Author Archives: Tom Murphy

A deep dive into Tanzania’s failed $1 billion water project


Today marks the publication of the first of a four part investigation into Tanzania’s World Bank-backed endeavor to increase access to clean water, by myself and Jacob Kushner. It is the culmination of now more than a year looking into why it took more than 5 years for the project to start showing meaningful results and why the gains are tenuous in the long term. The story begins with the scene depicted in the above image I took while reporting from Tanzania last fall. Mary Slosson, then of GOOD, and I were curious why the pump located at the nearby school was not working.Here is a clip from part one.

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Week in Review: Styling and stories from the past week

Articles He WroteConflict minerals advocates win and suffer setback in appeal decisionSurprise surprise, young people don’t want to stay on farmsSafe drinking water keeps Cambodian kids in school The aid debate continues in the media and on blogs3.7 million in South Sudan face severe hunger crisisWhy did Congolese soldiers kill a surrendered militia leader?Take the Development Rorschach TestPrivate health care for diarrhea in Africa kills 20,000 kids annually Picture of the DayThe vintage styling of Namibian fashion designer Lourens Gebhardt. See more on his tumblr page.Good ReadsHarrison Ford tells the back story for what led to the iconic sword/gun fight scene in Indian Jones, in a reddit AMA.This map shows the number of executions by US state as of 2014.The NY Times investigates the handling of the Jamies Winston rape investigation, revealing just how terribly law enforcement did in its job.A Raiders cheerleader sues the team for unfair working conditions and paying her below minimum wage. A Princeton study on US policy finds the rich get what they want and the middle class are left out. America is an oligarchy, they conclude.Supposedly America’s 50 best coffee shops. The few I’ve been to that are on the list are excellent

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Call for Abstracts: Voice and Matter – Glocal Conference on Communication for Development

Deadline: 23 May 2014, 00:00 (CET)Voice and Matter is the fourth annual Communication for Development conference arranged by Ørecomm – Centre for Communication and Glocal Change, this year merged with Roskilde University’s biannual scientific conference, Sunrise.When? 17-20 September 2014 Where? Roskilde University (Denmark) & Malmö University (Sweden)The conference aims to explore the dynamic relationship – and possible convergence – between voice and matter in the context of communication for development theory and practice.We invite researchers, students, practitioners, authors, artists and filmmakers to submit abstracts on the following themes:New Social Actors and ICT for Development. The technocentric concept of ICT4D raises questions on the power over and use of technology. Who are the new social actors and new social movements

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Kicking off the week by looking at the last one

Sign up for the Newsletter From the Cave (as seen below) to land directly in your already crowded inbox each week, by going here.Articles He WroteWill the US foreign aid budget continue its decline?Discussions in DC are now taking place over the Fiscal Year 2015 budget and the downward trend of foreign aid spending may resume.US underfunding crucial global health research and development, warns groupA GHTC report warns that the political wrangling over federal budgets in Washington DC are putting crucial global health research and development at risk.Income growth is great, just not for reducing child undernutritionIt has been held that improving the economies of developing countries can help reduce undernutrition. New research says that is not actually happening.Genocide anniversary reignites French-Rwandan political tensionsComments made by Rwandan President Paul Kagame about France’s complicity in the nation’s genocide throws cold water on the improving relations between them.World needs to get its shit together on climate changeAnother report from the UN warns about the negative effects of climate change on the world, but will it actually get people to take action?Gif Me a BreakStephan Colbert will be replacing David Letterman over at the Late Show next year.Good ReadsSatirical spoilers for the final season of Mad Men that cut close to what could happen.Two-thirds of the neighborhoods in the bottom fourth of the national income distribution in 1980 were still at the bottom in 2008. You like art (music, paintings, etc) when you believe the artist is eccentric (aka why people like Bjork and Lady Gaga).USA Network is pretty much the anti-AMC, and it’s getting the big audience. Here’s why.”Upworthy enrolls us in the establishment of our own organized ignorance.” Coffee nerd alert: MIT mapped the neighborhoods served by independent coffee shops in San Francisco and Cambridge.Tracking down the elusive great satirist Tom Lehrer, who continues to be an influence a half century after he suddenly stopped writing music.A new series on Showtime tries to make climate change more interesting by using celebrities. See the first episode in full here.Song of the WeektUnE-yArDs – Water FountainDevelopment GoodiesWe “need a new way of thinking about the challenge of international development that goes beyond obsolete divisions of North-South.”What should be the role of the NGO?“You’re just not that vulnerable enough” – the situation of urban displacement in Libya.When an aid project goes wrong, who is responsible?

