PLoS Currents: Outbreaks (Accessed 24 January 2015)

PLoS Currents: Outbreaks
(Accessed 24 January 2015)

The Western Africa Ebola Virus Disease Epidemic Exhibits Both Global Exponential and Local Polynomial Growth Rates
January 21, 2015 • Research
While many infectious disease epidemics are initially characterized by an exponential growth in time, we show that district-level Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreaks in West Africa follow slower polynomial-based growth kinetics over several generations of the disease.
We analyzed epidemic growth patterns at three different spatial scales (regional, national, and subnational) of the Ebola virus disease epidemic in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia by compiling publicly available weekly time series of reported EVD case numbers from the patient database available from the World Health Organization website for the period 05-Jan to 17-Dec 2014.
We found significant differences in the growth patterns of EVD cases at the scale of the country, district, and other subnational administrative divisions. The national cumulative curves of EVD cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia show periods of approximate exponential growth. In contrast, local epidemics are asynchronous and exhibit slow growth patterns during 3 or more EVD generations, which can be better approximated by a polynomial than an exponential function.
The slower than expected growth pattern of local EVD outbreaks could result from a variety of factors, including behavior changes, success of control interventions, or intrinsic features of the disease such as a high level of clustering. Quantifying the contribution of each of these factors could help refine estimates of final epidemic size and the relative impact of different mitigation efforts in current and future EVD outbreaks.

Ebola/EVD: Additional Coverage [to 24 January 2015]

Ebola/EVD: Additional Coverage [to 24 January 2015]

UNMEER [UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response] @UNMEER #EbolaResponse

Editor’s Note: UNMEER’s website is aggregating and presenting content from various sources including its own External Situation Reports, press releases, statements and other formats.
We present a composite below from the week ending 24 January 2015. We also note that 1) a regular information category in these reports – human rights – has apparently eliminated as it no longer appears in any of the continuing updates, and 2) the content level of these reports continues, in our view, to trend less informative and less coherent. We will review continuing coverage of this material over the next few weeks.

UNMEER External Situation Reports
UNMEER External Situation Reports are issued daily (excepting Saturday) with content organized under these headings:
– Highlights
– Key Political and Economic Developments
– Human Rights
– Response Efforts and Health
– Logistics
– Outreach and Education
– Resource Mobilisation
– Essential Services
– Upcoming Events
The “Week in Review” will present highly-selected elements of interest from these reports. The full daily report is available as a pdf using the link provided by the report date.

:: 23 Jan 2015 UNMEER External Situation Report
Key Political and Economic Developments
1. In Davos, Switzerland, a panel discussion on ‘Confronting the Challenge of Catastrophic Outbreaks: What critical lessons can be learned from the 2014 Ebola outbreak to prepare us for the future?’ was held on 22 January. Moderating the talks, Peter Piot, the Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, characterized the EVD outbreak in West Africa as a black swan event. The panel which included President Alpha Condé of Guinea and WHO Director-General Margaret Chan underscored the need to guard against complacency and donor fatigue, until we get to zero transmission as well as build resilient public health care systems and infrastructure to better cope with future outbreaks and endemic diseases.
Outreach and Education
10. Community resistance towards safe burials and general suspicion of burial teams continues in many parts of the Liberia. UNMEER and partners are engaging more with local communities to enhance awareness in the Phase II national response efforts. In this regard, UNMEER along with county authorities plan to follow up on some recent burials that took place in Flowin, Garbusi and Boapea towns in Nimba County.
Resource Mobilisation
7. The OCHA Ebola Virus Outbreak Overview of Needs and Requirements, now totaling USD 1.5 billion, has been funded for USD 1.18 billion, which is around 79% of the total ask.
8. The Ebola Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund currently has USD 135.8 million in commitments. In total USD 140 million has been pledged.
Essential Services
14. WFP, in coordination with the Government of Liberia, UNMEER and UNICEF, will be supporting re-opening of schools starting in February: WFP will facilitate the transport of WASH supplies to ensure that schools, as they open, have all supplies necessary to prevent the transmission of EVD.
15. In Sierra Leone, two successive emergency campaigns to distribute anti-malarial drugs successfully reached more than 2.5 million people in door-to-door distribution in 8 districts (Bombali, Kambia, Koinadugu, Moyamba, Port Loko and Tonkolili and Western Area – Urban and Rural). The campaign was implemented by the National Malaria Control Programme of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation with technical support and guidance by WHO in collaboration with MSF, UNICEF and other Roll Back Malaria partners. This effort will significantly reduce the number of people with fever that might be mistaken for EVD.

:: 22 Jan 2015 UNMEER External Situation Report
Key Political and Economic Developments
1. In a World Bank Report prepared for the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos, the Bank acknowledged progress made in slowing the EVD transmission rate, but cautioned that recent efforts have likely reduced the impact of Ebola on the African economy perhaps from USD 30 billion to USD 6 billion. The report noted that most of these losses are forecasted to hit the affected countries.
2. In Davos, Switzerland, Special Envoy David Nabarro provided an updated Overview of Needs and Requirements in the global efforts to stop Ebola. The financial needs for the first six month of 2015 amount to 1.5 billion USD. Almost 500 million USD is already available and the appeal is now for the gap of 1 billion USD.
Response Efforts and Health
7. In Sierra Leone, 19,673 Ebola Response Workers (ERWs) were paid through mobile money between 7 and 19 January. Of these, 96% have cash-out their pay.
Essential Services
18. Following the reopening of schools in Guinea, attendance remain low in the first week. UNICEF and partners continue to monitor schools to ensure measures put in place for the safe return to school are being adhered to around the country. UNICEF and Enfance du Globe provided psychosocial support to 150 children affected by Ebola in Belya.

