Hidden Dangers: The Implications of the Global Health Security Agenda

Ebola Virus

The Ebola virus

This article was originally published by the Harvard International Review on 15 April 2016.

On the heels of the annual International Monetary Fund/World Bank conference and an Ebola-ridden year, the world is reminded of the significance of global health policy, not only for disease prevention but also for international relationships and the future direction of health care. Recent international health initiatives  have pragmatically stressed the importance of defense and economics. This slant, particularly in the relatively new Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), raises questions about future approaches to global health. The GHSA has acquired significant funding for outbreak response, but its treatment of global health as an international security issue rather than a humanitarian one warrants a cautious assessment. » More

War on Disease? Zika Sheds Light on Growing Military Role in Global Health

Administering a vaccine to a child

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 5 February 2016.

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern, with the potential to infect up to four million people in the Americas by year’s end. Under increasing pressure to slow the spread of the disease, the Brazilian government has stepped up its response, including mobilizing 220,000 military personnel to cities across the country.

According to Brazil’s ministry of health, the military will be used to spread awareness by going door-to-door, handling out pamphlets, and distributing mosquito repellent. However, it is believed that the troops will also use this opportunity to identify which homes are potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes and target those sites for surveillance and fumigation. Mosquitoes are known to carry the Zika virus, which has been linked with the rare congenital condition microcephaly in newborn babies.

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What Challenges Does 2016 Hold for Sub-Saharan Africa?

Soldiers during exercise Kwanza in Angola, 2010

This article was originally published by the Global Observatory on 20 January 2016.

Akin to its physical landscape, the political environment of Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015 varied greatly from country to country. On a positive note, elections in politically polarized countries such as Nigeria, Tanzania, Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire concluded relatively peacefully, despite the shadow of political violence looming large. Burkina Faso, which entered the year in political limbo following the ousting of long-serving president Blaise Compaoré, also elected its first democratic government, thwarting a coup attempt by the deposed leader’s presidential guard in the process.

In another encouraging development, 2015 also marked the nadir of the West African Ebola outbreak, which killed more than 11,000 people since the virus was first reported in the region in early 2012. Just today, the World Health Organization declared Liberia—the last affected country—Ebola-free.

However, while last year saw Sub-Saharan Africa overcome a number of important challenges, it also saw the continuation and often the creation of social, political, and economic obstacles that will define the continent’s security outlook in 2016.

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Could Iran Be the Next Country to Legalise Cannabis and Opium?

Marihuana Grafitti. Image: Benzene Aseel/Flickr

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 22 October, 2015.

After Uruguay courageously legalised the use of cannabis under a new drug policy, could Iran be the next country to make it legal? From the outside, the image of Iran as retrograde and inherently conservative hardly fits with the reality of a more dynamic domestic political debate within. But drug policy is one of the areas of debate in which the Islamic Republic has produced some interesting, yet paradoxical, policies.

Iran has a conspicuous drug addiction problem – which officially accounts for more than 2m addicts (though unofficial figures put this as high as 5-6m). Drug traffickers risk harsh punishments that include the death penalty. Yet Iran also has very progressive policies towards drug addiction, which include distribution of clean needles to injecting drug users, methadone substitution programmes (also in prisons) and a vast system of addiction treatment. » More

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Polio Wars: Conspiracy and Democracy in Pakistan

A doctor in Pakistan checking children for Polio vaccination. Image: CDC Global/Flickr

This article was originally published by OpenDemocracy on 18 September, 2015.

Between December 2012 and early 2015, 78 people were murdered and dozens of others injured because they tried to administer a polio vaccine to children.  They were killed because of a claim that the vaccines in their coolboxes were actually chemical devices in a western plot to sterilise Muslims.

These killings all took place in Pakistan, the archetypal ‘failed state’. What better evidence can there be that the country is a nest of terrorists than that it cannot stop the murder of medics trying to wipe out a deadly, crippling disease – all because of a conspiracy theory? » More

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