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Opinions: Preparing For Next Flu Outbreak; Elections In Zimbabwe; U.S. Response To Haiti

Better Preparation Required For Next Flu Outbreak, Despite Mildness Of Swine Flu

Now that concerns about swine flu have eased, “[o]ur fear is that the public and officials will get blase about the next flu outbreak,” according to a New York Times editorial. “Efforts to rush vaccine into production did not go well. This dry run should lead health officials to push the vaccine makers even harder to adopt new technologies that can turn out vaccine more quickly. International organizations should also streamline procedures for transferring excess vaccine from advanced countries that typically buy up almost all of the supply to poorer nations whose citizens are at risk,” the newspaper writes.

The editorial notes vaccine manufacturers’ inability to supply enough vaccines when the outbreak first started. “Luckily, the outbreaks proved relatively mild, and it turned out that a single dose of vaccine would provide protection for most people, another reason for the current glut,” writes the New York Times. “Despite the excess vaccine, it would be wrong – and dangerous – to fault health authorities for the steps they took to protect their populations.” The editorial concludes: “Had the virus been more lethal, the penalty for late delivery and insufficient supplies of vaccine would have been a public health catastrophe. We may not get as lucky next time” (4/7). 

World Must Pressure Zimbabwe To Hold Free Elections

In his latest New York Times column, columnist Nicholas Kristof reflects on a recent trip to Zimbabwe. According to Kristof, “Zimbabwe has come very far downhill over the last few decades (although it has risen a bit since its trough two years ago). An impressive health and education system is in tatters, and life expectancy has tumbled from about 60 years in 1990 to somewhere between 36 and 44, depending on which statistics you believe.”

He recounts the experience of a pregnant woman with malaria who couldn’t afford to pay $2 for treatment and how the clinic turned the woman away. “Nurses there had complained that they were desperately short of bandages, antibiotics and beds. They said that to survive, they impose fees for seeing patients, for family planning, for safe childbirth — and the upshot is that impoverished villagers die because they can’t pay.” Kristof calls for international pressure on Zimbabwe to hold free elections (4/7).

Recommendations For An Effective U.S. Response To Haiti

Pledging money for Haiti’s reconstruction “is the easy part,” Nancy Birdsall, the president of the Center for Global Development, writes in a Global Post opinion piece. “The United States, the lead donor and friend with the greatest interest in Haiti’s future development, can do much more, in two ways: its own aid programs can be more effective; and it can take steps beyond aid that are far more critical to long-run prosperity for Haiti’s people.”

“For the United States, better aid should mean more U.S. aid actually reaching Haiti’s people. How about a commitment that of the $1 billion the United States spends at least $800 million is actually spent in Haiti by and through Haitians?” she writes before outlining the “non-aid channels that could make a bigger and more enduring difference for Haiti’s people.” Birdsall’s suggested non-aid channels include: “trade for jobs,” an additional 10,000 visas per year, utilization of the Haitian diaspora’s skills for “management of public services,” and channeling aid through “existing programs that catalyze local and foreign direct investment in Haiti.”

Birdsall concludes: “Whether Haiti can recover from the earthquake and overcome centuries of exploitation and misrule to build a safer and more just society is ultimately in the hands of the Haitians. Though outside help is vital, aid done badly can do more harm than good ” (4/6).

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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.