:: 21 Jan 2015 UNMEER External Situation Report
Key Political and Economic Developments
1. The UN General Assembly held an informal meeting on Ebola, yesterday and received briefings from the Secretary-General, SRSG Ould Cheikh Ahmed, SE David Nabarro and representatives of the affected countries among others. Participants assessed that the global response to address Ebola has significantly slowed transmission, highlighted that there is no room for complacency and reiterated the goal to reach zero transmission.
7. WFP is enhancing operational capacity to undertake medical evacuation of humanitarian staff with EVD by deploying a WFP-charted Bell 412 helicopter to Freetown, Sierra Leone on 22 January. Plans are for the aircraft to be based in Freetown initially, and then to operate out of a field location, such as Bo or Port Loko, as required. This is the second dedicated Medevac helicopter that WFP has deployed to the region; the other is stationed in Conakry, serving Guinea.
Essential Services
18. Following the reopening of schools in Guinea, attendance remain low in the first week. UNICEF and partners continue to monitor schools to ensure measures put in place for the safe return to school are being adhered to around the country. UNICEF and Enfance du Globe provided psychosocial support to 150 children affected by Ebola in Belya.

:: 20 Jan 2015 UNMEER External Situation Report
Key Political and Economic Developments
1. In a press interview on his way to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, President Alpha Condé of Guinea called on the IMF to cancel the debt of his country as well as of Liberia and Sierra Leone. He further indicated that the cancellation should be for bilateral and multilateral debt.
Outreach and Education
13. Similarly, UNICEF helped the Ministry of Youth broadcast Ebola sensitization messages to youth during the Africa Nations Cup. Messaging will continue 30 days after the end of the African Cup. UNICEF provided flat screen TVs, generators, retro-projectors, and screens to broadcast the Cup in 200 locations throughout the country.
Essential Services
16. Schools reopened across Guinea yesterday. In preparation, 80,657 teachers were trained on safe school opening protocol (100% teachers from preschool to higher education) with the assistance of UNICEF. UNICEF and partners also helped ensuring that thermoflash and hand washing stations were provided on locations. Early reporting suggests attendance is low, with for instance 63 students present at the Lycée 2 Octobre in Conakry out of 1,300 students. Current estimates are that students will receive 160 of the usual 180 days of instruction and local media are encouraging attendance to make best use of the reduced time.
18. In Liberia, schools began registering students on 12 January for the launch of the new academic year, and the Ministry of Education finalized a condensed 2015 academic calendar, including a minimum of 187 instructional days from 2 February to 2 November.

:: 19 Jan 2015 UNMEER External Situation Report
Key Political and Economic Developments
1. On 18 January, the Government of Mali, WHO and UNMEER declared Mali Ebola-free, after 42 days without any new EVD cases. They insisted on the need to remain vigilant as long as the outbreak is not contained in the three most affected countries.
4. The Red Cross indicated that security challenges in several areas in Guinea have prevented safe and dignified burials. The National Response Coordinator will work with both the gendarmerie and the Red Cross to look at the feasibility of escorts for safe burial teams.
9. In preparation for the potential reopening of the Liberia and Sierra Leone border, IOM Regional Office Dakar has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Mano River Union. IOM is urgently initiating a comprehensive border assessment in coordination with CDC.
11. The WFP-led Emergency Telecoms (ET) Cluster is providing internet connectivity in 43 locations across the three Ebola-affected countries, ensuring reliable internet access for 741 humanitarian personnel. Last week in Guinea, the ET Cluster installed internet in the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Beyla to facilitate the critical efforts of health workers. It also installed radio equipment in the city of Kissidougou to enable humanitarian staff to communicate with one another and a radio base station for UNHAS/UNMEER in Conakry, in order to provide reliable communications between air and ground staff.
Essential Services
19. Schools and universities in Guinea are scheduled to reopen today.

The Sentinel

Human Rights Action :: Humanitarian Response :: Health ::
Holistic Development :: Sustainable Resilience
Week ending 17 January 2015

This weekly digest is intended to aggregate and distill key content from a broad spectrum of practice domains and organization types including key agencies/IGOs, NGOs, governments, academic and research institutions, consortiums and collaborations, foundations, and commercial organizations. We also monitor a spectrum of peer-reviewed journals and general media channels. The Sentinel’s geographic scope is global/regional but selected country-level content is included. We recognize that this spectrum/scope yields an indicative and not an exhaustive product. Comments and suggestions should be directed to:

David R. Curry
Editor &
Founding Managing Director
GE2P2 – Center for Governance, Evidence, Ethics, Policy, Practice

pdf verion: The Sentinel_ week ending 17 January 2015

blog edition: comprised of the 35+ entries to be posted below on 18 January 2015

action/2015 Launches Campaign

action/2015 Launches Campaign
15 January 2015
:: Almost a billion lives* hang in the balance at crucial summits in New York & Paris
:: Famous names back one of the biggest campaigns ever launched
:: New figures show poverty could increase for the first time in a generation

[Excerpt from press release]
According to new research, almost a billion extra people face a life of extreme poverty if leaders duck key decisions on poverty, inequality and climate change due to be taken at two crucial summits in New York and Paris later this year, with billions more continuing to face a life of hardship.

