We Must Invest in an AIDS Vaccine

By Baroness Gould of Potternewton, Co-Chair of the Sexual Heath Forum and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual Health.

This blog was originally posted on the Labour Campaign for International development blog.

Baroness GouldThis Tuesday I was fortunate to observe first-hand the work being done to develop an HIV/AIDS vaccine, here in London at a laboratory at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

This work is being carried out by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). Since 1998, they have been co-ordinating and leading clinical trials with partners across the world to find the approaches and compounds with the most potential. We were welcomed by Dr Martin McMorrow and Dr Phillip Bergen, who explained the scale of the challenge facing their team: the HIV virus varies far more widely between strains, and between countries, than any other infectious disease we are fighting.

The need for an HIV/AIDs vaccine cannot be doubted. As Co-Chair of the Sexual Heath Forum and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual Health, I have long been convinced of the severity of the burden that this disease places on communities in the UK and overseas.

HIV/AIDS kills 1.6 million people a year, making it the most deadly infectious disease globally. It disproportionally affects those in developing countries, and people who are in their most productive years. In doing so, it deprives these countries of workers and caregivers, and increases healthcare costs.

Groups who already have less voice in society are also more at risk from HIV. 57% of new infections globally are in women, who often have less say in decisions that affect their sexual health such as whether to use a condom. AIDS is now the leading cause of death for women of child-bearing age in sub-Saharan Africa. Due to how the disease is transmitted, prevalence rates among gay men are much higher than in the adult population. Worryingly, some governments are now introducing laws to make it even harder to reach gay men by further criminalising same-sex relations.

It has been encouraging to see increased efforts and partnerships inflate the number of people who can access treatment to nearly 10 million a year – such as through the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. I am proud that the last Labour Government was a leading supporter of this work, and glad that the current Government have upheld the UK commitment. The spread of the disease has now slowed – but it will not be controlled without further bold decisions.

No disease in history has ever been controlled without a vaccine. Half of the HIV-positive population still does not know their status, and for every three people who access treatment, another four acquire HIV. Nor do we have the resources to control this disease through treatment alone, though it is a very important part of the solution. Ultimately, vaccines are much cheaper and more effective, and when used in conjunction with treatment and education, could spell the end for HIV/AIDS.

IMG_8671As Dr Bergen explained, the science may be challenging but it is producing exciting results. Clinical trials in 2009 found compounds that acted to create ‘neutralising antibodies’ that can stop infected cells reproducing, and subsequent work has refined this approach. IAVI has set up partnerships with private companies to develop any compounds identified in the next stages of its research.

I was concerned however, to hear that funding from the UK Government to IAVI has fallen in recent years, from £40 million from 2008 to 2013, to just £5 million in this current period. While it is both important and laudable to fund treatments that save lives now, it is also important to fund the research and development that will create the drugs to control these diseases in the long term.

It seems apparent that the current model of funding drug research and development has left us waiting on private companies to deliver these new drugs. For the so-called ‘neglected diseases of poverty’ like HIV/AIDs, TB and Malaria, which kill 14 million people a year between them but offer no short-term returns on investment, we may be waiting for a very long time. On the other hand, partnerships between Government, private companies, and philanthropic foundations (so-called ‘Product Development Partnerships’ such as IAVI) have been producing results, as they combine government-backed investment and interest in public health needs with the capital and capacity of the private sector.

Partnerships such as IAVI require significant long-term investment and support, and we need the UK Government – and other governments – to show leadership and pledge this support. A Labour Government with Jim Murphy leading our development work has already nailed its colours to the mast. We have pledged to support fairness around the world, with good health and the benefits it brings central to this vision. We will need an HIV/AIDS vaccine to turn this vision into reality, and so I for one am calling on all Parties to support IAVI and partnerships like them.

For more information about IAVI and their work, visit www.iavi.org.

For information about the importance of supporting research and development of drugs for diseases of poverty, such as HIV/AIDS – and about the ways we can do this, such as Product Development Partnerships – please visit www.results.org.uk.

My Footsteps: Laura Kerr, Paisley Grassroots Group

Laura Kerr, of the Paisley RESULTS grassroots group, remembers her time at school and share her motivation for undertaking her own Footsteps for Futures challenge. 

