KASU

Nurith Aizenman

We asked, and you answered.

In a recent series we explored a different way of giving aid to people in poor countries. Instead of handing out seeds or a cow or job training, what if you just gave people cash and let them decide how to use it?

Then we put the call out to you, our audience: Was there ever a time when you got a little cash with no strings attached and it made a huge difference? Or when you wished for a tiny windfall to tackle a problem?

Many readers of this blog told us they were inspired by the first story in our series on #nostringscash aid — about a ground-breaking experiment in Kenya to test the benefits of giving poor people a steady stream of cash in place of traditional aid.

But some questioned the ethics of studies like this.

Last August we brought you the story of Lumbaram, a father in a village in Northern India who was on a quest to rescue his daughter Durga from a marriage that he had forced her into.

Child marriage isn't just a practice that victimizes girls in poor countries. As this blog has previously reported, it's also long been an issue in the United States, involving girls from a wide range of backgrounds. Based on state marriage license data and other sources, advocacy groups and experts estimate that between 2000 and 2015 alone, well over 200,000 children — nearly all of them girls — were married. In nearly all cases the husband was an adult.

Mary Abagi is a 63-year-old widow who has spent most of her life eking out a living by growing crops on a tiny plot of land in her Kenyan village. Then, last fall, Abagi learned that the village had been picked for an unusual experiment that promised to change her life.

Young guys in dusty polo shirts. New moms holding their babies. Grandmas in bright head wraps. They've all gathered in a clearing for one of the village meetings when something remarkable happens. Practically every person's cellphone starts tinkling.

Advocates for ending child marriage are trying a new tactic: Show governments just how much the practice is hurting their own bottom line.

The Green Climate Fund has been thrust into the spotlight of late.

President Trump singled it out for scorn in his Rose Garden remarks last week announcing his decision to pull the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. Along with that move, Trump noted, he is ending further U.S. contributions to the "so-called Green Climate Fund — nice name."

Wonder Woman is certainly basking in accolades these days.

The new movie starring Gal Gadot is being widely praised for finally giving the world a big-screen female superhero who — to quote just a few of the glowing reviews — is both "awesomely fierce" and "surprisingly funny," "sexually aware without being sexualized" and a refreshing throwback to the days of "uncomplicated role models ... fighting for peace and justice."

U.S. aid for international family planning would be eliminated.

Programs to combat HIV/AIDS in the world's poorest countries would be slashed by 17 percent.

Efforts to fight malaria would be chopped by 11 percent.

Those are just some of the cuts to global health spending called for by President Trump in the proposed budget he unveiled this week.

On one level the reductions did not come as a surprise. Trump had already made clear in his "skinny budget" proposal, released in March, that he wanted to lower spending on foreign assistance by more than a third.

On paper President Trump's newly unveiled budget proposal is balanced. But that's predicated on an extraordinarily rosy projection for U.S. economic growth: Trump says he expects to achieve annual increases of 3 percent — a substantial boost from the 2016 annual rate of 1.6 percent.

Such pledges were a frequent theme of Trump's campaign. And they were often coupled with the observation that countries such as China and India have been enjoying fast-paced growth for years.

The Trump administration will withhold $32.5 million in funding that had been earmarked this current fiscal year for the United Nations' lead agency on family planning and maternal health, known as the United Nations Population Fund or UNFPA.

The administration says it's doing so because it has determined that UNFPA helps to support a Chinese government family planning program that forces people to get abortions and sterilizations. The U.N. agency says that is not the case.

At a conference in Brussels on Thursday, more than a dozen nations and private funders pledged a combined total of $190 million for international family planning charities that stand to lose their U.S. support as a result of President Trump's Jan. 23 executive action to block U.S. foreign aid funding of groups linked to abortion.

This week United Nations officials declared that a famine in South Sudan is growing — fueled by a deadly combination of drought and conflict. They estimate that nearly 4 million people are already struggling to get enough food. And officials expect the famine will spread to more areas in the coming months affecting an additional 1 million people.

Meanwhile the threat of famine is looming over three other countries: Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, putting a total of 1.4 million children at risk of death this year.

Migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean are sending more money to their families back home than ever before.

This post has been updated to include more information about the evaluation work done by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.

Talking publicly about women's menstruation has long been a taboo. But in 2016 the world made big strides getting over the squeamishness. There was the Chinese swimmer at the Rio Olympics who had no qualms explaining that she was on her period after she finished a race grimacing in pain.

Could vaccinating cattle get more girls into high school?

That's the intriguing prospect suggested by a new study of Kenyan cattle herding families in the journal Science Advances. But even more significant than the actual results of the study is the fact the researchers would even think to investigate whether there's a link between cattle vaccination rates and girls' high school attendance.

Is Wonder Woman being forced into early retirement?

It's come to light this week that the comic superhero's controversial tenure as the United Nations' honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls will be coming to a close this Friday.

If you live in Kenya there's a jingle you hear on television and radio a lot.

Alsarah was born in Sudan to politically active parents. When she was still a child a coup there forced the family to flee to Yemen. Then, after civil war broke out in Yemen, they had to flee again, this time to Amherst, Massachusetts — all by the time Alsarah was 12. But please, says the singer-songwriter, don't pigeonhole her as some sort of "refugee artist."

It's a policy battle that has been playing out over three decades.

In 1984, then-President Ronald Reagan imposed an anti-abortion rule — known as the "Mexico City policy" after the city where he announced it. The rule blocked federal funding for international family planning charities unless they agreed not to "promote" abortion by, among other actions, providing patients with information about the procedure or referrals to providers who perform it.

Donald Trump will take office at a pivotal time for the world's neediest.

The world's wealthy countries have, since 2000, been part of a historic partnership with poor countries to eliminate poverty and roll back diseases.

"I would like to know more about microloans, and if they are in fact helping women start businesses in the developing world."

That's the question our readers wanted us to look into.

Should the United States aspire to the kind of fast-paced economic growth China and India enjoy?

That's what Donald Trump seemed to say at this week's presidential debate: "I just left some high representatives in India. They're growing at 8 percent. China is growing at 7 percent, and that for them is a catastrophically low number. We are growing, our last report came out, it's right over from the 1 percent level. And I think it's going down."

But are comparisons like this meaningful?

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