That’s the warning by more than a thousand organisations around the world which are launching a new campaign called action/2015 calling on local and world leaders to take urgent action to halt man-made climate change, eradicate poverty and address inequality.

The new calculation released by the action/2015 coalition shows that, even using relatively conservative scenarios, the number of people living in extreme poverty – on less than $1.25 a day – could be reduced dramatically from over a billion to 360 million by 2030. Based on work by the University of Denver, in the year 2030, about 4 % of the global population would live in extreme poverty, (compared to 17% today) if critical policy choices on inequality, poverty investment and climate change are made this year and implemented thereafter. Estimates of other researchers, looking at a longer list of variables, show that the eradication of extreme poverty is achievable for the first time in history – a key objective of the campaign.

However, if leaders fail to deliver and build on the growing momentum for ambitious deals at the UN Special Summit on Sustainable Development in September and the UN Climate talks in Paris in December, and scale back their efforts, the number of people living in extreme poverty could actually increase to 1.2 billion by 2030. This increase would be the first in a generation (since 1993) and almost a billion higher (886million) than if resolute action is taken. Under this scenario 1 in 3 of the world’s population would live under $2 a day.

Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Malala Fund co-founder, who put her life on the line for the right to education said: ‘People globally want an end to injustice, poverty and illiteracy. Our world is interconnected and youth are ready and mobilised more than ever to see real change take place. Together, we are demanding our leaders take action in 2015 and we must all do our part. I will continue to work tirelessly to call on world leaders to seize this opportunity to guarantee a free, quality primary and secondary education for every child. That is my goal and I hope that my voice will be heard as it is the voice of millions of children who want to go to school.’

As part of the launch, activities are taking place in more than 50 countries all around the world from Lebanon and Liberia to Nigeria and Norway to South Africa and Sri Lanka. Many of these are spearheaded by 15 year olds – a constituency who will be among the most affected by the agreements…
*Notes for Editors
The ‘almost 1 billion lives’ figure is calculated from best and worst scenarios based on different actions that could be taken affecting inequality, climate change, growth, aid and social investment. These variables are computed by the International Futures model developed at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver. Under the best case scenario the number of people living in poverty could be reduced to 360m (4%) by 2030. In the worst case scenario the number of people living in poverty could increase to 1.2 billion, a difference of 886million.
More information at

ILO: Global momentum means more women move into management

Global momentum means more women move into management
ILO International Labour Organization New study shows positive link between female leadership and business performance and urges boost from current 5 per cent of women in top positions.
12 January 2015

GENEVA (ILO News) – While women are still under-represented in top management, the number of women in senior and middle management positions has increased over the last 20 years, a new study by the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities finds.
According to Women in Business and Management: Gaining Momentum, in 80 of the 108 countries for which ILO data is available, the proportion of women managers has increased during this period.

“Our research is showing that women’s ever increasing participation in the labour market has been the biggest engine of global growth and competitiveness,” says Deborah France-Massin, Director of the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities.

“Women’s ever increasing participation in the labour market has been the biggest engine of global growth and competitiveness.”
“An increasing number of studies are also demonstrating positive links between women’s participation in top decision making teams and structures and business performance. But there is a long way to go before we achieve true gender equality in the workplace, especially when it comes to top management positions.”

Only 5 per cent or less of the CEOs of the world’s largest corporations are women. The larger the company, the less likely the head will be a woman…

:: Women in Business and Management: Gaining momentum [abridged version]
ILO – Bureau for Employers’ Activities
12 January 2015 :: 44 pages :: 978-92-2-128873-2[ISBN]
This report brings together available data and ILO statistics to provide a comprehensive, up to-date and global picture of women in the business world and in management positions.

Speech – Valerie Amos :: Sorensen Lecture Series – Council on Foreign Relations New York, 13 January 2015

Sorensen Lecture Series – Council on Foreign Relations
New York, 13 January 2015
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos
[Excerpts; Editor’s text bolding]

…For me, this lecture comes at a particularly critical time when the world is grappling with a series of challenges which are bringing us closer together and pushing us wider apart. And when we are seeking to redefine the role of the nation state, of Governments and of the United Nations, given the complex set of challenges we are facing. This week alone, horrific events in France and Nigeria have led, for example, to searching questions about the nature of terrorism, security, freedom of speech and religion; the limits or otherwise of press freedom, tolerance, racism, inequality, the impact of social media and the Internet, the lack of connectivity between people and cultures, and the quality of global leadership.

And it is clear that we do not have the answers, as we are dealing with phenomena which are very often outside our experience. In the past week we heard reports of a 10-year old suicide bomber – a young girl; deliberate, targeted killing of journalists/cartoonists whose job it was to challenge us to look at our world in different ways; and anti-Semitic attacks aimed at further fueling tensions between Jews and Muslims. And in the midst of that hatred and brutality, an outpouring of global solidarity even as citizens question themselves and their leaders about the kind of world we are living in, and the kind of future we want to have. Our world seems to be in turmoil.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the work that I do, in humanitarian affairs. So many contradictions are played out daily as we see the impact of conflict and crisis on people’s day-to-day lives. I have often said that in our work we see the worst of humanity and the very best: Mindless violence; Abuse, particularly of women and children; and in the midst of it all, people sharing what little they have, supporting, protecting and helping each other.