How many times has someone said to you “put yourself in their shoes” in order to make you think about a situation differently?

g0jMPDtfWell that’s exactly what the team at RESULTS challenged me to do a few weeks ago, and that’s exactly what I’m going to be doing for five days next week when I take part in the Footsteps for Futures challenge.

So whose shoes am I putting myself in?

I’m putting myself in the shoes of millions of children around the world who have to struggle to get the education they deserve. There are many reasons children don’t receive an education or can’t make the most of the basic education they do receive but I’m just focusing on just one in my challenge; the difficulty in simply getting to and from school.

My school was just a 10 minute walk from my home. My friends, who stayed further away. would get a lift from their parents or get the bus or train to school. The furthest anyone I know came from was a 20 minute bus ride away. I was able to work hard at both primary and secondary school, go home and do my homework with the resources I needed, and I got the grades I needed to go on to university.

Looking back, all this seems normal. I now realise how privileged I was to stay so close to school, be able to concentrate throughout the day having not been allowed out the house without my breakfast, and be able to do my homework when I got home, however dark it was (and in Scotland it really could be dark just as you were getting home from school) because we had electricity.

Over one third of primary school aged children are not learning the very basics in school; whether this be by the fact they can’t get to school, or when they do get to school, they are tired, unable to concentrate, or are not able to access the resources they need to learn.

These children deserve an education because an education is one of the very best ways to ensure a child can look forward to a bright future; able to live an independent life and fulfil their potential.

So next week, I will be walking to and from work every day. That’s 7 miles each way, 14 miles a day and 70 miles in 5 days.

As I write this, I’m feeling quite apprehensive about it. I’ve got some important meetings in work next week which I need to concentrate on and will need to get up at 5:30am every morning; what if I fall asleep by lunchtime? How am I going to feel at 5pm when I’ll still be facing a walk home that will take over two and a half hours?

I may be apprehensive but I’m looking forward to the challenge and using it to help others understand the barriers to education that millions of children face. In keeping with the theme of the Commonwealth Games that are currently in Glasgow: bring it on!

Follow my journey @LauraMAKerr 

You can sponsor Laura on her 14 mile journey to and from Paisley to Glasgow every day here.

RESULTS remembers and honours the life and work of Glenn Thomas

RESULTS UK offers its deepest sympathy to the friends and families of all those whose lives were lost in the MH17 crash. Our director, Aaron Oxley, remembers and honours the life and work of Glenn Thomas, a longstanding friend of RESULTS.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a week since the shooting down of flight MH17 above Ukraine. There are almost no words to fully express the senseless loss of those 298 people. Among those on the airplane was Glenn Thomas , who worked for the WHO Communications Department, and who has been an ally of RESULTS UK for many years.

Our history with Glenn goes back well over a decade. At my first ever RESULTS National Conference as a grassroots attendee back in 1998, Glenn was one of the keynote speakers. He spoke passionately about TB, then, as now, one of his communication priorities. This was back when RESULTS UK was just starting our journey of understanding TB and its impact in the world, and Glenn was full of important insights that meant we could speak with confidence about what can sometimes be a very complex disease.

Glenn Thomas

Part of that RESULTS conference was a gala fundraising auction, and Glenn had volunteered a lot: “A weekend break in my flat in Geneva”. I was the one who bid, and won.

For many reasons it took until 2013 – 15 years later – for me to claim that lot when I visited Geneva for the World Health Assembly. While I was there, Glenn and I went out to dinner. The conversation revolved around how to get the press to pay more attention to TB and other neglected global health issues: as usual, Glenn had ideas to test out and ideas to explore.

That it took 15 years for me to collect on my fundraising auction lot, and that Glenn still so enthusiastically honoured it, tells you everything you need to know about the kind of person he was and his lifelong commitment to leaving the world a better place than he found it.

Besides the conversation, what I remember most of that evening was Glenn’s huge smile, one that started in his eyes and overtook his whole face. It was impossible not to get caught up in that smile.

That bright smile brings to mind Glenn’s great help in putting on a special screening of the Jane Campion film “Bright Star”, about the life, and early death from TB of the Romantic poet John Keats. Besides making sure that many high-level media representatives attended, Glenn was photographed with many others holding a sign that read “No More Bright Stars Lost to TB.” 

Glenn was needlessly taken from us far too soon, along with far too many others aboard MH17, and countless more by the diseases he fought so hard to end.

