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Opinions: Coordinate Debris Removal In Haiti; Focus On Sustainability To Feed Africa; G20’s Role In Health, Development; Role Of Health Workers In Reducing Maternal Deaths

To Rebuild Haiti, More Efforts Need To Be Made To Coordinate Debris Removal

Marking the six-month anniversary since the earthquake in Haiti, Reginald DesRoches, Ozlem Ergun and Julie Swann, all of the Georgia Institute of Technology, call for increased attention to be paid towards efforts to remove the “[t]wenty million to 25 million cubic yards of debris [that] fill the streets, yards, sidewalks and canals of Port-au-Prince” in a New York Times opinion piece.

“At present, there is no significant, coordinated financing by international aid groups for debris removal using machinery, though some estimates predict the next year and a half of debris management could cost around $300 million,” the authors write, noting the environmental and health hazards associated with debris. “Instead, almost all of the operations in Port-au-Prince are in the form of cash-for-work programs … which have Haitians, at best, breaking concrete and loading trucks by hand and, at worst, just moving bricks from one side of a road to the other.” Instead, the authors call for the U.N., World Bank and “agencies like USAID” to team up with the Haitian government to “create a task force focused on debris removal to coordinate the cleanup efforts of the hodgepodge of aid groups in the country. The task force should identify critical facilities, like hospitals and schools, and the roads that approach them, to clear first.”

“Debris isn’t sexy,” the authors conclude. “However, if Haiti is going to recover, it needs more than food aid and health clinics; it needs functioning, accessible infrastructure” (7/7).

Focus On Sustainability To Feed Africa

In a Christian Science Monitor opinion piece, Shannon Horst, CEO of The Savory Institute writes that “Africa’s long-term food security will come from nurturing the soil, not manipulating expensive seeds.” The author outlines “at least” three reasons why she believes Africa’s food security won’t change “just because aid groups put more money, more science, or more business savvy behind the same old approach.”

First, she writes, scientists are “focusing on how to grow bigger, more and disease- and pest-resistant plants” rather than focusing on “the very habitat in which they can thrive.” Second, turning Africa’s grasslands into crop fields and pastoralists into farmers “dependent on foreign seeds and other inputs, is not only destructive to their land, it is destructive to their culture.” Finally, she writes, focusing on “increased food production, at the expense of soil, water, and a community’s social fabric, is like taking one step forward only to take three steps back” (7/6).   

G20 Should Take Over Health Aid From The G8

In a Guardian opinion piece examining the G8 aid promises, economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, discusses the G8’s failure to meet pledges made at the 2005 Gleneagles summit and outlines “three lessons to be drawn from this sorry episode.”

Regarding this year’s G8 meeting, Sachs writes: “the G8 accountability principle became: if the G8 fails to meet an important target, stop mentioning the target – a cynical stance, especially at a summit heralded for ‘accountability.'” He writes: “It is absurd and troubling to spend $1bn on three days of meetings under any circumstances (since there are much cheaper ways to have such meetings and much better uses for the money). But it is tragic to spend so much money and then accomplish next to nothing in terms of concrete results and honest accountability.”

Sachs recommends the the G8 “be brought to an end” and that the G20 “take over.” He argues that “future promises made by the G20 should be accompanied by a clear and transparent accounting of what each country will do, and when.” He also urges leaders to recognize that health and development issues require “professional management for serious implementation” (7/4). 

To Drive Down Maternal Deaths, Increase The Number Of Health Workers Capable Of Providing Obstetric Care

“The biggest threat to the lives of teenage girls and young women in the developing world is pregnancy and childbirth,” Kate Grant, executive director of the Fistula Foundation and former deputy chief of staff at USAID, writes in a Mercury News opinion piece that reflects on world leaders’ commitment to this issue at last month’s G8 meeting.

Though “the G-8 Meeting took up the health of the world’s mothers as part of its agenda. … the final communiqué committed the G-8 to a far smaller level of maternal health funding than was expected … this is a blow to those that give and nurture life – the world’s would-be-mothers.”

Grant calls for a portion of the G8 investment to go towards building up the global health workforce. “There is a global gap of 3.5 million health workers, including midwives, nurses and doctors, who can provide emergency obstetric care and prevent death and injury. With prompt, skilled attention, most maternal deaths can be prevented. New funds should be deployed immediately to train these workers and prevent these needless deaths” (7/3).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.