Humanitarian work is under significant pressure as we face growing needs around the world. This year, 2015, 78 million people in 22 countries require urgent humanitarian assistance and we estimate that it will cost $16.4 billion for us to help them. That money will provide urgently needed shelter, essential health care, education, food. It will help people to survive. But what it will not do is help people to rebuild their lives, because without resolution to conflict, people will continue to flee brutality. And without better early warning systems and risk mitigation measures, people will continue to suffer the impact of hurricanes, drought, floods and other natural disasters…

…Just in my work, the UN provides food to 90 million people in 80 countries every year; vaccinates 58 per cent of the world’s children, saving 3 million lives a year; assists over 38.7 million refugees and people fleeing war, famine or persecution; fights poverty, helps improve the health and well-being of 420 million of the rural poor; promotes and protects human rights through some 80 treaties/declarations.

Somehow we forget all that because we focus particularly on the political side of the United Nations. The side of the United Nations which uses diplomacy to prevent conflict: assists some 60 countries a year with their elections. But as with all Organizations, with growth has come more bureaucracy, less flexibility. And we have seen changes in power dynamics between countries and regions reflected in the way issues are debated and discussed, indeed in the way they are resolved.

We see this in humanitarian work as well. More is expected of us than ever before – we are called on to provide life-saving assistance and protection of civilians – but we are not necessarily given the tools to do it. Civilians are killed and injured in targeted or indiscriminate attacks in violation of international humanitarian law, and often with complete impunity. I cannot remember the number of times I have reported to the Security Council and asked them to make strong statements, which they do, about what is happening in the world, but it does not necessarily change what is happening on the ground. 82 per cent of the people who were killed or injured by explosive weapons in 2013 – the last time we had figures – were civilians.

Violence and other forms of persecution force an average of 23,000 people per day – per day – to leave their homes to seek protection elsewhere. Too often, humanitarian organizations are called on to fill the glaring gaps that emerge when States neglect to fulfil their duty to safeguard their citizens. Think for example Syria or South Sudan. Or where, as a result of conflict, the state apparatus has become weak, fragmented or almost nonexistent as in the case of Somalia or the Central African Republic.

Humanitarian actors are increasingly being called on to deal with the consequences of crises that essentially have their roots in a complex set of interrelated factors: poor governance, political paralysis, underdevelopment, rising levels of poverty and inequality. And these dynamics in many countries are overlaid by the growth of terrorist and radical armed groups and challenges to democratization, which create further instability. Add to this mix climate change, environmental degradation, population growth in some parts of the world, and the consequences of increasing levels of internal displacement and forced migration. The average length of conflict-induced displacement is a staggering 17 years.

Despite the economic gains we have seen in many countries, inequality is rising, and poverty and instability often go hand in hand. Half of the world’s extreme poor live in fragile states.

We are seeing a convergence of global trends which is increasing the risk of major crises, as well as their scope and complexity. Conflict and complex emergencies drove over 75 per cent of humanitarian response needs last year, and most of the conflicts we are responding to have implications far beyond their borders. The crises in Iraq and Syria have consequences across the whole of the Middle East and beyond. The fall of Moammar Gaddafi in Libya led to major insecurity and the spread of weapons across West and Central Africa, the impact of which is still being felt today.

In many of the conflict zones in which we work, there has been a manifest failure by political leaders to be inclusive in their protection of their people, and to realize that state sovereignty is a responsibility, rather than one of the spoils of being in power. Humanitarian workers, because of the lifesaving nature of our work, need to be impartial; we need to be neutral. We have to be on the side of people, not on the side of governments or armed groups where there is conflict.

This means that we operate in highly pressurized and political environments where attempts are made to use humanitarian action to pursue political or security ends. This has become more and more challenging as we have worked to keep humanitarian response separate from political imperatives in places like Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and Gaza. We have a responsibility to be strong advocates for the people caught in the midst of conflict and many Governments don’t like what we say. And we are constantly ‘under fire’ – both literally and figuratively.

Working in conflict zones where international humanitarian law is flagrantly violated, is dangerous. In 2013, violence against humanitarian aid operations hit an all-time high with 251 separate attacks in which 155 aid workers were killed and 134 were kidnapped.

But despite the continued danger, humanitarian groups continue to provide life-saving assistance to millions of people around the world every single day. And we do everything we can to ensure that we can continue our work. We negotiate with governments and armed groups. We use those with influence over warring parties to help us gain access. We use the Security Council to push for resolutions which will make a difference. We have to be operationally effective and we have to be politically astute. We have to be strong advocates. Good communicators. We have to make the case. We have to raise the money. And, crucially, we have to be good leaders, demonstrating impact and pushing for change.

The challenges facing organizations working in the humanitarian field reflect the wider challenges facing the entire United Nations.
– How do we live up to the values in the UN Charter?
– How do we safeguard human rights, protect civilians and help secure a more peaceful and a more just world?
– How do we promote a more active global citizenship?
– How do we help the people of the world to connect and see the value of inclusivity as well as of diversity and difference?

From our work we know that the only way to break the cycle of violence, which continues to threaten global peace and stability, is for political actors to work with communities to find sustainable solutions to crisis. The need is greater than ever for States to live up to their responsibility to protect civilians from harm, and when States fail to do so, for others, including multilateral institutions, to step in.

The tools available to the international community now appear extremely limited in light of the complex set of challenges we face. We need a stronger, and dare I say it, perhaps a more interventionist global architecture to deal with the humanitarian consequences of conflict. I recognize that this would come with major risks – given global power dynamics and other differences around the world. But I do have to say that after every crisis we say ‘never again’ and yet it always happens again.

