Opinion: COVID-19 requires ‘business as unusual’ in global health

Nearly 18 months after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the coronavirus continues its march around the globe, leaving medical, social, and economic trauma in its wake. With the delta variant driving new and deadly waves of the disease across the world, the pandemic appears far from over. Despite the efforts made by global development institutions to mobilize human and financial resources to fight COVID-19, critical and immediate operational adjustments are needed to accelerate and facilitate implementing partners’ ability to execute programming that would protect and save lives.


Zenysis aims to be government ‘operating system’ in low-income nations

A Silicon Valley startup that has developed a data interoperability platform to improve the delivery of health care and other public services is expanding its work in Mozambique... The company’s work in Mozambique is just one example of how it brings together a large volume of disparate data sources, uses its open-source platform to integrate them into a single point of access, and provides decision-makers with a more actionable picture of what is happening.


macro eyes: Taking stock: How predictive modeling can improve health supply chains

Running out of stock of essential health products is a critical issue in low- and middle-income countries. But all too often, decision-makers estimate demand solely by looking back on recent months instead of using advanced forecasting models, which draw on a wide variety of data sources to make predictions for the future. Macro-Eyes, an artificial intelligence company focused on making supply chains proactive instead of reactive, was recently selected as the winner of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Intelligent Forecasting Field Implementation Grant. Its STRIATA product, which uses machine learning “to forecast supply and demand at scale when conventional data is limited and uncertainty is the constant,” rose to the top of a global competition with 100 participating organizations working to model contraceptive needs in Côte d’Ivoire.

New York Times

Samantha Power Still Believes America Can Help Save the World

In her 2019 memoir, “The Education of an Idealist,” Samantha Power, who emigrated from Ireland as a child, described how she knew, even before being naturalized, that she had become an American. “I now thought like an American, reacting to problems in the world — like the Bosnia war — by asking myself, ‘What, if anything, can we, America, do about it?’” That question has animated Power’s epic career, which has stretched from war correspondent to United Nations ambassador to, now, head of the United States Agency for International Development, the government agency devoted to foreign aid.

Foreign Policy

USAID’s Big Contracts Don’t Pay Off

President Joe Biden has proposed a $6.8 billion increase in U.S. international affairs spending, including a 10 percent funding boost for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the government department that manages over half of U.S. foreign assistance. Recently confirmed USAID head Samantha Power has a strong vision for the agency’s future, potentially backed by more money. But if the administration wants a real return on this investment, USAID needs to transform its business model, which consistently pays for poor performance, according to its own inspector general. A 2019 report that surveyed three years of USAID spending found that 43 percent of the agency’s awards achieved, on average, just half of their intended results.


Former chief innovation officer at USAID has 3 asks for Congress

Ann Mei Chang, former head of innovation at the U.S. Agency for International Development, has three recommendations for members of Congress to maximize the potential of innovation in U.S. foreign assistance. She asked them to authorize a chief innovation officer and a chief digital officer at each U.S. development agency, to direct a pool of earmarked funds for research and development, and to shift toward measurable results versus predefined activities.


Fraym: The future of data: Unmasking community-level differences to better address food insecurity

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the challenge created by high-level, aggregated data when addressing chronic food security and other lasting challenges affecting Africa—namely the masking of community-level differences, which inhibits the effective distribution of resources in the region. Technological advancements now bring clarity to these gaps, equipping today’s generation of committed policymakers to tackle complex problems, especially those around food security. Until now, the best available data has been sparse, dated, and aggregated. Fortunately, data scientists have developed new machine learning (ML) models that can now produce reliable, local data for areas where data has been historically difficult or impossible to access.

New York Times

Foreign Aid Is Having a Reckoning

Today, a rising African middle class on a continent that is home to nearly two-dozen billionaires is challenging previous assumptions about foreign aid, from who donates money, to who should get paid to deliver aid, to whose metrics ought to be used to determine whether it was a success. A growing group of intellectuals, aid workers and civic leaders from Africa say the “white savior” mentality of the world’s foreign aid system can end up doing more harm than good.


Zipline: Role of medical drones in global Covid vaccine campaign is growing

Zipline, the California-based drone start-up that delivers critical medical supplies in countries like Ghana and Rwanda, is pursuing a larger role in the Covid-19 global vaccine effort and taking on one of the trickiest logistical challenges: cold-chain storage. Earlier this week, Nigeria’s Kaduna state signed a deal with Zipline allowing the drone delivery of Covid-19 vaccines. Kaduna’s partnership with Zipline, which delivered more than 1 million doses of other vaccines in Africa over the past year, will also enable on-demand delivery of blood products, medications and other vaccines.

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