Talk for Article "Report: West is doing foreign aid all wrong"

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    From the abstract of the report, it seems that it corroborates the analysis of foreign aid in The Dictator’s Handbook, that foreign aid is a tool for appealing to domestic voters and exchanging for beneficial policies from target governments, rather than for helping the people of target countries.

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      Hi Xizhu,
      Thank you for your comments.
      This has also been argued in the case of the UK. The British government passed a bill which “enshrined” a commitment to give 0.7% of the country’s Gross National Income (GNI) to foreign aid (here is an article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31809075) However, some criticise how the money is being spent as well and have said that part of it has instead trickled into different departments’ spending (Here is the artice: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/15/does-britain-spend-too-much-on-foreign-aid-head-to-head) Lastly, here is the most recent developments the UK has made in this sector (again, an article here for you to read: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/apr/12/penny-mordaunt-hails-british-aid-as-a-shield-against-poverty-and-terrorism).

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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    As a senior (age 71) who is merely a student of ‘global health’ and ‘humanitarian responses to conflict and disaster’, I lack real experience that might allow me to contribute directly. But I would like to comment in case an experienced journalist wishes to tackle this project in depth.

    First, I understand that the World Bank and the government of Bangladesh have worked together successfully since Bangladesh’s birth as a nation; their relationship might be seen as a success story.

    Second, among the NGOs of the world, Bangladesh’s BRAC has an impressive record: a review of this organization’s practices might be helpful, at least in terms of how aid from any source (domestic or foreign) can be appropriately employed to the benefit of its recipients. Importantly, BRAC is not a component of ‘the West’.

    Third, as a ‘worst’ historical example, consider how the West’s interventions in Afghanistan left the reputations (and effectiveness) of NGOs in tatters … except for the ICRC and MSF! One might acquire insight by asking why the MSF distances itself from aid ‘conglomerates’; it withdrew from the acclaimed SPHERE project (which set ‘standards’ for the international aid industry), and did not renew its membership in the international Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response, which works closely with the UNHCR and the World Food Programme. Having answers to this question might help this story.

    Fourth, as an example of how hopelessly complex these issues can become when the West is indifferent, consider Goma Zaire in 1994, and MSF’s experience in the Tanzanian camps during the same (Rwandan genocide) period. And then look at what has since happened in this region, a region of ongoing violence, death, rape, …. whatever happened to noble ideals such as R2P (Responsibility to Protect) with its notional global governmental support?

    Finally, look at President Jimmy Carter’s guinea worm eradication program, which may soon lead to guinea worm’s eradication from the globe; his Carter Foundation consistently empowered local communities to direct their own projects; was this the not-so-secret secret to his program’s absolutely remarkable success?

    Here are two comments that relate more directly to your story’s topic.

    First, my gut tells me that ‘modern’ approaches to health interventions (a major component of foreign aid) focuses too much on (a) ‘big picture’ ‘cost-effectiveness’ (this is mandated by the World Health Organization, I believe; and certainly by others; it is an essential component of Western ‘global health’ university curricula) and (b) concepts such as looking at aggregate data for DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years). Such focus on broad data (a moronic oxymoron), with resulting policies and their implementations, leave individual humans voiceless, in silent distress, with little hope. This is why decisions must be left to local governments or (preferably?) local NGOs who often relate more consciously to their fellow humans as individuals; they see suffering in existential/experiential terms.

    In a related vein, it has become trendy to rely on ‘big data’ in Western decision-making. For example, look at the analyses being done by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME; healthdata.org). Their work is widely employed at high levels in the global health community. I suspect that the quality of data fed into their analyses varies dramatically from region to region, and I worry that much of it reflects multi-level parsing and re-parsing of estimates (‘best guesses’ vs. authentic surveillance data) of varying accuracy; the IHME would likely be the first to admit (and lament) it. I doubt that such analyses will ever reflect the (hypothetical) death yesterday of a woman living in Haiti’s Central Plateau from purperal fever following child birth; we can readily think of similar examples that might at this moment be unfolding in Mali, south Sudan, eastern DRC, etc. With a ‘big picture’ approach, the distresses of these and other women might never be relieved. I do not know but wonder whether the Gates Foundation employs a ‘big data’ approach to decision making.

