This afternoon, Secretary Clinton and Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa's minister for international relations and cooperation, signed a PEPFAR partnership framework agreement, a five-year plan of cooperation for fighting HIV/AIDS in South Africa. PEPFAR (the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) is a U.S. government initiative, begun under George W. Bush's administration, to work with other countries to combat HIV/AIDS worldwide.
At the signing ceremony, Clinton said, "We are here at a moment when South Africa is turning the tide against HIV/AIDS.… And what South Africa has done is to make a tremendous commitment by doubling its investment, now covering 60 percent of the total spending. There is so much that's being done at the grassroots level on prevention, efforts against discrimination, treating people with HIV, and doing so much more to put together a comprehensive strategy."
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
In marking World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, Secretary Clinton emphasized that the United States is taking important steps to fight HIV/AIDS. The United States "is committed to remaining a global leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS -- today, tomorrow, and every day until the disease is eradicated," she said in a statement, the full text of which follows below.
On World AIDS Day, we take time to remember those who have been lost to this devastating disease, and recommit ourselves to saving as many lives as we can, now and in the future. This December 1, World AIDS Day is also an opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved. We have saved millions of lives from AIDS over the past decade. By investing in what we know works, we can save millions more in the future.
The Obama administration has made the fight against AIDS central to the Global Health Initiative, our commitment to strengthening global health systems and implementing sustainable solutions to improve the health of entire communities. One major focus of the Global Health Initiative is strengthening our partnerships around the world so they reflect and reinforce the global effort needed to defeat AIDS. This year, the United States also made its first multi-year pledge to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria to further support this cooperative approach. Our metric for success is simple: lives saved.
Through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), we are making smart investments that will ultimately help bring us closer to a world free of HIV/AIDS. We work with dedicated organizations and individuals every day to make this goal a reality. The struggle is far from over, but the United States is committed to remaining a global leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS -- today, tomorrow, and every day until the disease is eradicated. That is our obligation and our promise to the millions of souls around the planet living with HIV/AIDS.
In the photo above, AIDS activists in Zhengzhou, China, pose with a giant red ribbon to mark World AIDS Day. In the photo below, a red AIDS ribbon hangs in Clinton's neck of the woods at the White House in Washington.
Photos, top to bottom: AFP/AFP/Getty Images, MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton today launched an initiative that could save millions of lives around the world -- the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a public-private partnership to which the U.S. government is committing $51 million over the next five years.
Sounds a bit wacky, but this effort will improve health, empower women and girls, and mitigate climate change. For real. As Clinton explained in a speech today in New York at the Clinton Global Initiative, where she was escorted to the podium by her husband, Bill Clinton:
The World Health Organization considers smoke from dirty stoves to be one of the five most serious health risks that face people in poor, developing countries. Nearly 2 million people die from its effects each year, more than twice the number from malaria. And because the smoke contains greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, as well as black carbon, it contributes to climate change.
There are other consequences as well. In conflict zones like the Congo, the journeys that women must take to find scarce fuel [such as firewood] put them at increased risk of violent and sexual assault. Even in safer areas, every hour spent collecting fuel is an hour not spent in school or tending crops or running a business.
People have cooked over open fires and dirty stoves for all of human history, but the simple fact is they are slowly killing millions of people and polluting the environment.
The solution? Clean, efficient, afforable cookstoves that cost as little as $25. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves aims for 100 million households getting clean cookstoves by 2020. The initiative will involve research and development for improved designs and lower costs, an effort to create a market for the stoves (which will include lowering trade barriers and fostering public awareness), and weaving clean stoves into international development programs, including women-owned microfinance networks.
At the end of her speech, Clinton asked us to do the following:
The next time you sit down with your own family to eat, please take a moment to imagine the smell of smoke, feel it in your lungs, see the soot building up on the walls, and then come find us at the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Hearths, whatever they look like, and wherever we gather around them, where we tell our stories and pass down our values, bind families together. And the benefits from this initiative will be cleaner and safer homes, and that will, in turn, ripple out for healthier families, stronger communities, and more stable societies.
And, check out the video:
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Secretary Clinton yesterday issued a statement condemning "in the strongest possible terms" the murder of 10 aid workers by the Taliban. Today at 3 p.m., she will be delivering another statement on this despicable tragedy. The last four paragraphs of yesterday's statement are below, with my bolding for emphasis:
We are heartbroken by the loss of these heroic, generous people. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this senseless act. We also condemn the Taliban's transparent attempt to justify the unjustifiable by making false accusations about their activities in Afghanistan.
Terror has no religion, and these acts are rejected by people all over the world, including by Muslims here in the United States. The Taliban's cruelty is well-documented. Its members have assassinated tribal elders and thrown acid in the face of young girls. Earlier this summer, they accused a 7-year-old boy of spying and hung him. With these killings, they have shown us yet another example of the lengths to which they will go to advance their twisted ideology.
The murdered medical aid workers, as well as the volunteers from many nations and the international coalition working to establish stability in Afghanistan, represent exactly what the Taliban stands against: a future of peace, freedom, opportunity, and openness, where all Afghans can live and work together in harmony, free from terror.
That is what we are working to achieve in Afghanistan, in partnership with the Afghan people. As we mourn the loss of these aid workers, we will continue with our own efforts, inspired by their example.
