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A diverse look at global health issues.

How labor unions can help beat Ebola

Commentary: Rubber tappers in Liberia are helping with prevention and detection, representing an effective new approach.
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Family members gather outside a home in the West Point neighborhood where a man's dead body awaited the arrival of an Ebola burial team to take him for cremation on Oct. 17 in Monrovia, Liberia. The World Health Organization says that more than 4,500 people have died due to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa with a 70 percent mortality rate for those infected with the virus. (John Moore /Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — As the United States military heads to Liberia to aid in the fight against Ebola, officials should not overlook an unlikely but potentially powerful ally: the rubber tappers who help make their tires.

It may seem an unlikely alliance to have a union of rubber tappers — some of the poorest people in the world — helping the US military and international relief organizations. But they have two invaluable assets: the trust of the local population and the potential to continue supporting programs the relief agencies put in place.

They are making significant contributions even as the disease poses an increasing threat to community leaders and their families.


Why maternal health and mortality matters

The issue could be losing out to other global health concerns, but advocates insist it should be a top priority.
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The four panelists (from left) at an Oct. 7 webcast on the impact of maternal health on children, families and communities: Amy Boldosser-Boesch, interim president and CEO of Family Care International; Jeni Klugman, senior adviser at The World Bank Group and fellow at Harvard Kennedy School; Alicia Yamin, lecturer on Global Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health and policy director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University; and Aslihan Kes, economist and gender specialist at the International Center for Research on Women. (Jessica Mendoza/GlobalPost)

BOSTON – The world could be a lot less safe for mothers after 2015. As the deadline for the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, advocates for maternal health say the issue is in danger of fading in future models of sustainability.

“There’s a real concern that the more targeted, focused goals [for maternal health] will be absorbed into broader objectives, and that they will then disappear,” said Martha Murdock, vice president for regional programs at Family Care International (FCI), a New York-based nonprofit that works for safer pregnancy and childbirth worldwide.

That concern set the tone for an Oct. 7 strategy meeting and later a panel webcast of women’s and maternal health advocates, researchers and implementers at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University in Boston.


With no cure in sight, living with Ebola becomes a community effort

Mobilizing for education, sanitation, local engagement can help halt spread of disease.
A boy pushes a woman in a wheelchair past a wall bearing information about Ebola in Monrovia on September 25, 2014. World leaders were asked to pledge urgently-needed aid to battle Ebola in West Africa as Sierra Leone quarantined one million people in a desperate bid to beat back the deadly virus. (Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images)

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The news coming out of West Africa is nothing if not sobering. The number of dead and infected with Ebola continues to rise, and the outbreak shows no sign of abating any time soon. As President Obama mentioned in his remarks on Ebola, the situation will get worse before it gets better.

By putting so much emphasis on the awful effects of Ebola, are we misplacing our effort to treat the crisis? Judging from the images we are seeing in the media, there are only three types of people in West Africa: the dead, the dying, and the Hazmat-suited workers caring for them.

The reality of course is far more complex: millions of individuals are not infected, and are simply doing their best to go about their lives under these extraordinary circumstances. Any response that fails to take this into account, and focuses solely on treatment of those already infected, will undoubtedly fall short.


Lessons from FDR can help regain public trust during Ebola crisis

How Roosevelt led US out of Depression is a model for countries confronting Ebola.
A man sits on a cross in the Tweh farm cemetery on September 30, 2014 in Monrovia, where burials have been halted due to the Ebola outbreak. (Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images)

EVANSTON, Illinois — As a crowd recently stoned local officials and health education workers to death in Guinea, American households were tuning in to the PBS documentary series, "The Roosevelts."

Himself the victim of a debilitating disease and a chief executive during the international crises of the Great Depression and World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt held an unwavering commitment to mobilizing government to better the lives of the governed. Memory of his record evokes comparisons and criticisms of national and international leadership contending with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa today.


In Tanzania, Coke improves medical distributions

A successful Coca-Cola partnership in Tanzania to better distribute medicine across the country shows that not all public-private partnerships have to be self-serving.
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A worker offloads medicine at Tanzania's Medical Stores Department warehouse in Dar es Salaam. The Coca Cola company used its expertise delivering its products to all corners of the country to help the department more efficiently distribute medicine. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — Coca-Cola, the world’s largest beverage retailer, has an unparalleled ability to get its goods to anyone and everyone. The company’s products can be found in 200 countries, even North Korea, and are consumed daily by 1.7 billion people from urban megacities to the most remote parts of the globe.


