United Nations

Vaccines are “miracles,” Bill Gates likes to say, because of their power to prevent death and disease so simply and at such a low cost.

Today, governments and international donors (the Gates Foundation chief among them) agreed to boost funding for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization initiative by $4.3 billion.

In this time of economic recession, GAVI’s success at fund-raising is extraordinary. However, the question must be asked: Does GAVI strike the hardest bargain with drug companies, getting the needed vaccines at the lowest cost?

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Dorothy Parvaz, a reporter for Al Jazeera and a former colleague of mine at the Seattle Post Intelligencer, has been released by Iranian authorities after she was detained in Syria and deported to Iran. Parvaz returned to Doha, Qatar, where she is now based.

Here’s the New York Times on this Happy News and, for quick background, what I wrote when D (as she prefers) first disappeared weeks ago when attempting to enter Syria to report on the protests going on there against the Assad government.

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This is a guest Humanosphere post from Kunle Oguneye, president of the Seattle chapter of The African Network, a Nigerian and former tech worker who now writes children’s books (which should, I hope, explain the photo).

Oguneye wrote me to suggest that Humanosphere tends to suffer from the same bias, or lack of diversity and perspective, that afflicts much of the local global health and development community.

Here’s what he says:

Kentaro Toyama is clearly a heretic. A geek heretic.

And, based on his career path, I would guess brilliant.

A computer scientist currently at the University of California, Berkeley, Toyama co-founded Microsoft Research India in 2005 and remained there as assistant managing director until 2009.

If you’re not familiar with what they do at Microsoft Research, think artificial intelligence, computer vision, terabyte juggling, high-octane mathematics and the craziest things you can try to do with bits, bytes or any kind of information technology.

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Maybe you've heard about it already, but former Seattle PI reporter and columnist Dorothy Parvaz has gone missing in Syria.

Journalists take risks to make sure people’s stories are told, to shine a light on wrongdoing based on the belief that public awareness is the first step toward positive change. Today happens to be World Press Freedom Day, this year hosted by the U.S.

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Justin Steyer / KPLU

We hope you figured out long ago that the title of KPLU's "Can Seattle Save the World? (Poverty, Health and Chocolate)" event was tongue-firmly-in-cheek, but also meant to raise some important questions. There's a serious debate about the meaning and priority of "health" in "global health."

The event itself, last Tuesday, proved so popular that we moved it to a room three times larger than originally planned -- and nearly packed the room. Not to toot our horn too much, but immediate feedback was enthusiastic. "Do it again," was the most common response.

We'd love to. In the meantime, we are belatedly offering a replay -- video from the event.

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Tom Paulson / KPLU

I got a sneak preview of the new Seattle headquarters of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Wednesday evening, courtesy of Bill Foege, one of several Bills there.

Foege’s title at the Gates Foundation is “senior fellow.” But that doesn’t really tell you much, except to imply he’s old. It certainly doesn’t tell you how tall he is. He’s a very tall senior fellow.

More importantly than what I think, Foege appears to have been one of the key inspirations for Bill and Melinda Gates’ philanthropic mission. That’s basically what Melinda Gates said yesterday to the philanthropy’s staff after introducing those attending to their new home.

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Justin Steyer / KPLU

KPLU-Humanosphere’s event at Seattle Town Hall — Can Seattle Save the World? – was clearly a huge hit, drawing in an estimated 700 people on Tuesday night. Yes, the title was a bit goofy. We intended it so.

Obviously, people here care a great deal. Global health, global poverty and social justice are hot topics in this community, which I dubbed off-the-top-of-my-head “do-gooder central” at the event.

The forum begins at 7 p.m. at Town Hall Seattle, but you can join in the conversation right now using the Twitter hashtag #SEAsaves.

KPLU's Charla Bear will also be live blogging below (and at Humanosphere), starting at 7 p.m.

UPDATE: Advance ticket sales have ended. However, additional tickets are available at the door tonight for $10 - cash only, starting at 6pm.

