Is the water privatization heavily promoted by the International Financial Institutions, a good thing for the poorest in the developing countries? A new report by Nancy Alexander of the Citizen's network on essential services takes a skeptical view. A UN report, "Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Liberalization of Trade in Services and Human Rights" claimed that increased foreign private investment in public services can upgrade national infrastructure, introduce new technology and provide employment. However, the report also argues that it can lead to negative impacts to the poorest.
Poverty and health
Malawi has gone from bountiful maize crops to food insecurity in the past seven years. Thanks to increased farm subsidies for small-holder farmers in 2004, Malawi harvested a bumper crop the following year. But the author reports that subsidies fell thereafter and Malawi became a net importer of maize, with domonishing agricultural outputs. What can be learned from Malawi’s story? With a population of more than a billion, will Africa produce enough food for its people? The author argues it is possible, but under several conditions. First, an essential ingredient for success in agriculture is strong political will at the highest level. Second, while foreign funds help to feed the hungry and revive agriculture in Africa, food security is argued to be too important to be left to the generosity of external partners. It also requires the same importance and resources as national security. Africa needs a strong food policy backed by resources from African Union (AU) members, to be invested in institutions that promote agriculture. One tangible AU response has been the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which requires countries that sign up to it to spend at least 10% of their national budgets on agriculture.
Last month saw the publication of the World Bank’s latest annual Global Economic Prospects report, setting out the Bank’s vision of the global economy until 2030, including its latest projections for poverty. The breathless excitement with which the Bank presents this flight of fancy is quite extraordinary. This document provides an assessment of the latest much-hyped poverty projections from the World Bank.
The sanitation sector in South Africa is currently regulated by three policy documents, namely the White Paper on Water Supply and Sanitation (1994); the White Paper on a National Water Policy of South Africa (1997) and the White Paper on Basic Household Sanitation (2001). These documents provide procedures, rules and allocation mechanisms for sanitation, implemented through laws, regulations; economic measures; information and education programmes; and assignment of rights and responsibilities for providing services. After several years of implementation, a number of challenges and unintended consequences were identified. The regulatory responsibilities were unclear, shifting between departments. Devolving responsibility for implementation to local government resulted in significant changes in the sector. Increased urbanisation is noted to increase stress on urban sanitation systems, but so too is changing human settlement in rural areas placing increased strain on small and limited sanitation systems. The department thus argues for policy review to address these challenges to deliver sanitation.
This study analyses the report, Circumstances of Orphan and Non-orphan Children and their Care Providers in Mwanza, Tanzania, which sampled 1,960 children aged 6–19. It focuses on vulnerability indicators in children's living arrangements, education, paid work and psychosocial well-being, particularly girls, who are most vulnerable. Particular emphasis should be paid to girls within situation analyses. Vulnerabilities associated with widespread and chronic poverty underlie vulnerabilities related to demographic factors and household restructuring. Their complex interplay reiterates the need for AIDS impact mitigation measures to be built on a comprehensive and robust social protection programme that is driven by poverty reduction objectives.
The World Health Assembly concluded its annual session at the end of May with the adoption of a resolution that could change the concept of drug research and development, and open the door to a system that gives the world's poor greater access to medicines. The resolution approved by the Assembly, the supreme decision-making body of the World Health Organisation (WHO), urges the 192 member states to make the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals a strategic sector, thus committing themselves to making the research and development of medicines consistent with public interest needs a priority.
Cholera can rapidly lead to severe dehydration and death if left untreated. Oral rehydration salts (ORS) can successfully treat 80% of cholera patients - both adults and children –and should be given early at home to avert delays in rehydration and improve survival. WHO outlines in the report that it does not see any contradiction in making ORS packages available to households and non-medical personnel outside health care facilities. In contrast, making ORS available at household and community levels can avert unnecessary deaths and contributes to diminishing case fatality rates, particularly in resource-poor settings. Providing nutritious food as well as continuing breastfeeding for infants and young children should continue simultaneously with administering appropriate fluids or ORS.
Civil society is calling on the Tanzanian government and agri-business for a frank discussion on the objectives and benefits of the ongoing Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (Sagcot) project, which forms part of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra). Agra is considered by activists fighting poverty as a means to destroy small-scale farming in Africa and introduce large-scale, mechanised agriculture producing genetically modified crops, with disastrous results for food security on the continent. Critics argue that the government’s version of green revolution is fundamentally flawed, as it seeks the participation of large-scale, mostly foreign, investors, while conveniently ignoring the fact that agriculture in the country is overwhelmingly small-scale, sustaining about 80% of the population. The fate of these farmers is uncertain. As the implementation of most of these projects also seems complex, lacks transparency and raises accusations of land grabbing, civil society organisations are also calling on coordinators of the project to explain the nature of partnership with key international partners, some of whom have controversial commercial and agricultural undertakings. The ensuing discussions should address issues such as how local societies will be key players in farming, technological advancement and value addition.
During his three-day visit from 16-19 December 2008, Dr Sambo held discussions with national authorities and partners on ways and means of bringing an end to the spread of the cholera epidemic. Dr Sambo advised that beyond cholera, other specific health problems may become worse if the key social and economic determinants of health are not urgently improved. He highlighted the importance of inter-sectoral approach in the prevention of cholera and reached agreement with the Minister of Health to establish the Cholera Command and Control Centre, jointly operated by WHO and the Ministry of Health of Zimbabwe, to coordinate and boost the country’s capacity to manage the response particularly in the areas of disease surveillance, case management, water and sanitation, social mobilisation and logistics.
Is job creation really the best way to seek wellbeing for all in countries with chronic, high unemployment? No, according to the author of this article, especially not in a wealthy middle-income country like South Africa, where very high unemployment combines with high poverty rates. A universal income grant, he argues, makes much more sense. He points out that earning a decent secure wage is not a prospect for millions of South Africans, especially with the global economic crisis having hit the country and unemployment standing at 35%. Having a job does not automatically prevent poverty, as most workers earn very low wages and have minimal labour protection, a situation exacerbated by the shift towards the use of casual and outsourced labour and the related decline in real wages for low-skilled workers. Although the current social grant system separates millions from destitution, he notes that it is ill-suited to today’s realities, as it hinges on the fiction that every worker, sooner or later, will find a decent job. In addition, targeted and means-tested social protection is burdensome, costly and humiliating. The author argues that a universal income is developmental and would boost wellbeing and health, referring to studies that show reduced stunting in children, better nutrition levels and greater school enrolment. He notes that a universal grant as small as US$12 per month could close South Africa’s poverty gap by 74% and lift about six million people above a poverty line of US$50 per month.