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Opinions: G8’s Track Record; Maternal, Child Health; Chan on N. Korea; USAID, DDT In Haiti

G8’s ‘Disappointing Track Record’

In a Vancouver Sun opinion piece, columnist Barbara Yaffe writes about the “disappointing track record of delivery on past G8 aid promises” in light of recent concern over Canada’s announcement that it will not fund abortion in its G8 initiative. Yaffe includes several quotes from Julio Montaner, president of the International AIDS Society (IAS) and director of British Columbia’s Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, who highlights the G8’s weak follow through on the Universal Access Pledge adopted in 2005, which “promised delivery of HIV prevention, treatment and care to all those needing it by 2010.” 

As the the Canadian government prepares to focus on maternal and child health at the G8 meeting this summer, Montaner said, “There cannot be a successful Maternal and Child Health Initiative, unless we deliver on the Universal Access Pledge” for HIV/AIDS. He also “says there is an even bigger issue at play – a failure to honour past foreign aid commitments.” He said, “The G8 has failed to deliver on the pledge, despite repeatedly reassuring the international community about their commitment” (5/5).  

Canada Should Attend Maternal Health Conferences

A Globe and Mail editorial writes that the Canadian government has not yet responded to an upcoming global conference invitation on maternal, reproductive and child health, scheduled for June 7-9, in Washington, D.C., despite the country’s plans to champion the issue at the G8 meeting. The conference, which is expected to attract some 3,500 maternal health experts and other leaders, “will focus on developing political, economic, social and technological solutions to help reduce the death rates of women and children in the developing world – an important precursor to the G8 June summit,” according to the editorial.

“The world knows what needs to be done on maternal health. Solutions have largely been identified. Action is needed much more than further international forums. However, as the host of the G8 and G20, Canada has a responsibility to build consensus,” the Globe and Mail writes. “The G8 summit could serve as a catalyst to establish global support for maternal health. If Canada wants to lead this effort, it must also take a seat at the table of conferences dedicated to solving it” (5/4).  

Wall Street Journal Questions Chan’s Reviews Of N. Koreans’ Health, Country’s Health Care System

A Wall Street Journal editorial examines Margaret Chan’s recent remarks commending North Korea’s health care system following her visit to the country last week: Chan’s accounts are “hardly consistent with the reports of other visitors, or the accounts of North Koreans fleeing starvation – a trend on the upswing again after a poor harvest and harsh winter,” the news service writes. “Even Ms. Chan’s predecessor described the North’s health-care system as near collapse in 2001, and since then the North has continued to depend on foreign aid to feed one-third of its population. As for the abundance of doctors, the North’s declaration on the WHO website ought to arouse suspicion: ‘During the period 2001-2003, the number of doctors was increased by 104 percent, the nurses 125 percent and the midwives 107 percent.'”

“It appears Ms. Chan is either winking at the reality to maintain contact with the North or she allowed herself to be fooled,” the editorial continues. “Her own organization’s doctors have described appalling conditions in North Korean hospitals, such as the lack of running water and electricity. … But then this is nothing new for the WHO. … As long as a totalitarian state gives plenty of poorly trained people the title of doctor, fudges its health statistics and takes visiting officials on tours of Potemkin hospitals, the U.N. seems happy to give its seal of approval,” the editorial concludes (5/3).

DDT Should Be Used In Haiti

As Haiti prepares for the rainy season and an upsurge in malaria cases, “[w]hat is really needed is the chemical DDT, an old, cheap and safe tool to control the vector – the Anopheles mosquito – that spreads the disease,” Henry Miller, a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, writes in a Miami Herald opinion piece. “Although DDT is a (modestly) toxic substance, there is a vast difference between applying large amounts of it in the environment – as farmers did before it was banned – and using it carefully and sparingly to fight mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects. DDT remains largely near where it is sprayed, and no study has ever linked environmental exposure to DDT to harm to human health,” Miller writes, noting DDT for malaria control “is sprayed indoors in small amounts to prevent mosquitoes from nesting, so exposures would be low.”

He concludes: “Poor tropical countries like Haiti where malaria is endemic desperately need cheap, effective control of mosquitoes. Instead of continuing the politically correct stigmatization of DDT, United Nations agencies and NGOs such as the Red Cross should be rushing supplies of it to Haiti” (5/3). 

‘Flexible, Responsive’ USAID Must Work On Haitian-Led Recovery

“Simply stated, success in Haiti requires a completely new foreign assistance framework. We need to make sure aid is reaching the Haitian people and is delivered with greater efficiency,” Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, writes in a Miami Herald opinion piece calling for the U.S. to work with a “Haitian-led” recovery effort. “We need a strong development agency to carry out our objectives to support Haitian reconstruction. USAID, by virtue of its focus on long-term development, is best positioned to coordinate the transition from relief to recovery and play a central role in the U.S. government’s Haiti reconstruction programs. … We need a USAID that is flexible, responsive, and robust to make our aid dollars work better in Haiti,” according to Beckmann.

He writes that “urgent conditions in Haiti cannot wait for a complete overhaul of our foreign assistance programs” and goes on to outline a proposed role for USAID. “For USAID to accomplish real, sustainable relief for Haiti, it must have the resources and capabilities to respond to the country’s needs, and it must partner with the Haitian government to build an effective public administration infrastructure that can better deal with future natural disasters or other catastrophic events,” Beckmann writes (5/3).

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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.