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A belated, but not forgotten, week in review

Articles He WroteRevealed: USAID’s Twitter-like attempt to ferment unrest in CubaAn AP report reveals that a US-backed program attempted to develop a Twitter-like service with the goal that it would help spark political unrest in Cuba.USAID hopes to boost innovation in development with new labUSAID unveiled its new innovation lab to some fanfare and concerns about its partnerships with the private sector.Meet Big Oil’s Big Men in Nigeria and GhanaA documentary now in theaters provides an inside look at an oil company operating in Ghana following the discovery of oil.Attacks on hospitals hamper South Sudan humanitarian responseHospitals run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have experienced looting and murdered patients, adding to the high concerns for South Sudan.Two important visuals for new global migration dataWe have looked previously at visual representations of migration, but these two visuals manage to capture the scale of movement and its impacts.Video of the Day: 5 Myths about Immigration in the US What 30 metric tons of food aid falling out of a plane looks like Gif Me a BreakGood ReadsIt doesn’t matter how smart you know, politics blinds your ability to make reasoned assessmentsThe state of inequality and why it is cause for concern in six charts.Recently discovered skeletons show the Black Death was spread by coughs and sneezes, not rats.Why Shakespeare should be read with an accent closer to Scottish than British English.”But here’s the thing the anti-vaxxers need to know, for the one billionth time: You’re wrong. Really, it’s that simple.”Catch up on the ongoing debate between Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic and Jonathan Chait of New Yorker over culture and race.The use of a private debt collector has brought back de facto debtor prisons.Remembering Kurt Cobain 20 years after his death.The abusive behavior of one of the most controversial pastors in America.The UN peacekeeper to saved hundreds of lives during the Rwandan genocide, 20 years ago.It’s a lot easier being a white guy, on Twitter.Neil Young’s new digital music player has raised more than $5 million on Kicksterter.Song of the DayThe War on Drugs – Red EyesDevelopment GoodiesA compelling read on the rise and fall of former US favorite strongman Chad’s Hissène Habré.5 Reasons Poverty Porn Empowers the Wrong Person Who is responsible for a failed aid project?If We Can Let Syria Burn, Have We Learned Anything at All from Rwanda? Dear USAID: What Were You Thinking With Cuban Twitter? The government of the #Philippines can only account for $14.3 million in donations out of the $600 million pledged.Fast Company with its 10 most innovative companies in Africa.World Vision Fall Out: one of its board members has quit following the groups decision to continue not hiring gay married individuals.Humanosphere publishes an excerpt of the very funny new book, Expat Etiquette: How to Look Good in Bad Places.Picture of the WeekSee the rest of the 2014 National Geographic traveler contest photo winners here.

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How Catholics Influenced Paul Farmer

A recent article from a global health leader provides insights into what influenced his successful work in Haiti.Dr Paul Farmer, co-founder of the Boston-based Partners in Health, declares in an article for the Christian magazine Sojournersthat two Latin American priests were among his greatest teachers: Archbishop Oscar Romero and Gustavo Gutiérrez.Farmer was made famous through the book Mountains Beyond Mountains a profile of his work by acclaimed author Tracy Kidder. The community-based health network model that found success in Haiti can be traced back to the theological teachings of the two Catholic priests.The lessons, Farmer says, came from all types of Catholics, from the priests to those living in poverty. Farmer credits the activists that he met as a young man in the “tough neighborhoods in Boston, the farms of North Carolina, and the slums of Lima” as living the teachings of Liberation theology. He outlines the three lessons that stood out most in his mind: 1) Preferential option for the poor; 2) The existence of structural violence; 3) The power of accompaniment.Their activism taught me a lot about a space in the Catholic Church I’d not seen clearly before, and about the promise of long-term engagement in the monumental struggle against poverty and discrimination in all its forms. That includes gender inequality, no stranger to the institution.

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What do we want? More evidence!

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I wrote this originally for the Brookings blog.A results-oriented aid agenda for Africa has picked up steam in the past few years.Last year closed with excitement about cash transfers. Researchers in Western Kenya found that just giving people money was an effective form of assistance. As the MIT report notes, GiveDirectly recipients increased household asset holdings by 58 percent compared to the mean control group, and did not increase spending on tobacco or alcohol.Thus, the once cast-aside form of aid is making a comeback on the strength of evidence and research. GiveDirectly is only the tipping point for a new way of thinking about aid in Africa and elsewhere. An era of evidence-based aid is here

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Katz on what Kristof gets wrong about aid in Haiti

The often debated topic of whether or not foreign aid has done good reappeared in this weekend’s column by Nick Kristof for the New York Times.By featuring the story of one young girl’s struggle to go to school, Kristof shows that aid works. Even in Haiti.Jonathan Katz, he reported from Haiti during the earthquake and cholera outbreak, saysthe argument has some major holes.“When you consider these facts, it gets pretty difficult to argue that whatever is going on right now in Haiti—including aid—is working, and much harder to dispute the claim that “dedicated and ethical” or any other foreigners are doing harm,” wrote Katz for the Beacon Reader.Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, as an example of where critics make their attacks and where he sees hope. Kristof uses the example of a Haitian-led private school called the SOPUDEP school. A total of 836 pre-K through twelve students are served by the school. Many come from low-income families who cannot always pay for tuition.Enter foreign aid (or Exhibit A, as Kristof might say).The school founder Rea Dol happened to have made friends with a teacher from Los Altos school in California.