He will be missed.

Sarah Laughton joins RESULTS to see how things work ‘behind the scenes’

My name is Sarah Laughton, I am involved in the Macclesfield group of RESULTS and I am very excited to have the opportunity to come down to London for a couple of days to visit the RESULTS office and see how everything is run ‘behind the scenes’.

I am currently at school in Macclesfield where I have recently finished my GCSEs and going on to study my A-levels in September. The subjects that I have chosen are French, Geography, Maths and Economics with a view to probably studying Geography at university. Geography, in particular Human Geography, is something that I am really interested in and is actually what encouraged me to get involved in RESULTS. The area of Geography that has always fascinated me the most is Development and issues linked to poverty and globalisation, so after studying this topic for my GCSEs, I decided that it was something that I would like to find out more about and perhaps get involved in in some way.

When I got involved with RESULTS the main issue being focused on was education and in particular the work of the GPE. This is actually one of the areas of development that I am most interested in as I definitely believe that ensuring that children get a good education is essential to helping end poverty. It was really exciting to get a response to my first letter to Lynne Featherstone through my local MP David Rutley and it is a great feeling to feel like you have played a part in something that could make a big difference to millions of children.

Besides my school work and getting involved in RESULTS I also really enjoy playing hockey. I play regularly for both my school and local club in Alderley Edge. I also enjoy playing the guitar and going to concerts.

I am really looking forwards to learning more about how RESULTS works as well as getting my first taste of what it’s like to live and work in a big city.

My Footsteps: Felix Jakens, Grassroots Campaigns Manager

Felix Jakens, RESULTS’ Grassroots Campaigns Manager, tells us how his Footsteps for Futures challenge changed his perspective on his journey to work. 

Felix at the Big IF 2013I’m coming to the close of my week-long Footsteps for Futures challenge, walking to and from work every day for a week. I have to admit it hasn’t been the hardest thing I’ve ever done; I’m lucky, I only live 2.2 miles from the RESULTS office. Brixton to Vauxhall, it’s not that far.

But despite the fact that my challenge doesn’t compare to that of Joe Hepworth – over 10 miles each way for three days, or Laura Kerr, 6 miles each way for 5 days- I’ve still learned a few things.

Firstly the experience has given me the chance to actually get to know the streets I travel down every day. I cycle to work 4 out of 5 days a week normally and I’ve never really taken in the places I sail through. Like so many of us in cities we know our beginning and end points, but have only a passing relationships with the places in the middle.

Taking the time has opened my eyes to the people, businesses, street names, and people that line Stockwell Road and South Lambeth Road. These unglamorous areas are the kind of places that, unless you lived in them, you’d be unlikely to explore.

But I have now seen these little areas, no doubt on the verge of creeping gentrification spreading north from Brixton, west from Oval and south from Vauxhall, as they are enjoyed by the people who live in them. Vibrant Portuguese cafes and bakeries seem to be no more than five metres apart. As I walked down the road over the last few hot nights, I felt as though I could have been on the streets of a city in the Iberian Peninsula.

Further along my route, the Portuguese gives way to the east African, with Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants with Ge’ez signage and poor English translations beneath. I got to know each one a little bit as I walked past twice a day, hearing the different accent and languages being spoken by the ever-present patrons.

I learned to know and appreciate these places and faces in a way that my traditional speed had never allowed.

But this challenge wasn’t all balmy strolls and newfound appreciations.

I’m not a morning person at all and have come to cherish the lie-ins that my route affords me – a rare treat in London. But the earlier starts were nothing compared to the sinking feeling that I felt before each walk. Sure, once they got going they were OK, but when I was sitting in the office, or getting ready at home, the sense of the challenge that lay ahead loomed large every day. Walking is slow, tedious and tiring for those of us that don’t do it recreationally. Exactly what you don’t want before a day of concentration.

As I go back to riding my bike and getting the tube, I will remember that I choose this route. For millions of children there is no choice but to travel whatever distance it might be to the nearest school. They also have no say in whether the resources they require to learn will be waiting for them once they arrive.

This is why I support the work of RESULTS; to ensure that not only can children get to school, but that once they get there they receive a quality education that will help them break the cycle of poverty.

