Dear Colleagues, 


Syria is a mess these days, as anybody watching the news headlines can tell. This week, on Wednesday, I came across a demonstration near Schuman square in Brussels, with protestors loudly shouting ‘Stop the killings in Syria’ – the message was intended for the EU officials, obviously. And that was before Qubair. Naturally, everybody wants to influence the international community’s reaction to the massacres now probably occurring on both sides – the Guardian rightly mentions civil war has already started. On Thursday, Ban Ki moon singled out Assad’s government for possibly committing crimes against humanity. Yet, the picture is very murky, and we all know there are lots of interests in the region.  Syria is no different from Bosnia in the 90s. 

Last week, a Lancet Letter was published on the impact of economic sanctions on public health achievements, zooming in on Syria. In our guest-editorial, one of our colleagues elaborates on this.  


Enjoy your reading.

Kristof Decoster, David Hercot, Ildikó Bokros, Basile Keugoung &Wim Van Damme





Syria: a question of sanctions and population health

by K. Sen


There is by now considerable evidence on the ground to show that economic sanctions have a serious impact on the health of all Syrian citizens.  Because restricting them to the economy just does not work as they are all pervasive.

Read the rest of the editorial here 


Rio+20, Climate change & Health


1. Lancet (Editorial) – Sustainable development for health: Rio and beyond

This Lancet editorial looks ahead to the Rio+20 conference, and the role of health in it. (Apparently, Obama is being ‘encouraged’ by environmental NGOs to attend the conference; by way of carrot, we suggest a session on the sustainable use of drones).


Also in the Lancet, Andy Haines and colleagues give examples of how different sectors can benefit from improved health and how health can also be a co-benefit from improved policies in other sectors. Their Review article points out how existing agendas could integrate environmental, social, economic, and health goals.


2. Lancet (Viewpoint) – From Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals

Jeffrey D. Sachs;

Jeffrey Sachs explores the transition between MDGs and SDGs. He details successes and shortfalls in the global effort to achieve the MDGs, which must be scrutinised in order for the SDGs to “promote urgent and high-profile global awareness, political accountability, improved metrics, social feedback, and public pressures”.


Meanwhile, Tom Paulson started a new and timely ‘Metrics mania’ section on the Humanosphere website. In a first article in the series, Paulson focuses on the Millenium Villages turmoil (Q & A with the beleaguered Jeffrey himself).


3. Global Public Health – Multiple crises and global health: New and necessary frontiers of health politics

Ted Schrecker;

The world economy is entering an era of multiple crises, involving finance, food security and global environmental change. This article assesses the implications for global public health. The article also mentions the threat that such crises present to recent progress in global health, arguing that global health researchers and practitioners must become more familiar with the relevant social processes, and that proposed solutions that neglect the continuing importance of the nation-state are misdirected.  (Essential reading)


4. Plos – Connecting the Global Climate Change and Public Health Agendas

Peter Byass et al.;

Peter Byass and colleagues urge public health professionals to strengthen their response and develop actions to bring health and climate co-benefits.


In another Plos essay, Jerome Singh argues that health ethics principles must be afforded equal status to economics principles in climate change deliberations, and that the health community must play more of a leadership role.


Child & Maternal health


5. Lancet (Comment) – Towards ending preventable child deaths

Margaret Chan & Anthony Lake;

On June 14—15, policy makers and leaders from civil society, academia, and industry will gather at the Child Survival Call to Action in Washington, DC—a high-level forum co-convened by the Governments of Ethiopia, India, and the USA. The event will launch “Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed”, a multi-year global initiative to unite governments and partners with the clear and compelling goal of effectively ending preventable child deaths. Chan (WHO) & Lake (UNICEF) give some background.


There are plenty of other interesting Comments in the Lancet this week on maternal and child health, one on the fourth report of  “Countdown to 2015: Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival” for example, another one on the need to tackle pneumonia and diarrhoea (and a new UNICEF report on this issue), and more.  So we encourage you to get your weekly dose of Lancet reading (in between the European football games on the telly).


6. ODI Briefing paper – Delivering maternal health: why is Rwanda doing better than Malawi, Niger and Uganda?

Vikky Chambers & David Booth;

This Briefing Paper uses new research from the Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP) to explore the institutional factors that shape maternal health outcomes in Malawi, Niger, Rwanda and Uganda.


7. CSIS report – Reflections on advancing health in Ethiopia

J. Stephen Morrison & Suzanne Brundage;

CSIS just released a paper ahead of the Washington conference on child health (scheduled for next week) highlighting the bilateral collaboration between Ethiopia and the US on advancing health in Ethiopia. Although focused on Ethiopia, it might offer lessons for more countries such as (the need for) closer strategic collaboration between PEPFAR and the Global Fund or the need to address maternal health with more bottom-up approaches.


8. Guardian ‘Poverty Matters’ blog – Family planning summit could mark turning point for maternal health

Babatunde Osotimehin;

Next month in London an initiative will be launched to meet the unfilled need for modern family planning in developing countries by tackling the estimated $3.6bn annual shortfall in investment. The family planning summit is being co-hosted by the UK government and the Gates Foundation, and supported by UNFPA. The summit could mark a turning point for maternal health, argues this UNFPA employee.