    I wish I could speak with greater confidence, in a manner entirely appropriate to the topic you have chosen. Elaboration of your chosen topic is desperately needed.

    Paul Farmer’s ‘Pathologies of Power’ is a good read.

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      Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for your interest and the detailed insight!

      Would you be interested in writing up any of your suggestions as an article and we could guide you through the process?

      Thank you again for all your recommendations

      1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

        Hi Suzanne, I’m unable to at the moment, but will keep the idea brewing in the back of my mind. Perhaps I’ll find a related but narrower topic that I can write about with greater confidence. Thanks! I hope WikiTribune captures the imagination of both readers and writers alike!

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          Of course, it is a very broad topic! Please feel free to let us know if you want to contribute any articles or if you have any other recommendations.

          Thank you for sharing the information about MSF. I looked into it and if you are interested here is their press release from 2016 which explains their reasoning for not attending the WHS: http://www.msf.org/en/article/msf-pull-out-world-humanitarian-summit !

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            Thank you; I hadn’t seen that press release. It is very much in line with what I have learned about MSF; they are a principled organization that sees clearly through the noise.

            I may be able to contribute some articles for consideration in a few months. If I’m able to do this, each article would be brief but well-researched (part time background research over several months) and involve topics in infectious disease. Articles would be relevant to current outbreaks (e.g., a few days old), and cover who, what, when and why, while leading to the question ‘what must be done?’.

            Consider this recent story about buruli ulcer in Australia:
            https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/948964/Buruli-ulcer-epidemic-Australia-spread-UK-flesh-eating-bug
            Buruli ulcer in Australia is actually an old story (although its recent spread is not). Buruli ulcer made the news in Australia some years ago, and if I recall correctly the photo included that of an older man in a modern hospital complaining about how awful an experience it was. The real story, not mentioned at the time, was about those truly suffering silently in sub-Saharan Africa (about a dad desperately treating his child’s ulcer in a way that may have horribly exacerbated the infection). Appropriately, the Express article cited above does include photos of Africans with the disease. Importantly , early diagnosis (think Australia) with readily-available inexpensive antibiotics (think Australia) makes the infection easily treatable. Although the Telegraph photos (I merely scanned the article) show a nurse treating an African child, I wonder how much access rural vs. urban Africans have to modern health care (think west Africa during the Ebola outbreak). Scarring, such as of a large ulcer involving about 1/5 of the torso longitudinally, can result in a child’s body being deformed/bent-over for life, such that even corrective surgery in a modern hospital might not be possible. Imagine similar things involving limbs.

            I digress. What I want to say is that a buruli ulcer story with a global view could have been written quite a few years ago. More recently, I see stories that make spectacular headlines involving tourists suffering from bot fly infections, or yellow fever, or whatever. The focus is on the tourists whose holidays are ruined, or who sadly die, but coverage is weak at best regarding people living in areas where these diseases are endemic.

            Not all news must be bad. Success stories such as guinea worm eradication, and success-with-setback stories such as polio eradication, need coverage too, if we are to help our global population become the global citizens that many/we want to be. 🙂 In this regard, I have the notion that presenting a story that engages because it would seem to impact the lives of your educated, relatively privileged readership (not meant to offend; I am in this group!), can provide a lead into a story offering a more global perspective.

            Well, thanks for reading. I’m motivated, but have to work through some commitments before I can do anything. I’ll be in touch when the time is right. And thank you for your encouragement! 🙂

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              Hi Daniel,

              Thank you again for the considered reply!

              I am so glad to hear that you want to contribute some content for WikiTribune. To guide you through the process (when you are ready/have the time), please have a read through this page as it should answer some of your questions: https://www.wikitribune.com/project/how-to-write-a-piece-of-journalism-for-wikitribune/

              Feel free to message us if you are unsure about anything. We are here to help!

              On a different note, a journalist who works for WikiTribune, Lydia Morrish, recently covered a Malaria Summit that took place in London last week. You might want to read her article: https://www.wikitribune.com/story/2018/04/17/wikiproject/help-us-report-on-london-summit-to-end-malaria/64141/

              I would encourage you to talk to her on her profile as your interests overlap: https://www.wikitribune.com/user/lydia-morrish/

              Thanks again for all the suggestions!