We have a body of international humanitarian law, which, over time, has given us the means to tackle the challenges arising from conflicts. The problem is its lack of implementation.

We will of course continue to push for civilians to be protected in conflict, be it calling on UN Member States to deliver on their duty to protect their citizens, or highlighting to governments and militaries the devastating impact that the use of explosive weapons has on people living in densely populated urban areas.

Implementation requires stronger vision and commitment from governments and multilateral institutions as well as from humanitarian agencies. It is no longer acceptable that still less than half of one per cent of all international aid is spent on disaster prevention and preparedness.

Finding the right approaches to these and other challenges is a priority for the consultations leading up to the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, the first ever such Summit which has been called for by the UN Secretary-General. At that Summit, we will have a unique opportunity to reshape our approach to humanitarian aid and the way we do humanitarian business.

We all face a choice. We can continue to effect piecemeal change. Or, we can truly transform the way we approach complex problems in a way that better reflects today’s reality. I think we should try to do the latter for the sake of the millions of people around the world today, who frankly deserve better from all of us.

A blueprint for addressing the global affordable housing challenge

Tackling the world’s affordable housing challenge
McKinsey Global Institute
October 2014
By Jonathan Woetzel, Sangeeth Ram, Jan Mischke, Nicklas Garemo, and Shirish Sankhe

Decent, affordable housing is fundamental to the health and well-being of people and to the smooth functioning of economies. Yet around the world, in developing and advanced economies alike, cities are struggling to meet that need. If current trends in urbanization and income growth persist, by 2025 the number of urban households that live in substandard housing—or are so financially stretched by housing costs that they forego other essentials, such as healthcare—could grow to 440 million, from 330 million. This could mean that the global affordable housing gap would affect one in three urban dwellers, about 1.6 billion people.

:: A blueprint for addressing the global affordable housing challenge
McKinsey Global Institute (MGI)
October 2014 :: 212 pages
Executive Summary l Full Report
This report defines the affordability gap as the difference between the cost of an acceptable standard housing unit (which varies by location) and what households can afford to pay using no more than 30 percent of income. The analysis draws on MGI’s Cityscope database of 2,400 metropolitan areas, as well as case studies from around the world. It finds that the affordable housing gap now stands at $650 billion a year and that the problem will only grow as urban populations expand: current trends suggest that there could be 106 million more low-income urban households by 2025, for example. To replace today’s inadequate housing and build the additional units needed by 2025 would require $9 trillion to $11 trillion in construction spending alone. With land, the total cost could be $16 trillion. Of this, we estimate that $1 trillion to $3 trillion may have to come from public funding.

However, four approaches used in concert could reduce the cost of affordable housing by 20 to 50 percent and substantially narrow the affordable housing gap by 2025. These largely market-oriented solutions—lowering the cost of land, construction, operations and maintenance, and financing—could make housing affordable for households earning 50 to 80 percent of median income.

IN BRIEF [Report Introduction]
Access to decent, affordable housing is so fundamental to the health and well-being of people and the smooth functioning of economies that it is imbedded in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet in developing and advanced economies alike, cities struggle with the dual challenges of housing their poorest citizens and providing housing at a reasonable cost for low- and middle-income populations. In this report, we look at the dimensions of this problem—and how it will grow over the next decade—and offer a set of solutions that can narrow the affordable housing gap. Among our key findings:

:: We estimate that 330 million urban households around the world live in substandard housing or are financially stretched by housing costs. Some 200 million households in the developing world live in slums; in the United States, the European Union, Japan, and Australia, more than 60 million households are financially stretched by housing costs.

:: Based on current trends in urban migration and income growth, we estimate that by 2025, about 440 million urban households around the world—at least 1.6 billion people—would occupy crowded, inadequate, and unsafe housing or will be financially stretched.

:: The housing affordability gap is equivalent to $650 billion per year, or 1 percent of global GDP. In some of the least affordable cities, the gap exceeds 10 percent of local GDP.

:: To replace today’s substandard housing and build additional units needed by 2025 would require an investment of $9 trillion to $11 trillion for construction; with land, the total cost could be $16 trillion. Of this, $1 trillion to $3 trillion may have to come from public funding.

:: We identify four ways to reduce the cost of delivering affordable housing by 20 to 50 percent: unlock land at the right location (the most important lever), reduce construction costs through value engineering and industrial approaches, increase operations and maintenance efficiency, and reduce financing costs for buyers and developers.

:: These largely market-based measures can benefit households in all income groups and, with some cross subsidies, can reduce costs sufficiently to make housing affordable (at 30 percent of income) for households earning 50 to 80 percent of area median income.

:: Affordable housing is an overlooked opportunity for developers, investors, and financial
institutions. Building units for 106 million more poor urban households by 2025 could require more than $200 billion a year and account for 7 percent of mortgage originations.

These findings indicate that new approaches are needed. Standard approaches to affordable housing will yield only standard—and inadequate—results. Cities need to think more broadly and creatively about a housing ladder that includes affordable housing but accommodates citizens of all income groups and their changing needs. For the poorest citizens, the ladder may start with very basic housing that places people in decent accommodations and connects them to employment and society. To turn these aspirations into reality, cities will need smoothly functioning “delivery platforms.”

Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence: an Open Letter

Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence: an Open Letter
Top AI researchers from industry and academia have signed an open letter arguing that rapid progress in AI is making it timely to research not only how to make AI more capable, but also how to make it robust and beneficial. Media coverage: BBC, CNBC, The Independent, The Verge, ZDNet, CNET.

[Open Letter: Full text]
Artificial intelligence (AI) research has explored a variety of problems and approaches since its inception, but for the last 20 years or so has been focused on the problems surrounding the construction of intelligent agents – systems that perceive and act in some environment. In this context, “intelligence” is related to statistical and economic notions of rationality – colloquially, the ability to make good decisions, plans, or inferences. The adoption of probabilistic and decision-theoretic representations and statistical learning methods has led to a large degree of integration and cross-fertilization among AI, machine learning, statistics, control theory, neuroscience, and other fields. The establishment of shared theoretical frameworks, combined with the availability of data and processing power, has yielded remarkable successes in various component tasks such as speech recognition, image classification, autonomous vehicles, machine translation, legged locomotion, and question-answering systems.

As capabilities in these areas and others cross the threshold from laboratory research to economically valuable technologies, a virtuous cycle takes hold whereby even small improvements in performance are worth large sums of money, prompting greater investments in research. There is now a broad consensus that AI research is progressing steadily, and that its impact on society is likely to increase. The potential benefits are huge, since everything that civilization has to offer is a product of human intelligence; we cannot predict what we might achieve when this intelligence is magnified by the tools AI may provide, but the eradication of disease and poverty are not unfathomable. Because of the great potential of AI, it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls.

The progress in AI research makes it timely to focus research not only on making AI more capable, but also on maximizing the societal benefit of AI. Such considerations motivated the AAAI 2008-09 Presidential Panel on Long-Term AI Futures and other projects on AI impacts, and constitute a significant expansion of the field of AI itself, which up to now has focused largely on techniques that are neutral with respect to purpose. We recommend expanded research aimed at ensuring that increasingly capable AI systems are robust and beneficial: our AI systems must do what we want them to do. The research priorities document [see below] gives many examples of such research directions that can help maximize the societal benefit of AI. This research is by necessity interdisciplinary, because it involves both society and AI. It ranges from economics, law and philosophy to computer security, formal methods and, of course, various branches of AI itself.

In summary, we believe that research on how to make AI systems robust and beneficial is both important and timely, and that there are concrete research directions that can be pursued today.

:: Research priorities for robust and beneficial artificial intelligence
January 11, 2015 :: 12 pages
Executive Summary:
Success in the quest for artificial intelligence has the potential to bring unprecedented benefits to humanity, and it is therefore worthwhile to research how to maximize these benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls. This document gives numerous examples (which should by no means be construed as an exhaustive list) of such worthwhile research aimed at ensuring that AI remains robust and beneficial.

EBOLA/EVD [to 17 January 2015]

EBOLA/EVD [to 17 January 2015]
Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC); “Threat to international peace and security” (UN Security Council)

Editor’s Note:
Our extensive coverage of Ebola/EVD activity continues – including detailed coverage of UNMEER now available at the end of this digest and other INGO/agency activity reported in the relevant sections below. Please also note that many of the journals we cover continue to publish important EVD content which is threaded throughout this edition.
We note that the WHO will hold a “Special Session of the Executive Board on the Ebola Emergency” at its meeting later in January, with supporting documentation just below. This content includes an important call for a resolution to clarify and affirm the WHO’s role in large-scale health emergencies overall.


:: 136th WHO Executive Board session
26 January–3 February 2015 –
Main Documents:
Selected documents of interest to Ebola:
EB136/49 – Ensuring WHO’s capacity to prepare for and respond to future large-scale and sustained outbreaks and emergencies
…4. As the number of emergencies with public health implications is rising, the need for effective, efficient and well-designed global response capacities has never been clearer. Though WHO has often been called on to support Member States as they respond to crises, the unprecedented complexity and scale of the current Ebola outbreak demonstrates that the Organization’s capacities, methods and approaches are not necessarily scalable or adaptable to novel or larger challenges. Further, WHO’s focus on technical support and normative guidance has left a gap in institutional capacity for and appreciation of the importance of operations.

5. The international community expects WHO to be able to mount a comprehensive and rapid response, whenever and wherever an emergency that impacts public health arises that outstrips national capacity. To meet this expectation, the Organization’s emergency management capacity must be ready to address the public health impact of emergencies of any category, irrespective of hazard, across the full emergency risk management spectrum. Today, WHO has the essential institutional experience and country presence needed, but is not designed or capacitated to fulfil this function. To rectify this, WHO must substantially strengthen and modernize its emergency management capacity.

In moving this forward, it is necessary that:
(a) there is a recognition and clear delineation of WHO’s mandate and role in emergency response;
(b) effective crisis management mechanisms – systems and structures – exist to enable WHO to fulfil that role;
(c) adequate capacities exists to predictably apply these crisis management mechanisms;
(d) appropriate and dedicated funding is in place; and
(e) a robust performance management and accountability framework is in place to provide timely, systematic and comprehensive evaluation of the Organization’s emergency response, and recalibration as required.