A new report by a Kenyan-based organization says that in some African countries (Rwanda, Ethiopia and Malawi, among others), political will, maternal and child health concerns as well as more and more funding are helping to develop effective family planning. In West-and Central Africa, there is far less political will, though.


In related news, CGD’s John May thinks the World Bank needs more demographic expertise, with population issues currently making a comeback on the international development scene.


Health Policy & Financing


9. Policy Review – Reshaping Global Health

Mark Dybul, Peter Piot & Julio Frenk

Dybul, Piot and Frenk are calling for a “Bretton Woods of Global Health” because the current governance gap is responsible for huge efficiency losses, in their opinion. Among a bunch of ideas on integrated care, accountability, sustainability and more we would highlight two in particular. First, putting people at the center of health planning is a visionary idea, and would indeed amount to a paradigm shift. Second, an innovative idea that has already been advocated at the national level but could also inspire some global health institutional arrangements is the proposal that funders and advisers would be clearly split. “Global funds” would thus channel the flow of money and “Technical Agencies” would advise on the best ways to implement health planning using the money.


10.   Lancet (Correspondence) – NTD control and health system strengthening

Filip Meheus et al.;

Our colleagues are happy with the new investments of pharmaceutical companies, global philanthropists, and product-developing public—private partnerships in research and development and NTD control. However, they emphasize that the endeavour to secure global alliances for this noble cause does not obviate the need for sound evidence and interdisciplinary approaches: the social dimension and the wider health system need to be taken into account too.


11.   Critical Public Health – The global financial crisis and health equity: toward a conceptual framework

Arne Ruckert & Ronald Labonte;

The authors identify pathways that link the global financial crisis to health equity. They distinguish between direct and indirect channels of influence, and develop a conceptual model that builds on the literature analyzing the impacts of globalization on social determinants of health.


12.   Global health – Who’s funding WHO?

Andrew Harmer;

In this blog post, Andrew Harmer scrutinizes WHO funding (check out also the comments).


13.   Health Policy & Systems – Emergence of biopharmaceutical innovators in China, India, Brazil, and South Africa as global competitors and collaborators

Rahim Rezaie et al.;

This paper analyzes factors that influence innovative activity in the indigenous biopharmaceutical sectors of China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.


Some other recent Health Policy & Financing publications:

  • A UNAIDS  policy brief reviews the intellectual property rights clauses in free trade agreements that go beyond the minimum requirement proposed by TRIPS and argues that these could limit access and increase drug prices.
  • Two new UNICEF publications demonstrate that while reaching UHC is possible in most countries, this requires a comprehensive social protection system of which health insurance is a crucial component, according to a post on the UHC Forward blog.




14.   BMC health services – Brain Gains: a literature review of medical missions to low and middle-income countries

Alexandra LC Martiniuk et al.;

The aim of this study was to review medical mission publications over 25 years to better understand missions of health care professionals and their potential impact on health systems in LMICs.


Development & Aid


15.   ODI (Background note) – Adjusting indices of donor aid quality

Matthew Geddes;

Three recent exercises ranking the ‘quality’ of donors have produced three new indices of donor aid quality. They reflect a resurgence of the comparative analysis of donor practice, focusing on aid quality issues, value for money, and transparency. This Background Note suggests three potential adjustments to improve the quality of the evidence.


Rio+20 and post-2015


16.   ODI (research report) – Inclusive growth and a post-2015 framework

Gina Bergh & Claire Melamed;

Current debates point to three, not mutually exclusive, approaches, tackling different parts of the policy agenda on inclusive growth.


Check out also the “new” WB environmental strategy for the next decade, aiming to boost the role of the private sector.


In Belgium, a recent (and nice) song was called “the Face of the planet”. This week, scientists reported that the ‘face’ or rather the state of the planet does not look nice at all (for the umptieth time one might say). Not that humanity pays heed: check out these very interesting articles on the ‘new golden age of oil’ (and its likely environmental impact) (in Foreign Policy), or on the ‘new golden age for shale gas’ in the EU (see Public Service Europe).


Aid & media


A couple of noteworthy articles on aid & media were published this week: in the Guardian, the question is asked why aid agencies stubbornly refrain from funding media in the South. And the Economist has an article on ‘philantro journalism’, the new rage apparently, although not yet in development circles.


Other D&A stuff


  • IRIN features a very interesting article on aid and charity in the muslim world, and the need for a revolution – it’s a staggering amount of charity though, every year, compared with conventional aid.
  • The Economist explores whether the idea that the state should subsidise giving to good causes is justified.
  • Oxfam’s Duncan Green has a post on political economists and aid & Africa.
  • Finally, Simon Maxwell scrutinized the new EU development policy, now that the European Foreign Affairs Council has finally issued its Conclusions regarding the new EU development policy, ‘Agenda for Change’, published in October 2011. (Apparently, ‘decent work’ has fallen off the radar – we agree with the Council that given the current dire employment situation in the EU itself (see the UK jubilee news for example), it would be a bit preposterous to argue for decent work in LICs; and anyhow, the current EU leadership is probably not too eager to embrace ILO constructs).

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