              1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

                Hi Suzanne. I’ve looked at Lydia’s profile; she’s certainly to be admired as a journalist! I’ve updated my own profile so you can understand my world view.
                https://www.wikitribune.com/user/daniel-wilson-2/
                Thanks, Dan.

      2. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

        I’ll send you this and then stop badgering you with ideas until I have something that I can write as substantiated news that fits the criteria in the link you sent me.

        Poverty and malnutrition in Venezuela is a current and potentially fulminating (this is such an under-used word) story that receives little attention, in spite of the needs of the Venezuela people for assistance, some of which might be provided in response to public outcry (See NOTE at end). While Al Jazeera routinely provides coverage on Venezuela, it has not covered hunger and malnutrition in Venezuela since October 2016.

        I am not qualified by knowledge or journalistic ability to write a story. Is anyone willing to take this on?

        Importantly, there appears to be no current coverage related to the World Food Programme’s activation of a Level 2 Emergency Response within the past few weeks:
        https://reliefweb.int/report/colombia/wfp-level-2-emergency-colombia-venezuela-crisis-6-april-2018

        This was brought to my attention some days ago by a person within the international humanitarian industry, who informed me of the following:

        1. Venezuela continues to experience hyperinflation, acute scarcity of food, medicine and other basic goods.
        2. Measurable indexes of poverty and malnutrition (think ‘children’, potentially including ‘stunting’) have spiralled rapidly.
        3. The UNHCR estimates that 1.5 million are displaced (I don’t know what proportion are internally-displaced, and how many have moved to Brasil or other countries); the biggest surge is recent.
        4. About 3 in 10 households are experiencing severe to moderate food insecurity.
        5. Organizations such as the World Food Programme use objective criteria to evaluate emergencies, including ‘scale’, ‘complexity’, ‘urgency’ and ‘capacity’.
        6. The WFP used the above and one other criterion to activate a Level 2 Emergency Response; they have been helping the Venezuela and Columbia governments since the end of March this year (three weeks ago). (My own view is that phrases such as ‘have been helping’ reflect the need for international organizations to state publicly that they are ‘helping’, not ‘intervening’; this opens a door that might otherwise remain closed.)

        NOTE: In 1994, as the Goma (Zaire) crisis began to unfold, and in response to the rapid influx of 3 million Rwandans into the small town, a plucky field director of a humanitarian agency involved in a small-scale project broke with protocol, surreptitiously ‘borrowed’ a satellite phone from another aid agency, and managed to get through to the BBC news room in London! Now I can’t remember the details, but I vaguely recall that she was connected to the broadcast studio and interviewed live. The result was that western governments and UN agencies responded large-scale, almost immediately. Although there were huge problems with the logistics of the response, let’s ignore these for they have since been addressed (by the SPHERE project; http://www.sphereproject.org). The take-home message is that ‘the news’can profoundly influence government action in response to public outcry, to the benefit of those in need.

        I’ll likely submit something in a few months. ttfn, Dan.

        1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

          Hi Daniel,

          Again, so great to hear from you on matters that interest you. Humanitarian reporting is very much up my street, so I will endeavour to look into Venezuela today.

          Thank you for all your responses and stay in touch!

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            While ‘sanctions’, ’embargos’ and threats of the like have no sting in news stories, they must certainly and always sting our fellow humans in the sanctioned/embargoed nations. Has President Trump yet followed through on his threats to the Venezuelan oil industry? (I’m generally ignorant of such things.) Can a WFP Level 2 emergency be the consequence of western politics?

            1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

              Hi Daniel,

              There has been talk of the US imposing sanction on Venezuela but nothing has come of it yet. Russia has invested money into Venezuela to help build itself up (here is an FT article – you may face a subscription barrier, but I am sure you could find another source – https://www.ft.com/content/5f3084c6-ca03-11e7-ab18-7a9fb7d6163e). I suspect something will come of the rumours in the coming months, as it has been reported that the US wants to put pressure on the socialist President.

              We have discussed your well-thought suggestion of covering Venezuela.

              The general consensus is that it is very difficult for us to cover the ongoing issue because it is hard for any journalists to get there altogether.

              Having said that, Venezuela’s election is coming up (22 May 2018). It might be a good idea to create a timeline of the ongoing crisis there and call this out to the community so that members can contribute to it? This could be an interesting collaborative exercise during the run-up to the elections! Let me know what you think.

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