// April 30th, 2013 // No Comments » // News Behind the News, Uncategorized
Section 1: GHNI Focus Countries
Here’s GHNI’s news behind the news headlines around the world…
Nepali women receive health education
Women’s Rights, One Tribe at a Time
One small success in the struggle for women’s rights in Afghanistan is reported by IRIN in an article which starts with the story of a woman who comes to a woman’s refuge for the fifth time after a brutal beating by her husband. On the four previous occasions she was sent back to her husband either by the decision of tribal elders or the government court. The small success is the decision by the tribal elders to ban “baad,” the practice of giving away girls as payment to settle a dispute.
GHNI village TCD Programs always begin with the understanding that all people are created equal, men and women. We rejoice with the people of Afghanistan in this small success. Here’s one way GHNI is helping Afghan women and families…
A report from IRIN gives an estimate of 127,000 internally displaced persons, mostly from the Muslim Rohingya community, in the wake of two waves of violence directed against this stateless minority. Continuing agitation by Buddhist activists, complaining that international aid is focused on the Muslims, is making it difficult for aid agencies to recruit and retain local staff, and thereby hampering their efforts to provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance.
GHNI serves with several partners in Burma (Myanmar). We serve all who are needy, regardless of race, religion or national origin.
Fuel Shortage Poses Threat
A shortage of fuel has delayed the wheat harvest in Egypt, exacerbating an acute policy dilemma for the government, according to a report from IRIN. The government wants to increase domestic wheat production to reduce the foreign exchange burden of importing 75% of the wheat consumed in the country and has announced a marginal increase in its buying price. But farmers forced to resort to the black market to obtain fuel for the harvest are facing a much greater increase in their costs. While the harvest is delayed, losses from pests and disease increase, in some cases up to 50% of the expected crop, and the rise in production costs lowers the incentive to embark on the next planting. The shortage of fuel threatens both food security and the precarious level of foreign exchange reserves.
GHNI is helping many villages in Egypt. Here’s one such story…
Forestry to Revive Ethiopia
Rising populations of humans and livestock have reduced forest cover from 40% of Ethiopia’s land surface four centuries ago to 4.6% today. A project to reverse deforestation covering 500,000 hectares has been launched in the mountains of Bale in Oromia Province, run by a combination of a British and a local NGO and funded by the governments of Norway, Ireland, and the Netherlands.
The project uses a strategy of participatory forest management, seeking to enlist the active support of the local community, which in exchange for giving up its customary practices of uncontrolled extraction of forest resources would share in the benefits of managed exploitation of commercial opportunities to produce bamboo, forest coffee and honey. Of 23,000 families in the Bale area, 3,500 have adopted these activities, though the level of investment is insufficient. For honey production to flourish, hives need to be distributed, technical support provided to beekeepers, and marketing arrangements to be improved.
GHNI is supporting many micro-business opportunities that really help families become resilient and self-sustainable. Another way GHNI is also helping families to engage natural resources for pesticides and fertilizer to increase successful food and income production.
Preventing Abuse Despite Barriers
Although Indonesia has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, there are many practical barriers to effective enforcement of measures to prevent child abuse, according to a report from IRIN. Although the police established specialised units to handle crimes against women and children, these are threatened with closure because so few cases are referred to them.
GHNI continues to help women thru education and micro-business in the slums and have seen lives of families changed.
Rains: Blessing or Curse?
Exceptionally heavy rains in many parts of East Africa are proving a mixed blessing. While boosting future harvest prospects, in Kenya alone the flooding has already cost 32 deaths and displaced more than 18,000 people, a number that could rise to 30,000 according to the Kenya Red Cross. Damage to roads has made access more difficult to the Dadaab camp complex, home to 463,000 mainly Somali refugees, and raised commodity prices.
GHNI has been helping in the Somali camps for many years. The suffering is horrendous.
Womens’ Health Education
Nepal is on track to achieve its Millenial Development Goals (MDG) target of reducing by three-quarters its maternal mortality ratio by 2015—a huge achievement and in vivid contrast to most African countries. Paradoxically, the gains have been made without a significant increase in the supply of trained midwives. The first professional midwives are expected to enter training in 2014.
GHNI is initiating community-based health education for the women of 7 villages in SW Nepal. We have already seen this make a big difference in reducing maternal death in some villages in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Read more on GHNI’s work in Nepal…
Survival Turns Dangerous
A survival strategy adopted to overcome the bitter chill of winter and early spring has risked the health of thousands of Syrians. In the absence of refined heating oil, people have been turning to crude oil for heating and cooking purposes, but because burning crude has more sulphur and carbon monoxide, it has produced respiratory and skin problems among the people affected. It is not only crude oil to which people resort. In the town of Hama, people have been burning desks and chairs from schools. In the village of Maaret al Numan 500 hectares of olive groves were cut down to provide fuel.
GHNI is taking in medicines to refugees during the writing of this article.