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God (and evangelicals) Loves Uganda, The Impact is Serious

Uganda has emerged as a focal point of US evangelical efforts in Africa. A new film, God Loves Uganda, shows how the efforts to bring Jesus to Ugandans is also spreading hate against gays. Specifically, it has enabled the progress of legislation that will imprison gay Ugandans.Film director Roger Ross Williams debuted the film at the Sundance film festival earlier this year and it will hit US screens in October. The main character is Reverend Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia and doctoral candidate at Boston University. His 2010 research paper showed how a new form of evangelism took shape in Africa starting in the 1970s and 80s that impacts the trend of anti-gay laws across the continent.“African allies of the U.S

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Migration, Disease and Development

Amy Lieberman has a nice article in the World Policy Journal on the nexus of migration and the spread of disease. She reports from Nepal: Yet the issue of health—access to education, services, treatment, and a quality of life that can prevent migrants from getting sick with a transmittable illness—remains largely absent from regional and international agreements and discussions on migration. It is unlikely to surface as a priority any time soon, international experts on health and migration say, given the predominant, though inaccurate, conviction that migrants bring disease to a new country rather than acquiring them there and returning home to spread the contagion. “We talk about global health care and everybody seems to agree on the principles, but when it comes to migrants, you see the sensitivity the issue raises. People say, ‘Oh, now we are talking about migrants’,” says Davide Mosca, the Geneva-based director of the International Organization for Migration’s Department of Migrant Health.

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What does Hollywood say about International Development?

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International development is just about at the bottom of the list of things that the average American thinks about each day. Foreign bureaus are closing for major US news sources. One of the big television networks turned down more money for global health reporting after a series, entirely funded by grants, led to a dip in viewers. In other words ratings were so bad that the network turned down millions of dollars. It is that tough.

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MDR TB is a hidden problem in North Korea


Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is a global problem, but one that is particularly worrisome in Asia. An estimated 60% of the 500,00 MDR-TB cases in 2011 occurred in Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa. The problem is made worse by the low number of people with MDR-TB enrolled in treatment in countries like China, Myanmar and India. Information on MDR-TB in the reclusive North Korea has been hard to come by, until now. Dr

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How the sale of bonds are helping increase access to vaccines

Public health emergencies arise around the world on a regular basis.Humanitarian and aid organizations need to act quickly, but they need money to get work done. An emergency appeal for millions, if not billions, of dollars can take time to fulfil.So what if the money was already available? With the money in place, an organization can respond to an emergency immediately.The International Finance Facility for Immunisation Company (IFFIm) does just that for the GAVI Alliance, a public-private global health organization that increases access to immunizations in poor countries by working with governments, donors and the private sector.IFFIm sells bonds to private investors in order to raise money for GAVI’s vaccine work. When GAVI needs money a request is made to IFFIm’s board to disburse the needed funds. For vaccines, a health solution that requires early action, gaining access to needed funding quickly has a big impact on programs like the eradication of polio.“Having predictable, long-term funding in place will help us ensure that the world’s most vulnerable children have access to healthcare, and that is a critical step in achieving the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank.The GAVI Alliance is a sort of middleman between donors (Gates Foundation, United States, etc), pharmaceutical companies (GSK, Merck, Pfizer, etc) and governments (afghanistan, Eritrea, Haiti, etc)

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UN doubles down on refusal to accept Haiti cholera lawsuit

The United Nations again refused to take responsibility for the cholera outbreak in Haiti caused by a peacekeeping unit from Nepal.Legal claims against the UN were again rejected as the body reaffirmed its stance that it is a ‘political and policy matter.’The cholera outbreak that started in October 2010 has killed nearly 8,200 Haitians and infected an estimated 665,00 people. More evidence, including a study published this month, shows that the cholera was imported from Nepal by a peacekeeping unit and was spread due to improper waste disposal into a nearby river.A letter from the UN addressed to Brian Concannon, Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), refused to consider mediation and said that “there is no basis for such engagement in connection with claims that are not receivable.” Patricia O’Brien, Under Secretary-General for Legal Affairs for the UN’s Legal Counsel, also refuted claims by IJDH that the UN has not lived up to its obligation to the victims of he cholera outbreak. She includes excerpts from recent remarks by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.“Since the outbreak of the disease, the United Nations, in cooperation with other partners, has taken several steps to contain and combat the epidemic and prevent future outbreaks,” said Ban. “These efforts have helped to decrease the rate of new infection by 90 per cent since the outbreak began. The mortality rate has been brought down to around 1 per cent

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