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Also In Global Health News: AusAID Fraud; House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Responds To FY12 Budget; Drug Substitution Programs In Ukraine; Global Development Book

Documents Suggest Australian Aid Program Affected By Fraud, Corruption

Documents show that Australia’s “foreign aid program is plagued by record levels of fraud, with millions of dollars being stolen by corrupt officials and overseas agencies,” the Daily Telegraph reports. “AusAID has 175 cases of fraud under investigation – stretching across 27 countries and totalling millions of dollars,” according to the article, which examines the content of the documents (Lewis, 3/24). In response to the allegations of fraud, Peter Baxter, AusAID director-general, said the organization delivers programs in challenging environments, ABC Radio Australia News reports. “But when you’re working in countries like Afghanistan, that have been ridden with conflict, or like Eritrea was in 2006, ridden with conflict, you’re working in a very high risk area and sometimes those risks mean that we do get subjected to fraud, but we try and minimise that,” he said (3/24).

Ros-Lehtinen Responds To Obama’s FY12 Budget; Proposes State, USAID Cuts

In an official response to President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget proposal, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) has recommended “the elimination of over a dozen State Department and foreign aid programs,” Foreign Policy’s “The Cable” reports. “It is no longer sufficient to ask whether a particular activity is useful. Rather, the correct question is whether a given activity is so important that it justifies borrowing money to pay for it,” Ros-Lehtinen wrote in her response, which was addressed to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the House budget chair. According to the letter, “Ros-Lehtinen wants to freeze the number of direct hire employees at USAID and take $2.9 billion away from the organization, returning it to fiscal 2008 levels. She also wants to end foreign aid to countries who give out foreign aid of their own, including China, India, Brazil, and South Africa. Some other targets of Ros-Lehtinen’s budget axe include global health programs, global climate change programs, the Peace Corps, the Organization of American States, the United Nations Development Program, and the International Atomic Energy Agency,” according to the blog, which posted a copy of the letter (.pdf) (Rogin, 3/23).

IPS Examines Reports Of Police Crackdown On Ukrainian Drug Substitution Program Patients 

Inter Press Service examines reports of a police crackdown in the Ukraine on people enrolled in drug substitution programs. Though international health experts say drug substitution therapy can slow the spread of HIV/AIDS through injection drug use, the article describes tensions within the Ukraine government over such programs, which have pitted the interior minister against the prime minister. “There are currently just over 5,000 injecting drug users registered in drug substitution programmes, with plans for as many as 20,000 to be participating by 2014,” according to the news service. The article describes reports by patients enrolled in drug substitution programs of being taken into custody by police for questions and threatened to have their medicine withheld if they refused to cooperate. “International institutions, including UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which fund HIV programmes in the country, have demanded an end to the crackdown,” IPS writes (Stracansky, 3/22).

Global Development Has Improved Access To Health Care, Other Important Services, Book Says

A New York Times book review examines British development economist Charles Kenny’s book, “Getting Better,” which argues that “[l]ife in much of Africa and in most of the impoverished world has improved at an unprecedented clip in recent decades, even if economic growth hasn’t.” In the book, Kenny writes that global development’s most significant success “has not been making people richer but, rather, has been making the things that really matter – things like health and education – cheaper and more widely available.” The article highlights “the scourge of HIV” in Africa – which has slowed development – as a potential setback to Kenny’s case. But it notes: “Mr. Kenny responds that H.I.V. is akin to a modern plague. The fact that sub-Saharan Africa has made even modest progress while battling the plague is remarkable. Much of the rest of the world, meanwhile, continues to make great progress on health, education, infrastructure and even human rights” (Leonhardt, 3/22).

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