The Footsteps for Futures campaign runs until October 2014, with many people participating up and down the country next week (28th-1Aug). You can complete your own Footsteps challenge at any time. Money raised will go towards RESULTS’ work to increase access to education for children around the world.

To get involved or to sponsor a participant, simply visit www.footstepsforfutures.org

My Footsteps for Futures: Joe Hepworth, Central London Group

Joe Hepworth from the Central London Grassroots Group tells us about his impressive Footsteps for Futures challenge. 

I am taking a bold step next week. I’ve set myself the challenge of walking to work for the three days I’m working that week. That is from Finsbury Park to Ealing Studios… 10.6 miles each way… 63.6 miles over the three days! That’s the equivalent of walking from London to Northampton (or an estimated 22 hours of walking!)

Between the 28th July – 1st August 2014, I will be joining the RESULTS UK ‘Footsteps for Futures challenge and walking to work in solidarity with children and young people from around the world who overcome a variety of barriers to get to school.

Now, I’m not known for my love of physical endurance… and many who know me remain unconvinced… Even my own father is sponsoring me by the mile… because he figures he’ll save money that way!! So what has motivated me to do this challenge…?

Well, at the 2014 RESULTS UK national conference I heard a story about two deaf children in Rwanda that touched and inspired me. They have to walk 10 miles each day to their nearest school… and 10 miles home again. The walk is not a leisurely stroll. In fact, their journey is so exhausting that they can only do it three times a week… and yet they continue to go – as they know how vital it is to their future.

So next week I’m going to put myself in their shoes.

I’ve seen for myself the importance of education to helping young people escape the trap of poverty – and the consequences of them not. I’ve campaigned with RESULTS to ensure the UK Government prioritises global education within its aid spending; working to achieve access to a quality education for all children. I’ve seen the impact that RESULTS advocacy and campaigning has on the progress we continue to make towards this goal.

If you would like to support me as I use my footsteps to help deliver a brighter future for vulnerable children all over the world, please visit my fundraising page here.

I’m looking forward to hearing about other people’s challenges and what inspired them to take part in Footsteps for Futures!

Joe Hepworth

Grassroots Advocacy - WTBD 2014

Putting a face to the name…here I am (second left) joining RESULTS at World TB Day 2014, talking to the health Minister Jane Ellison MP about the 3 million people with TB who will not be diagnosed or treated this year.

Grassroots volunteer Nick Horslen reports back from 2014 RESULTS International Conference

Nick Horslen, our amazing grassroots volunteer from the Reading RESULTS group, recently attended the Results International Conference 2014 in Washington with his wife Julie. Have a read of his blog from the conference, hear his highlights and find out why you should consider coming along next year.

From the outset I was excited at the prospect of meeting the Results teams from all over the world. I’d seen and read a lot on the web, Facebook and on twitter about RESULTS partners in the US, Canada, Australia, European countries and from Asia and Africa as well, but it was great to actually get the chance to meet them. I was also excited to hear the volunteer advocates from Zambia and Kenya would also be joining the conference, as I was keen to see hear their first-hand experiences of the issues RESULTS work on, namely nutrition, preventable diseases and inclusive education.

Nick Horslen stands outside the World Bank Head Quarters in Washington.

Nick Horslen stands outside the World Bank Head Quarters in Washington.

As someone who has been a supporter of RESULTS for over two years now and an active grassroots campaigner for over a year, I felt I had a good grasp of the issues they work on. What I didn’t fully appreciate is the depth of experience across the world and the degree of respect held by external groups and global leaders. 30 years of commitment and leadership is certainly having an impact.

It is not possible to cover all the sessions and activity from the conference, so here is a short summary of some of my highlights.

One the most memorable sessions of the conference has to be Jim Kims key note speech. To hear Jim Kim the president of the World Bank talk so lucidly and openly with Joanna Carter as if they were lifelong buddies and “peers” was amazing. It was also great to see him take ownership of a task from one of the grassroots audience who asked a question and only to find out that Jim Kim had fixed the issue by the end of the conference. The level of respect there was tremendous. I do hope others watch the video recording of these sessions to see how authentic and important the relationship RESULTS has with the World Bank, USAID and GAVI. You can watch these videos again here.

I came away from these sessions knowing that although I only do my small bit as part of grassroots group in Reading, three or four hundred other delegates from all over the world are doing there bit as well. If we all do our bit and work together we will carry on achieving some amazing things.