In the photo above, taken today, family and friends carry the coffin of Jawed, 24, seen at left, one of the two Afghans killed. According to the website of the International Assistance Mission, the aid group the 10 deceased were working with, Jawed served as the team's cook and also helped dispense eyeglasses. He was known for his sense of humor, and his survivors include his wife and three children, who are less than school age.
This is just so sad.
From top: SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images, International Assistance Mission
Last month, Secretary Clinton commended the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for its $1.5 billion contribution toward women's and children's health, saying, "Focusing on women is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the smart thing to do, because investing in the health of women also improves the health of their families and communities."
I expect Clinton would thus be intrigued by a program in India that aims to reduce maternal morality by providing $30 cash incentives to poor women to give birth in hospitals, and not on the dirt floors of thatched-roof homes.
Why would any woman need to essentially be paid to give birth at a hospital, where the chances of death are much lower? Turns out, getting to a hospital is not so easy, for a variety of reasons. Last week's Washington Post article about the program mentions one rural woman for whom it would cost $4 to take a taxi to the hospital -- a long of money in a poor farming community where the $30 incentive is about three weeks of a family's pay.
The hurdles aren't just economic, but also related to education, class divisions, and patriarchy. The articles says lack of education means a lot of people don't fully appreciate that medical care in a hospital setting can mean the difference between a happy, healthy mom -- and a dead one.
Also, in a society with sharp caste and class divisions, many poor, illiterate mothers-to-be don't have the assertiveness to set foot in the hospital, according to the article. Perhaps if you're from a marginalized, look-down-upon caste or social class, going to a relatively modern and clean hospital can be intimidating. One woman told the Post, "Before this [program], we didn't have a hint of what to do.… The hospital was very confusing. We weren't sure who to talk to or what we needed." Another woman in the article said she was scared to go to the hospital.
The article also mentioned the patriarchal culture, stating that in rural India, many poor husbands don't let their pregnant wives to go to the hospital.
But money talks -- including in Indian languages. In Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, two of India's poorest states, the percentage of women delivering in medical facilities more than doubled from less than 20 percent in 2005 to almost 50 percent in 2008. Physicians say that's due to the incentive program.
India still has a long way to go on maternal mortality -- its rate of maternal mortality is around 10 times China's rate. Women's education and economic development are the long-term fix to the problem, but until then, it's the lure of $30.
Emily Wax/The Washington Post via Getty Images
The United States and Canada may be good friends, but that didn't keep Secretary Clinton from getting tough and ruffling feathers there during her two-day visit this week. Three things have irked many Canadians:
•Clinton's criticism that Canada didn't invite indigenous groups and some Scandinavian countries to a meeting on the future of the Arctic.
•Clinton's public appeal on Canadian TV for Canada to stay in Afghanistan past its planned 2011 withdrawal date.
•Clinton's urging that Canada's initiative on global maternal health include contraceptives and abortion, the latter of which Prime Minister Stephen Harper (seen above) wants to leave out.
It takes a lot of guts to stand up for your beliefs and be critical of a friend.
FP blogger Daniel Drezner asked yesterday, "Should the Secretary of State be involved in domestic lobbying?"
Drezner cites reports that Secretary Clinton made calls and attempted to persuade on-the-fence lawmakers to support the health-care reform bill that passed the House Sunday. Clearly, lobbying on domestic health-care reform is outside the job description of the position of U.S. secetary of state, but as Drezner mentions, Clinton isn't your typical secretary of state -- she's one who has special expertise in health-care reform.
Given that expertise, and the political capital she has, I suppose it's OK for Clinton to lobby for health-care reform as long as it doesn't conflict with her foreign-policy duties and doesn't take time away from the international matters that she must attend to.
What do you all think? Express your opinion in the FP poll above.
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Two Bills testified on Capitol Hill today: Bill Clinton and Bill Gates. In front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the two spoke in favor of legislation that would increase support for global health and testified about more cost-effective ways to tackle HIV/AIDS and poverty worldwide.
Gates is co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Clinton of course has his Clinton Global Initiative. Gates's testimony is here, and it looks like Clinton's statement hasn't been uploaded yet.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
London's Sunday Times ran an article this weekend saying that Democratic insiders are worried that U.S. first lady Michelle Obama might end up with a "Hillary Clinton-style debacle" as she ventures out of her White House vegetable garden "in search of a meatier political role."
From the article (with my emphasis in bold):
Despite denials from White House officials that Michelle Obama is suffering from "Hillary-itis" -- a burning desire to help her husband run the country -- her long-running interest in healthcare has raised painful memories of 1994, when Hillary Clinton presided over a political debacle as her health reform proposals collapsed in Congress.
Healthcare reform is badly needed in the United States, so whatever the first lady -- a former hospital administrator -- might attempt, I hope it leads to outcomes that help the uninsured and underinsured get the healthcare they need at prices they can afford. Meanwhile, at least she's pushing the veggies.
Photo: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
After meeting and dining yesterday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, shown above, Secretary Clinton devotes herself to humanitarian issues this morning.
9:45 a.m. Meeting with Representatives of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
11:15 a.m. Announcement of Humanitarian Aid to Pakistan, in the Brady Room at the White House
11:50 a.m. Global Press Conference at Foreign Press Center in Washington, DC
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1:30 p.m. Meeting with former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
Photo: Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images
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