Syrian Refugees Require On-Going Need
From the beginning of the conflict, Turkey has been receptive to the situation of Syrian refugees seeking to cross its border, and has borne the cost (at least $700 million) from its own resources. According to IRIN, 192,000 refugees live in 17 camps strung out across the 8 provinces which face Syria, with a similar number living in apartments, unfinished houses and even sheds among the host community.
Turkey freely admits those with passports, while those without are accommodated in the camps. Although these have the reputation of being among the best in the world, they are also functioning as a choke on the admission rate, since Turkey admits undocumented refugees only as new camp accommodation comes on stream.
During the writing of this article, we at GHNI have a team on the border of Turkey with Syria bringing clothing and medical supplies. All of our team members are volunteers. We desperately need $200,000 to meet the needs for the refugees now. That will also help with resettling them later. Join this life-saving work, today!
Microcredit for Developing Countries?
Microcredit has been promoted in many developing countries as a means of propelling the poor to a higher standard of living by encouraging investment in productive enterprises. It is unclear whether this objective has been achieved in Yemen, according to a report from IRIN. Although a very high rate of loan repayment has been recorded, which is one crucial indicator of success; it is less apparent that success is reflected in indicators such as higher household expenditure or higher rates of enrolment in school.
Challenges to further growth of microcredit include lack of understanding of loan operations, high rates of interest (its equivalent in Islamic finance) and the ever-present temptation to divert what is intended as investment finance into immediate consumption needs such as paying medical or food bills.
SECTION TWO: FEATURE ARTICLE OF THE MONTH
RESEARCH FOCUS: PHARMACEUTICALS IN INDIA
Patent Protection and Access to Pharmaceuticals in India
According to a story appearing in the World Development section of the Guardian newspaper, a decision by the Indian Supreme Court not to uphold the patent protection on Gleevec, the blockbuster cancer drug developed by Novartis, has provoked a lively debate on the merits or otherwise of the intellectual property regime which has been driven largely by the interests of large multinational firms based in the West. The immediate consequence of the decision is that an Indian manufacturer of generic medicines will be free to continue producing the drug and selling it in India at a fraction of the price that Novartis has charged ($170 for a monthly course of treatment in contrast to $2500). This is obviously an enormous benefit to patients in India who would not be able to afford the international price. The argument used by the pharmaceutical companies is that the monopoly pricing power afforded by patent protection is necessary as an incentive for the pharmaceutical companies to undertake the huge expenditures and uncertainties involved in the development of new drugs.
This is a specific example of the struggle that has been raging over the past two decades between commercial interests and their supporters in industrialised country governments on the one hand and the advocates of improved access to medicines, especially in developing countries, on the other hand. The fact that it is an Indian story is unsurprising, since Indian generic manufacturing capacity has often been at the flashpoint of this frequently bitter struggle.
The situation of patent protection for medicines changed fundamentally with the advent of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. Up until then, many developing countries had no patent legislation; some had protection for processes but not products, which allowed scope for generic manufacture; and some had protection for both products and processes. Membership of WTO entailed signing up to a number of multilateral agreements, among which was the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Countries were obliged by TRIPS to amend their domestic legislation to give 20 years patent protection for both products and processes. This applied to new drugs, so generic manufacture of products registered before 1995 was still possible. There were transition arrangements which allowed developing countries to delay compliance until 2000 in all cases and 2005 for countries with no previous patent legislation. In addition, there were two exceptional provisions. One allowed countries to issue compulsory licences to other companies to manufacture without the patent holder’s consent when justified in the public interest and subject to certain conditions. The other allowed parallel imports, meaning import of the identical patented product from another country at lower prices.
A meeting of WTO member states in Doha in November 2001 resulted in the Doha Declaration which asserted the important principles: “. . .the TRIPS Agreement does not and should not prevent Members from taking steps to protect public health . . . we reaffirm the right of WTO Members to use, to the full, the provisions in the TRIPS Agreement that provide flexibility for this purpose.” The Declaration also stressed the right of Members to determine what constituted an emergency and referred specifically to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other epidemics.
It was these provisions which allowed some developing countries, supported by activists in the industrialised countries, to access generic versions of HIV drugs when from 2003 onwards WHO and other agencies adopted a policy of treating HIV patients with antiretroviral (ARV) drugs which had hitherto been regarded as too expensive for use in poor countries. Whereas an annual supply of ARVs initially cost $10,000, within a few years the cost in developing countries had fallen to $70. Indian manufacturers of generic drugs such as Cipla played a hugely important role in supplying developing countries with WHO quality certified drugs at these more affordable prices, which transformed the survival prospects of millions of patients with advanced HIV infections.
The action of the Indian Supreme Court in striking down the application by Novartis for patent protection for its expensive cancer treatment enlarges the possibility that there will be improved access to medicines active against non-communicable disease. The Supreme Court based its judgement on the finding that the version submitted by Novartis was not a novel formulation but only a minor modification to the original drug which could not be given patent protection because it was already in production. By exercising its independent power of decision, the Supreme Court struck a lusty blow in favour of universal access to essential medicines.