Another big take away for me as someone who has a strong interest in extreme poverty, global health, global education and nutrition but also strong interests in equality, economics, technology and business, was to hear the US speakers talking of their own challenges in their own country. Speakers like Marian Wright Edelman and Travis Smiley with their impassioned views of the American legacy of racial issues and inequality was particularly memorable. As such a large and diverse country it’s easy with so many issues and the lifestyles of different people, to be hidden from the reality of their own counties poverty. There were things in those presentations as an English guy trying to focus on the developing world that I didn’t think I needed to hear and the presentation style was certainly different to what we see or expect at the UK national conference. However, just by being there and seeing the way the US grassroots people responded made me realise that just like in southern Europe where the develop world meets the developing world and where historically the past meets the future, there is still too large a gap for all sorts of people to fall into if the masses choose to look the other way.

On the more international agenda, I became an instant fan of Julia Gillard. Her leadership of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) looks set to be a turning point. As the ex prime minister of Australia, she was incredibly experienced and well prepared but at the same time remarkably human and personable and clearly up for the challenge. The Pledges that she went on to gain in Brussels the following week were amazing! It was nice to know that Dan from RESULTS UK would be attending the conference to keep up the momentum right until the announcement from Lynne Featherstone.

Nick and Julie Horlsen and US grassroots advocate meet CongressmanDerek Kilmer.

Nick and Julie Horlsen and US grassroots advocate meet CongressmanDerek Kilmer.

One of the real highlights of the conference as you would expect is the lobby day. The planning and enthusiasm was impressive. I was with a great group from the Washington State on the west coast. The Washington state team were very welcoming of Julie and I and the team was made up of everyday people, students, family people, care workers, doctors and business workers. I formed a very close bond with two or three of them, people I know I will keep in touch with again and certainly meet the next time I go to the west coast. Our Lobby day started with the UK team, we all went together to meet at the World Bank in the UK Government office where the board members and their team work. We met with Phil Stevens an Advisor to the executive director and shared information in both directions on Nutrition for Growth, the GPE, TB and general UK and World Bank policy and structure. Clearly there is a lot of change going on right now at the World Bank with UK leadership being critical in so many ways. It was a very interesting meeting.

The highlight of the lobby day was meeting their Congressman Derek Kilmer. He was a very well informed guy. He also clearly remembers meeting many of the lobby team on previous lobby days and on their home ground back in the north west of the USA. It was my pleasure to find he had studied in Oxford and knew my home town well. He clearly is something of an anglophile as well as being a very patriotic American. He took the messages we all delivered verbally in his stride and he reflected back his interest and understanding very well. He was only too happy to take on board their request to support their push towards more support for poverty initiatives globally and in the US. He even posted the picture he had taken of us on his Facebook page the same day. Have a look here. 

My experience from the US lobby day was quite different to the UK advocacy day at Parliament and Whitehall, partly because of the different surrounding but also because it seemed so much more tied to the legislative day to day and detail due to the way the American system is structured.

It now a couple of weeks since I got back from the conference but my enthusiasm for the experience remain strong. The shared belief that we all have a role in eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 is now resonating stronger than ever before thanks to my trip to Washington. If you can save up and free up some time next summer, do it, you won’t regret it!

“Dying for a Cure – Research and Development for Global Health”

This blog has been written by Matt Oliver, Health Advocacy Officer for TB and Policy Adviser to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB.

APPG TB Report CoverLast Tuesday (8th July), the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB launched its report entitled “Dying for a Cure: Research and Development for Global Health” through a debate in Westminster Hall.

The launch marks the culmination of a six month process collating evidence and researching the report. The group published a call for evidence in February, followed by three oral evidence sessions, conducted dozens of interviews and reviewed over 200 articles to provide the backbone of the report.

The final document is focused on two major issues: 1) exploring why and how the traditional commercial model of development has failed diseases of poverty such as TB and 2) what reforms could be made to incentivise increased investment in R&D and help to bring through new products such as TB drugs or an HIV vaccine.

Although often perceived as quite a dry subject, R&D is absolutely central to efforts to improve global health and eradicate poverty. Whilst great progress has been made with existing interventions against HIV, TB, malaria and other diseases, without new interventions, there is little chance of moving beyond ‘control’ of these diseases and towards ‘elimination’.

