Jan. 25, 2016 | Devex

This week a hugely important conference on family planning is taking place in Indonesia, a conference that nearly never happened. In November, a volcano erupted in Lombok, closing the airport in Bali and postponing the original event. The family planning community rallied together to organize a new conference in just two months, reflecting a shared sense of urgency about meeting our family planning promise to women and girls.

It may not seem like it to those of us for whom deciding if and when to have children — or how many to have — involves little more than a trip to the doctor or the pharmacy. But for many women and girls there is, in the words of a young woman I met recently in Niger, no other option but to hope and pray.

You get a glimpse of just how much is at stake when you look through the eyes of two young women in Bihar, India. Sushma Devi and Manju Devi don’t only share a last name. They are also both married, mothers, in their late 20s, from poor families and rural communities. They live about 20 miles from each other — but their lives are worlds apart.

Read the full article on Devex

Jan. 25, 2016 | Foreign Policy

If you weren’t paying close attention during the president’s final State of the Union speech — and perhaps even if you were — you probably missed the shout out to one of the great foreign policy success of George W. Bush. In a speech that was otherwise criticized for its sunny characterization of perilous times, it was a welcome if brief indication that, from the beginning of his first term, Barack Obama embraced what was then and still is widely viewed as George Bush’s most enduring legacy — the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the subsequent President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). Here, the progress is real and the president’s optimism appropriate.

What the president surely understands is that, more than a decade on, Bush’s vision for defeating global AIDS and malaria is more than a humanitarian success story — it is a foreign policy success story that has profoundly redefined our relationship with sub-Saharan Africa. This success likely has broader implications for America’s standing in the world that are still not fully understood or appreciated. Certainly, President Obama is viewed positively in Africa, in no small part because of his African heritage, but there can be no doubt that he stands firmly on the foundation laid by President Bush.

The fact that the president singled out malaria as worth his and Congress’ special attention in his final year is significant. Although sometimes viewed as a kid brother to the United States’ global AIDS program, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the progress against malaria in the past decade has brought us close to a true milestone of human history. When I began working on malaria at USAID in 2004, the disease killed more than a million people annually — the vast majority of them African children. Since then, deaths have been cut roughly in half, and endemic countries and donors are looking to achieve a state just short of eradication in coming years. One of mankind’s deadliest and most persistent killers is in retreat.

Read the full article on ForeignPolicy.com

Jan. 22, 2016 | Wall Street Journal

Polio vaccination

Photo courtesy of RIBI Image Library under the Creative Commons license. No changes were made.

DAVOS, Switzerland—The world may well see its last case of polio in 2016, Bill and Melinda Gates said Friday, an event that would start a countdown toward the official eradication of the highly contagious and crippling disease.

“It’s possible that the last case will be in 2016,” Mr. Gates said. “We need some good execution and a little bit of luck.”

The co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation laid out their agenda for the year ahead in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Polio-eradication leaders have made tremendous progress in the past few years, the couple noted. The World Health Organization said last year that Nigeria had successfully stopped transmission of polio in the country. That has left just two countries—Afghanistan and Pakistan—that still haven’t eliminated transmission of wild poliovirus, the cause of most cases of polio. If there are no more cases after 2016, polio-eradication leaders will meet their pushed-back goal of eradicating the disease in 2019. The WHO considers a disease to be eradicated if there are no cases for three years.

But ridding Pakistan of polio remains a huge challenge. At least 15 people were killed in a suicide attack on a polio-vaccination center in southwestern Pakistan earlier this month. In recent years, polio workers in Pakistan have been targeted by militants who accuse them of working as spies for the U.S. government.

Read the full article on The Wall Street Journal.

Jan. 14, 2016 | CNN

The World Health Organization declared an end Thursday to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. But the global health organization cautioned that Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone remain at high risk for additional small outbreaks of the disease and must remain vigilant.

For now, the WHO said in a statement, "all known chains of transmission have been stopped in West Africa."

