help, but short-term signs of progress as well. Haitians, and the global community at large, are in dire need of some good news.

–Jane Wales

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Water scarcity is damaging livelihoods, human health and ecosystems around the world – both in urgent situations, such as Haiti, and in long term crises in the making. But strategies are at hand according to a report from McKinsey & Company, undertaken in partnership with the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation. Charting Our Water Future finds that in just 20 years, demand for water will be 40-percent higher than it is now. Unless local, national and global communities come together and dramatically improve the way water is managed, increasing efficiency and productivity, there will be many more hungry villages and degraded environments, according to the report. And it will be very difficult to meet related resource challenges, such as providing sufficient food or generating energy for the world’s population.

The report was developed as part of the 2030 Water Resources Group, a consortium of public and private-sector actors working to advance solutions in presentations to governmental, commercial and philanthropic decision-makers.  It offers a “cost curve” as a means of analysis—one which demonstrates the long-term costs associated with failure to make near-term investments in infrastructure or conservation. And it demonstrates that multiple interventions are needed at all levels of investment and at differing stages, which is a reminder that we can each play a role within a larger strategy.

The report is meant to provide a means by which to compare the impact, cost and achievability of a range of measures and technologies that address water scarcity by boosting efficiency, augmenting supply and lessening the water-intensity of a country’s economy. Through case studies of India, China, Brazil’s Sao Paulo state and South Africa, the study reports that while improved efficiency in industry and municipal water systems is critical, enhanced agricultural productivity – increasing “crop per drop” – is essential to closing the gap between demand and supply. Agriculture today consumes 70 percent of the world’s water.

As the report makes plain, business as usual on the issue of water is not an option for most countries. Philanthropists and foundations that work in the area of international development are similarly committed to increasing awareness and promoting policies that address this issue. Family foundations have been key players in this space, and the Global Philanthropy Forum will feature access to safe water and sanitation as among its major foci at its annual conference in Silicon Valley, April 19-21. This gathering will include foundation executives, key officials from governments, private sector leaders and such expert voices as Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute; Atiq Rahman of the Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies; Barbara Frost of WaterAid; Gary White of Water.org; Monica Ellis of the Global Environment and Technology Foundation; Gebisa Ejeta, recipient of the 2009 World Food Prize Award; as well as an author of Charting our Water Future.

–Jane Wales

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