Unfortunately, we cannot rely on the wit and ingenuity of private sector pharmaceutical companies to come to the rescue. Researching and developing vaccines can take decades, the recent rotavirus vaccine took 33 years to develop; few private sector companies would devote such a period of time to development. In regards to drugs, a single new product costing in the region of $1bn to develop (and sometimes much more), making the decision to embark on the R&D process for such a new drug extremely risky, particularly because global markets for drugs for diseases like TB, malaria, and paediatric HIV are simply not big enough to offer the consistent, long-term financial return to incentivise commercial sector investment.

So, public and philanthropic sources of finance must fill the gap.

However, as the co-chairmen of the APPG highlight in their foreword to the report, the objective of a 21st century aid agency cannot be to fix the world’s problems. Diseases such as TB are global and require a globally coordinated response that no single aid agency could manage. A modern aid agency should devote its resources to finding solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems, giving developing countries the weaponry to win their own battles against the major diseases, and supporting them in doing so.

Simply listening to the Secretary of State reveals that DFID makes the case for aid spending through a pure value for money approach, and investing in interventions that reach enormous numbers of people. This, in itself, is no bad thing, but the challenge must be to strike the right balance between operations and long-term research and development investment.

As a single example, the UK currently spends nearly £300m a year helping other countries tackle HIV, and over £630m a year treating HIV in the UK, yet DFID spends just £1 million a year developing an HIV vaccine. If there is a balance between R&D spend and operations, that balance is not quite right.

The recommendations in the report, if implemented, will not make a difference overnight. R&D timelines are long and we may not see benefits for decades. Nonetheless, new drugs for TB were needed decades ago, there is no time to spare. These recommendations must be implemented, and R&D made a greater priority of DFID spending if we are to ever develop products like HIV vaccines that are simply not commercially viable. To accelerate our progress against these diseases, to drive them towards elimination, and to safeguard the health and well-being of millions of people around the world, we need to transform our approach to R&D for global health. Hopefully, the APPG TB report marks a first step towards such a transformation.

The views in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily of RESULTS UK. A transcript of the Westminster Hall debate can be accessed here.

‘Why isn’t my life worth anything to Romanian authorities?’ – Cristina reflects on surviving MDR-TB in Romania

This is our second blog from Cristina in Romania which she has written following a visit from UK parliamentarians back in May. You can find her first post and other voices from those affected by TB on the  TB Europe Coalition website.

‘Why isn’t my life worth anything to Romanian authorities?’ – Cristina reflects on surviving MDR-TB in Romania

“- Cristina?!!”  I can still hear the deep voice of my grandfather.

“-Come here! Do you want to hear a story?”

“-Yes, grandpa! Tell me the one with the mountains and the rivers, the birds and the green pastures, the hills and the planes and the deep blue sea.”

“-There was once this beautiful country called Romania. God had blessed it with tall mountains, and green valleys, wavy hills, and vast planes and oh…yes..the deep blue sea…”

View from Bisercani Hospital, Romania. Credit: Tom Maguire/RESULTS UK

View from Bisercani Hospital, Romania. Credit: Tom Maguire/RESULTS UK

I would close my eyes and imagine all these beauty. A feeling of great happiness warmed my chest. I’d often fall asleep dreaming of tall mountains, great lush planes, courageous kings and warm hearted inhabitants of this magnificent land, protected by my grandpa’s strong hands.

When I would wake up he’ll look at me with his deep blue eyes, all of a sudden very serious: “-You have to love your country, you know! This is your home! This is where your kind live! Great acts of courage were written with blood on this soil.” and he’d make me touch the ground and I’d feel a part of a whole. I’d feel that all these brave people before me were my roots to this land and I’ll be the roots for the ones coming after me.

I was taught to love my country. To think that for better or worst I belong to this land. I’ll protect it and it’ll protect me.

Since I got sick, I don’t know anymore. My country betrayed me. I no longer felt protected. The people I entrusted my vote, that vowed to care for our people no longer considered my life important. Where are the brave kings and knights that once ruled our land? They disappeared into fog, like my grandpa did.

At first I was shocked. No! It can’t be! You can’t just ignore a contagious disease with the potential to kill thousands. Wasn’t it enough that great minds of our world were already forever lost to this horrible disease? Anne and Emily Bronte, Albert Camus, Anton Chekhov, Franz Kafka, Paul Gauguin, Modigliani and the black list goes on, and on.