Across Africa, Coke is empowering women — to sell Coke products

Is a $100 million partnership between Coke and the International Finance Corporation empowering women - or just helping to sell Coke?
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A worker shovels garbage and dirt from a bridge along the Mlalakua River in Dar es Salaam. Coca-Cola sponsored the project because its local bottling plant is located along the banks, which is incorrectly perceived by residents to be contributing to the river's contamination. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — Last year, Coca-Cola announced a $100 million partnership with the International Finance Corporation to provide business skills training and micro-loans to “empower” women — those who sell Coca-Cola products, that is.


'Humanure' may be an answer to Haiti’s tragic cholera epidemic

Commentary: Converting human waste into fertilizer would be a low cost source to boost farming.
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People play in a camp for survivors of the January 2010 quake in Haiti which killed 250,000 people, on February 28, 2013 in Port-au-Prince. The UN has in Haiti a huge mission of peacekeepers led by Brazil, helping the impoverished country with its political strife and the impact the devastating 2010 quake. Hundreds of thousands are still living rough in squalid makeshift camps, and they now face rampant crime, a cholera outbreak and the occasional hurricane. (VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

DENTON, Texas — Haiti has never fully recovered from the devastating earthquake of 2010. Widespread homelessness, impassable roads, food insecurity, and access to clean drinking water continue to hinder recovery efforts.

But perhaps the biggest problem is created by one of the most basic human functions—defecation.
Cholera, though eliminated before the earthquake, has come roaring back and shows little sign of abating. This deadly disease is spread through contact with infected feces. Despite public awareness campaigns, thousands in cities like Cap Haitien and Port-au-Prince, are still using the “flying toilet” – a plastic bag – and spreading the disease from person to person, house to house.


Two Ebola vaccines for health care workers expected as soon as November

A WHO expert group said on Friday that if proven safe, two Ebola vaccines could be made available to health care workers as early as November this year.
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Medical workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gesture inside the high-risk area of the Elwa hospital runned by Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders), on September 7, 2014 in Monrovia. (Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images)

An expert group of technicians working on developing Ebola interventions suggested last Friday that two of the most advanced vaccines could be made available to health workers in November this year, provided they are proven safe.

Safety studies for these vaccines – based on vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV-EBO) and chimpanzee adenovirus (ChAd-EBO) – are currently being conducted in the United States and will be started in Africa and Europe by mid-September.

“WHO will work with all the relevant stakeholders to accelerate their development and safe use,” announced a spokesperson to the media on Friday evening at the Geneva headquarters.

The announcement followed a two-day consultation with more than 150 participants from fields of research and clinical investigation, ethics, legal, regulatory, financing, and data collection. The consensus was that as existing supplies of all the experimental medicines are limited – and there wouldn’t be sufficient supplies for at least several more months – the prospects of having vaccines available “look slightly better.” Among other possible measures, use of survivors' blood was also suggested as an alternative treatment plan.


The collective trauma of James Foley and Steven Sotloff’s deaths

Responding to the murder of journalists by terrorists.
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A photo taken on September 29, 2011 shows US freelance reporter James Foley resting in a room at the airport of Sirte, Libya. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON — I didn’t know Jim Foley.

We weren’t colleagues in the field and there are no stark photos of the two of us all dusty from covering a war. In fact, I have never covered a war.

But several weeks ago when a video was released showing his captors beheading him, I felt, like many other young journalists, that it was a personal loss.

I know I wasn’t alone. He somehow belonged to all of us who want to do the kind of journalism he did. And to all of us who want to dare to think about taking some risks and diving into difficult stories, shining light on injustice and violence. It feels that the collective trauma from his killing has echoed beyond the journalism community.


How can the US better protect girls from violence?

Recent international meetings gave status to policies eliminating female genital mutilation.
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LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 22: Freida Pinto, actress and Plan International Girls' Rights Ambassador, delivers a speech at the 'Girl Summit 2014' in Walworth Academy on July 22, 2014 in London, England. At the one-day summit the government has announced that parents will face prosecution if they fail to prevent their daughters suffering female genital mutilation (FGM). (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Two critical recent events — one in the United Kingdom and one in the US — have given increasing recognition to the rights of adolescent girls.

The Girl Summit in London to end child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) was co-hosted by the UK and UNICEF. “Investing in the Next Generation” was a focus of discussions among more than 40 African heads of state that came to Washington for the first-ever US-Africa Leaders Summit.