6. As such, a package of five proposals for adapting, modernizing and reforming WHO are presented here. If implemented, these changes could capacitate the Organization to successfully lead in protecting the most vulnerable populations from the devastating public health impacts of emergencies…

[Ebola] Current context and challenges; stopping the epidemic; and preparedness in non-affected countries and regions
Fast-tracking the development and prospective roll-out of vaccines, therapies and diagnostics in response to Ebola virus disease
Special Session of the Executive Board on the Ebola Emergency
Building resilient health systems in Ebola-affected countries
Special Session of the Executive Board on the Ebola Emergency
Highlight of efforts made to date towards preparing non-affected countries and
regions to respond to potential importation of EVD
Special Session of the Executive Board on the Ebola Emergency
IHR and Ebola

SRSG/CAAC Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict [to 17 January 2015]

SRSG/CAAC Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict [to 17 January 2015]

16 Jan
UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Calls for Urgent Action to Protect Children in North East Nigeria

UNISDR UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction [to 17 January 2015]

UNISDR UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction [to 17 January 2015]

African youth commit to reduce disaster risks
African youth leaders are taking action to make their communities better informed and prepared to reduce their exposure to the effects of disasters.
15 Jan 2015

EU gears up for disability inclusive #WCDRR
The new Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union is pressing ahead with plans to strengthen measures across the 28 EU Member States to include persons with disabilities in disaster risk management activities.
14 Jan 2015

UN Women [to 17 January 2015]

UN Women [to 17 January 2015]

UN Women to reinforce gender equality in post-2015 agenda
Date: January 16, 2015
On Monday, 19 January, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka will open a UN Women-organized panel entitled “The Centrality of Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls for the Post-2015 Development Agenda.”

UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women issues annual Call for Proposals
Date: January 13, 2015
The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women is pleased to announce its 2015 Call for Proposals in support of promising approaches to prevent and end violence against women and girls. Civil society organizations and governments are invited to apply for funding through the 19th grant cycle (2015), as of 12 January 2015. The deadline for submitting initial and brief concept notes is 29 January 2015, 23.59 EST (GMT–5).

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues [to 17 January 2015]

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues [to 17 January 2015]

IFAD Call for proposals for Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility
January 15, 2015
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is inviting indigenous peoples’ organizations and communities, and organizations that work with them, to apply for grants that fund projects and partnerships to promote the development of indigenous peoples and their unique cultural identity.

Grants ranging from US$20,000 to US$50,000 will be awarded to applicants from IFAD’s developing Member States through the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IPAF).

You can find more information on application requirements and an application form here.

The closing date for applications is 6 March 2015.

WHO & Regionals [to 17 January 2015]

WHO & Regionals [to 17 January 2015]

:: 136th WHO Executive Board session
26 January–3 February 2015 –
– Main Documents:

:: Global Alert and Response (GAR): Disease Outbreak News (DONs)
– Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – Oman 16 January 2015
– Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – Saudi Arabia 15 January 2015

:: The Weekly Epidemiological Record (WER) for 16 January 2015, vol. 90, 3 (pp. 9–16) includes:
– Detection of influenza virus subtype A by polymerase chain reaction: WHO external quality assessment programme summary analysis, 2014


WHO Regional Offices
WHO African Region AFRO
Press Releases
:: Safe breastfeeding key to improve children’s health
Brazzaville, 12 January 2015 – Every day an estimated 8000 children die in sub-Saharan Africa from easily preventable or treatable illnesses. Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to provide newborns, infants and young children with the nutrients that they need while protecting them against conditions such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, and measles.

:: A Decade of WHO Action in the African Region: Striving together to achieve health goals [pdf1.27MB ]
By Luis Gomes Sambo, Regional Director 2005–2015
ISBN: 978 929 023 2551


WHO Region of the Americas PAHO
:: Isabella Danel, former CDC official, sworn in as PAHO/WHO Deputy Director (01/16/2015)

:: PAHO/WHO honors Haitians and international relief workers on 5th anniversary of 2010 earthquake
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 12 January 2015 (PAHO/WHO) – On the fifth anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti on 12 January 2010, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) honors the earthquake’s estimated 230,000 victims and their families and pays tribute to the many Haitian health workers and international relief workers for their dedication and outstanding efforts to bring relief to the disaster’s victims and survivors…


WHO South-East Asia Region SEARO
No new digest content identified.


WHO European Region EURO
:: Tajikistan introduces rotavirus vaccine to protect children from diarrhoeal disease
With an official launch ceremony on 8 January 2015, Tajikistan became the fourteenth country in the WHO European Region to introduce rotavirus vaccination into its national immunization schedule, and the fourth to do so through the generous support of the GAVI Alliance.


WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region EMRO
:: One Year Since the Last Case of Polio In Syria
Friday, January 16, 2015
Despite civil war and mass population displacement, incredible gains have been made against the polio outbreak in the Middle East.


WHO Western Pacific Region
:: Update on the cluster of HIV cases, Roka Commune, Sang Ker District, Battambang Province
PHNOM PENH, 9 January 2015 – Between 8 to 31 December, 2014, a total of 1940 people from Roka Commune, voluntarily undertook HIV testing and counselling and 212 people tested positive for HIV. Among the people who tested HIV positive, 174 (82%) are from Roka Village. Among the total of 212 diagnoses, 39 people (18%) are 14 years old or younger, 127 (60%) are between 15 and 59 years old and 46 (22%) are 60 years old or older.
Read the joint news release

UNDP United Nations Development Programme [to 17 January 2015]

UNDP United Nations Development Programme [to 17 January 2015]

15 Jan 2015
Ebola recovery assessment mission kicks off in Sierra Leone
An international mission to assess support needed for long term recovery in the three countries hardest hit by Ebola kicked off in Sierra Leone today.