But it was true. They are ignoring it, consciously putting in danger innocent people.

And then it became obvious. I was all alone in this battle. And the more I read, the more I found out the more disappointed I was.

Not long ago I met this group of English members of Parliament. They made me feel envious…Envious that they care about their people. They made me think. Why isn’t my life worth anything to Romanian authorities? Why aren’t we looking after our people? The “whys” will always keep spinning in my head.

This is the question I’d ask the politicians from all over the world: Why? Why die uselessly?

DFID’s Contribution to Improving Nutrition – New Evaluation Published Today

© Pierre Holtz | UNICEF

© Pierre Holtz | UNICEF

This blog has been written by Tena Nevidal, a Volunteer Intern at RESULTS UK who is spending her time looking at the nutrition aid architecture.

Today, a study that evaluates DFID’s Contribution to Improving Nutrition was published by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI). It focuses on DFID’s overall strategy in targeting undernutrition and the coherence of its nutrition portfolio, which currently consists of 114 projects. The report took account of all of these, but focused specifically on DFID’s programmes in Zambia and India, which ICAI researchers visited.

The main objective was to see whether DFID’s efforts are on the track to bring meaningful impact and improve the lives and future opportunities of children under the age of five that are under the threat of malnutrition.

ICAI used traffic lights to indicate its judgement of DFID’s objectives, delivery, impact, learning and overall success in its nutrition agenda.

Green: The programme performs well overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Some improvements are needed.

Green - Amber: The programme performs relatively well overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Improvements should be made.

Amber - Red: The programme performs relatively poorly overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Significant improvements should be made.

Red: The programme performs poorly overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Immediate and major changes need to be made.

Overall, DFID’s actions have been rated Green-Amber, with its objectives, delivery and learning falling into this category. However, the closest indicator of how these projects affect people on the ground – impact, is lagging behind on Amber-Red. This grade leaves more than enough room for recommendations and ICAI presented the following five:

1: “DFID should make long-term commitments to maintain the pace and scale of its nutrition investments through its country programmes.”

DFID has been a leading figure in generating a focus on nutrition aid among global donors, as well as one of the biggest contributors to nutrition aid funding. However, the funding gap in nutrition sector is still estimated to be at 9.6 billion dollars annually (The Lancet 2013).

2: “DFID should implement nutrition interventions which will have the greatest impact on stunting and cognitive development.”

During their visits to India and Zambia, ICAI researches noted that “although DFID’s work is generally based on sound evidence, its projects do not always focus on the mix of interventions for the greatest impact on stunting.” Since stunting is a symptom of malnutrition with the most severe consequences for physical and cognitive development of a child, DFID should review its approach to prioritize targeting it.

3: “DFID should ensure that its interventions target better the nutritional needs of the most vulnerable mothers and children.”

Although the distribution of nutrients considerably relies on the efforts of domestic governments, more needs to be done to ensure that the most vulnerable parts of population, such as those that often migrate for work and those that live in remote areas, also get the nutrients they need for a healthy and active life.

4: “DFID should work with partners globally and in developing countries to ensure systems are in place to measure the impacts of its programmes.”

This recommendation takes into account the difficulty of measuring the impact of tackling stunting, as measuring children under two years of age is difficult without special training. It is in the same time necessary to have those evaluations as there can always be better interventions developed if there is a base of data to draw from.

5: “DFID should actively explore ways in which to engage the private sector in reducing undernutrition.”

Considering the daunting funding gap that nutrition is looking at, attracting new funds remains at the top of the list of priorities.

Finally, DFID has been a leading figure in generating focus on nutrition aid among global donors, as well as one of the biggest contributors to nutrition aid funding. DFID’s objectives are informed by sound research and its scale of action is good and consists of a balanced proportion of nutrition specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions. ICAI researchers expect DFID to “exceed its target of reaching 20 million under-five children by 2015.”

Even with completing that target, there is still a long way to go. But with a better monitoring system that would help identify more effective stunting interventions and with overcoming obstacles of delivering nutrients to the most vulnerable, DFID would certainly keep making meaningful steps on the way from attacking malnutrition, to controlling it and finally overcoming.