The organization said its job was not over. More flare-ups were expected, and strong surveillance and response systems would be critical in the months to come, it said.

Liberia was first declared free of Ebola transmission in May 2015, but the virus has been reintroduced twice since then, with the latest flare-up occurring in November. Thursday's announcement came 42 days -- two 21-day incubation cycles of the virus -- after the last confirmed patient in Liberia.

Three hardest-hit countries now have zero cases

"WHO commends Liberia's government and people on their effective response to this recent re-emergence of Ebola," said Dr. Alex Gasasira, the WHO representative in Liberia. "The rapid cessation of the flare-up is a concrete demonstration of the government's strengthened capacity to manage disease outbreaks. WHO will continue to support Liberia in its effort to prevent, detect and respond to suspected cases."

This date marks the first time since the start of the epidemic two years ago that all three of the hardest-hit countries -- Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone -- have reported zero cases for at least 42 days. Sierra Leone was declared free of Ebola transmission on November 7 and Guinea on December 29.

"Detecting and breaking every chain of transmission has been a monumental achievement," said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general. "So much was needed and so much was accomplished by national authorities, heroic health workers, civil society, local and international organizations and generous partners. But our work is not done and vigilance is necessary to prevent new outbreaks."

Read the full article on CNN.

Like Dr. Paul Osteen and so many others who dedicate weeks or months of their year to provide clinical care in underserved populations in developing nations, Doctor-Senator Bill Frist has spent over twenty-five years traveling to impoverished, conflict areas with World Medical Mission to provide medical attention where none may exist otherwise.
“I lie awake at night, and I can’t sleep… I’m afraid that if I close my eyes, I won’t wake up,” the gentle Egyptian man I met moments before, a two-time survivor of cancer, shared with me. “I’m worried I haven’t lived well,” he continued. “You know, I haven’t done good things, like you.”
“Namaste,” the young Bhutanese woman said opening the door of her and her family’s apartment for the medical assistant (MA) and me. As she and her in-laws warmly welcomed us into their living room/dining room space, another young woman and a little girl emerged from the bedroom. “How many of you are living here?” the MA asked the only gentleman in the room through the interpreter we had on the phone. “There are five of us,” he answered.

Dec. 30, 2015 | The New York Times

There’s a little plaque by my computer at home that says, “Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.” During 2012, I looked at it a lot — especially in the weeks leading up to one of the biggest speeches of my life.

To give you some background, I’m a practicing Catholic who grew up in Dallas and went to Catholic high school. I cherish quiet time and I’ve never loved being in the spotlight. In other words, I’m a pretty unlikely candidate to become an outspoken advocate for contraceptives.

Yet there I was on my way to Berlin to make the case to the world that we had to put family planning back on the global agenda.

Through my work with our foundation, I have met so many women in the world’s most impoverished places who tell me they lack access to contraceptives. Like parents everywhere, they want to make all of their children’s dreams come true. But without the ability to plan and space their births, they have more children than they can afford to feed or send to school — they feel helpless as their children become trapped in poverty, too. Once I heard their stories, I was determined to help them build a better future.

Read the full article on The New York Times.

“I don’t need this test,” the pharmacist-trained, El Salvadorian gentleman told my preceptor and me, quickly dismissing our suggestion that his persistent malaise, fatigue, and chills could be secondary to an underlying thyroid condition. “I have no problems with my thyroid,” he followed, in an effort to reinforce his point. When we proposed a CBC to check for anemia, he similarly protested, pulling down his right eye-lid to remind us that he had no Conjunctival Pallor.
There can be no doubt that compassion for those less fortunate is a long and strongly held part of our national character. While some might argue that we have, as a Nation, lost some of that compassion, the three of us believe that it is still firmly rooted in who we are, and how we engage with the world.We believe that this sense of compassion is something that still binds us together, and we call on people from all sectors and sections of our country and beyond to join us in a conversation to identify and address some of the greatest threats to our global community.

Subscribe to our newsletter to recieve the latest updates.