15 Jan 2015
Kyrgyzstan: 15,000 people to get help in radioactive waste affected areas
Around 15,000 poor and vulnerable people from towns near radioactive waste sites will get help to monitor the environment, create jobs, boost livelihoods and strengthen communities.

13 Jan 2015
Thousands of Ebola workers paid in Liberia
UNDP has helped the Liberian government pay thousands of Ebola workers. Over $1 million dollars in cash payments were distributed across the country in January alone. The workers were hired at the height of the crisis to run treatment centres, help communities prevent transmission and track people that have had contact with victims.

12 Jan 2015
30,000 food packages for vulnerable, displaced people in Ukraine
Amid continuing fighting and a deteriorating humanitarian situation in Ukraine, UNDP launched an initiative aimed at ferrying aid to the country’s internal displaced persons (IDP’s) and other vulnerable citizens trapped by the ongoing hostilities


FAO Food & Agriculture Organization [to 17 January 2015]

FAO Food & Agriculture Organization [to 17 January 2015]

The food systems of the future need to be smarter, more efficient
16 January 2015, Berlin – Increasing competition for natural resource and emerging resource bottlenecks mean that global agriculture can no longer operate using a “business as usual” approach – the input-intensive agricultural development model used for the past 40 years is no longer sustainable, and “paradigm shift” in food production is needed.

Africa Cup of Nations to rally support for home-grown efforts to end hunger
“African Football against Hunger” is a collaboration between FAO and the Confederation for African Football to highlight the breakthrough commitment by African leaders to end hunger in the next decade.

Viet Nam launches national Zero Hunger Challenge
The National Zero Hunger Challenge (ZHC), a major initiative to eradicate hunger in Viet Nam, was launched today by the Government of Viet Nam in collaboration with the United Nations, including FAO.

UNIDO United Nations Industrial Development Organization [to 17 January 2015]

UNIDO United Nations Industrial Development Organization [to 17 January 2015]

Friday, 16 January 2015
Partnerships essential for post-2015 development agenda says UNIDO Director General
JAIPUR, India, 16 January 2015 – The Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) today emphasized the critical role of partnerships for the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Speaking at the 2015 Partnerships Summit in Jaipur, co-organized by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry, and the Government of Rajasthan, Director General LI Yong said: “Partnerships will represent an essential element of the post-2015 development agenda, especially regarding its means of implementation, and thus the full engagement of all sectors of society will be vital to achieving ‘The World We Want’.”

Welcoming the inclusion of “inclusive and sustainable industrialization” in Goal 9 of the outcome document prepared by the Open Working Group, established by the UN to formulate the Sustainable Development Goals, Director General Li said: “Multi-stakeholder partnerships are indispensable to ensuring the effective implementation of the post-2015 development agenda, with its heavy demands on financing, accountability, universality, integration and data.”

He added that “inclusive and sustainable industrial development has enormous potential to eradicate poverty through economic growth without the accompanying environmental degradation or social inequality.”…

UNWTO World Tourism Organization [to 17 January 2015]

UNWTO World Tourism Organization [to 17 January 2015]

UN General Assembly: Sustainable tourism is a tool for poverty reduction and environmental protection
14 January 2015
A milestone resolution recognizing the contribution of sustainable tourism to poverty eradication, community development and the protection of biodiversity has been adopted by consensus by the United Nations General Assembly.

DFID [to 17 January 2015]

DFID [to 17 January 2015]

Funding for development research
Updated 14 January 2015
Detailed guide DFID
This page is aimed at organisations and researchers looking for information on funding opportunities in development research. It lists in date order a selection of current calls with a research, evidence or evaluation theme which are being run by DFID or by our programme partners. If you are interested in working for DFID you should also look at our supplier portal.
– Royal Society-DFID Africa Capacity Building Initiative
– Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW): Call for research proposals
– Changes in the arid and semi-arid lands in East Africa: evidence synthesis and data mapping on poverty, vulnerability, livelihoods and resilience.
– Ensuring debt sustainability in developing countries through productive expenditure
– Health Systems Research Initiative Call 2
– ESRC/DFID Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research Outline Research Grants Call 2014/15

The African Development Bank Group [to 17 January 2015]

The African Development Bank Group [to 17 January 2015]

AfDB partnership with CSOs to spur development in Africa
A committee comprising the African Development Bank and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) has been relaunched with the aim of fostering partnership between the two players in order to enhance development on the continent.

The committee, reintroduced at a two-day meeting between the Bank and CSOs will discuss a work plan, modalities of its implementation as well as an accountability structure. “CSOs are our integral partners especially in the promotion of accountability, transparency and good governance. Accountability is key in terms of achieving our objective, and we could certainly do with an external reporting tool especially from CSOs,” Rakesh Nangia, Chair of the committee, said as he opened the meeting on January 14 at the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

Addressing the participants, who included regional civil society heads and representatives of key sectors within the Bank, he reiterated the importance of strengthening engagement with CSOs. “The Bank recognizes and values the expertise and contributions of CSOs, which are essential in achieving sustainable development in Africa,” said Nangia, who is also the Evaluator General of the Bank’s Independent Development Evaluation department (IDEV).

His remarks were echoed by Mamadou Goita, Chair of the Civil Society Coalition, who described the role of civil society as crucial in helping the Bank to frame projects that would be more relevant to communities. “We need to be involved from the first stage of designing a project because we know the context of our various communities. We can then help follow through to the implementation, monitoring and evaluation stages,” Goita said…