For those who would like to use Twitter to follow and participate, or even suggest questions now, see #SEAsaves and chime in. My colleague Charla Bear has graciously agreed to live-blog the event on Humanosphere and KPLU.

Here are a few thoughts in advance of tonight's event...

Tom Paulson

Global health is a big deal in Seattle.

As a matter of worldwide significance, it is of course a big deal everywhere — by definition. But what I mean is that global health is today the cause célèbre for Seattle and throughout the region. It’s especially popular among the Millennials.

“Global health is the movement of our generation,” said Kristen Eddings, a program associate at the Washington Global Health Alliance and one of the primary organizers of a big global health shindig in Seattle coming this June known as Party with a Purpose.

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Ever wonder what happens to all those Super Bowl “champions” shirts and hats that are printed up in advance, but for the losing team? 

Given this, World Vision for the past 15 years has been collecting this loser gear left over from the Super Bowl and distributing it to people in poor countries:

World Vision identifies countries and communities in need overseas who will benefit from the gear. This year’s unused Super Bowl merchandise will make its way to Zambia, Armenia, Nicaragua, and Romania in the months to come. On average, this equates to about 100 pallets annually — $2 million worth of product — or about 100,000 articles of clothing that, instead of being destroyed, will help children and adults in need.

So don’t be surprised if you see lots of folks in southern Africa, eastern Europe or Central America mistakenly believing the Pittsburgh Steelers won.

It may sound like a nice enough thing to do, but a lot of folks think it’s actually harmful and even immoral: donating clothing.

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Centers for Disease Control

One of the big news stories in the malaria world recently is the discovery, announced last week in the journal Science, of a previously unknown type of mosquito that some reports said could threaten malaria control efforts in Africa.

Here’s the problem: Most malaria control efforts in Africa — bednets, spraying — are aimed at preventing mosquitoes from biting humans indoors at night. This newly discovered mosquito, dubbed “Goundry” (after the community in Burkina Faso where it was identified), appears to operate outdoors.

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UW Health Alliance International

The Obama Administration says it wants to re-invent foreign aid and one of its mantras is to increase “country ownership” of the programs it funds for improving health and welfare in poor countries.

Given this, it came as a shock to Dr. Stephen Gloyd and others at the UW’s Health Alliance International (HAI) when the government basically pulled the plug on a long-running AIDS health care project in Mozambique that is, or was anyway, widely regarded as a model of doing just that.

“It’s ironic given their goal of wanting to strengthen local governance,” said Gloyd, director at HAI.

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Bill and Melinda Gates are big believers in vaccines and in the benefit of eradicating, rather than simply controlling, those human diseases that have the potential for being completely wiped out.

Today, Gates and British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a combined new donation of $166 million in support of the global polio eradication campaign.

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midorisyu / Flickr

Todd Bishop at TechFlash has discovered that Microsoft is into global health, in a weird way.

As Todd reports, Microsoft has applied for a patent for “Adapting Parasites to Combat Disease.”

AMagill / Flickr

Today’s big global health news: An international fund that was created (with significant support from the Gates Foundation) to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in poor countries has identified episodes of fraud or at least misappropriation of funds amounting to tens millions of dollars.

Alex E. Proimos / Flickr photo

It's uncommon to hear dialog about failure in our society, including among the leaders and agencies who work in the field of global health and development. Those organizations rely on funders who are banking on success to further international missions, according to Humanosphere's Tom Paulson

World AIDS Day

KPLU's Humanosphere blogger Tom Paulson has a great post today about why the Gates Foundation's director of HIV and tuberculosis programs feels this year's World AIDS day is different than it's dozens of predecessors. 

Tom Paulson / KPLU Humanosphere

Some businesses are taking the idea of ‘corporate social responsibility’ seriously – as opposed to just public relations.

But those looking for an unencumbered love-fest of enlightened capitalism might want to ask Joe Whinney, founder of Theo Chocolate in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, about how much love he’s gotten from his commercial colleagues for trying to also accomplish some social good.