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Also In Global Health News: Japan Considering Foreign Assistance Cuts; Conditions In Libya; Flooding In Namibia; Foreign Aid In India; Maternal Mortality In Rwanda; Dengue In Sri Lanka; China’s One-Child Policy

Japan Considering Reducing Foreign Aid By 20 Percent To Help Fund Disaster Relief

Japanese media reported on Thursday that the country “is considering cutting foreign aid by 20 percent this fiscal year to help fund its extra budget for disaster relief after last month’s massive quake and tsunami,” Reuters reports. Japan had set aside $6.7 billion for official development assistance in this current fiscal year, which runs through March 2012, but plans to cut 20 percent of that amount to help fund an initial extra budget of $35 billion for disaster relief, according to the news service. Japan – the leading foreign aid donor in the 1990s – is currently the world’s fifth leading donor, having reduced foreign assistance to address mounting public debt (Nishikawa, 4/7).

U.N. Secretary-General Voices Concerns About Humanitarian Situation In Libya

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday in a statement issued by his spokesperson “voiced his deep concerns about ‘the deteriorating humanitarian situation’ in Libya and called for efforts ‘to ensure full access for humanitarian aid’ in the North African country,” Xinhua reports. “The secretary-general reiterates his urgent call for an immediate cessation of the indiscriminate use of military force against the civilian population and to ensure full access for humanitarian assistance,” according to the statement (4/7). Ban “is in Washington on Thursday, making the rounds on Capitol Hill in hopes that the U.N. won’t fall victim too much to U.S. budget cuts,” NPR’s Morning Edition reports (Keleman, 4/7).

Floods In Namibia To Blame For 62 Deaths, Force Thousands From Homes

Floods in northern Namibia have forced thousands from their homes and led to the deaths of 62 people since the start of the year, the U.N. said Wednesday, according to the Associated Press (4/6). Conditions are likely to worsen in coming days, due to additional rains in the region and floods from Angola, IRIN reports (4/6). New Era/allAfrica.com describes how health officials have “warned people in flood-hit areas to be mindful of three waterborne diseases, while medical teams have been dispatched to monitor and support affected areas” (Xoagub, 4/7).

Nonprofits In India Having Difficulties Raising Money In Light Of Country’s Economic Growth

“[N]onprofits on the front lines of India’s battle against poverty say that the country’s efforts to project itself as a newly arrived economic power have hurt their ability to raise money,” GlobalPost reports in an article examining how India can strike a balance in its assistance programs. “According to a recent report by India’s Comptroller and Auditor General, the government failed to spend some $20 billion in foreign aid last year thanks to problems rolling out public works programs – which meant foreign funding actually cost India about $20 million in penalties,” the news service writes, adding the report “blamed ‘inadequate planning’ for the failure, hinting obliquely at the country’s notorious bureaucratic sloth.” The article notes that aid from the Netherlands, U.K. and U.S. has decreased or been frozen over the past few years, leaving nonprofit aid groups “facing a ‘severe funding crisis,’ according to local press reports” (Overdorf, 4/6).  

CNN Examines Maternal Mortality, Efforts To Improve Health System In Rwanda

CNN reports on maternal mortality in Rwanda and writes about the recent opening of a rural hospital that is “offering a model of how to turn around the situation in the country.” According to CNN, the “first baby to be born at Butaro Hospital had difficulty breathing, but he survived. Health professionals say this may not have been the case if the delivery had taken place at home or in a rural health center.” Partners in Health “provided expertise and more than $4 million for the construction. The Clinton Foundation also provided support, while the Rwandan government has covered the cost of the hospital equipment,” the news service notes. The article, which is accompanied by a video clip, also describes broader changes to Rwanda’s health system: “the government is implementing a pyramid-based structure with the district hospital at the top. At the base level, every village has at least two community health workers” (Strieker, 4/6).

IPS Reports On Actions Taken By Sri Lankan Officials To Reduce Spread Of Dengue

Inter Press Service describes how swift action taken by government officials in Sri Lanka helped to drive down the number of dengue cases and deaths over the past year. Compared to the first two months of 2010, where “over 9,600 [dengue] infections and 64 deaths were reported … only 2,947 infections and 29 deaths were reported island-wide” in the first two months of the year. The article describes how the Sri Lankan president formed a task force to fight the spread of dengue, those found to be “neglecting mosquito breeding grounds” were arrested and forced to pay fines, and schools and companies participated in educational programs. According to the article, “the government wants to replicate the success of the anti-dengue campaign to counter other diseases spread through mosquitoes like malaria and filarial” (Perera, 4/6).

New York Times Examines Demographic Challenges Resulting From China’s One-Child Policy

“Under China’s family-planning regulations, most couples are barred from having more than one baby,” the New York Times writes, noting that “demographers who want China to abandon its one-child restrictions” are also recognizing that “most Chinese want only one child anyway.” The article looks at how the policy has affected China’s demographics and the possible lingering impacts. While “calls for a relaxation of the policy intensify, and official hints of looser restrictions increase, so do concerns that the one-child culture is now so ingrained among Chinese that the authorities may not be able to encourage more births even if they try,” the newspaper writes. “There are tremendous demographic crises pending, unprecedented in Chinese demography,” said Wang Feng, head of the Tsinghua Center for Public Policy in Beijing (LaFraniere, 4/6).

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