Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Good news in the world of international development

It is easy working in international development (or reading about international development, for that matter) to become despondent: it is the failures that stick with you; it is the failures that make for good stories. But it is also worth remembering that there are development successes taking place. A handy reminder of this can be found in this recent New York Times Article.

For the first time since record keeping began in 1960, the number of deaths of young children around the world has fallen below 10 million a year, according to figures from the United Nations Children’s Fund being released today.

This public health triumph has arisen, Unicef officials said, partly from campaigns against measles, malaria and bottle-feeding, and partly from improvements in the economies of most of the world outside Africa...

The most important advances, Unicef said, included these:

¶Measles deaths have dropped 60 percent since 1999, thanks to vaccination drives.

¶More women are breast-feeding rather than mixing formula or cereal with dirty water.

¶More babies are sleeping under mosquito nets.

¶More are getting Vitamin A drops.

There's a couple of stories woven together here. One is the economic liftoff of much of South, South-east and East Asia. The other is public health programmes, often, but not always, funded by aid (remember this next time someone tells you that aid never works),

Actually there's a third story, come to think of it: that is the return to breast feeding. Which is great but it wouldn't even be a story of certain western business interest hadn't promoted (and didn't still promote) milk formula.

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