“An epidemic of dengue fever in India is fostering a growing sense of alarm even as government officials here have publicly refused to acknowledge the scope of a problem that experts say is threatening hundreds of millions of people, not just in India but around the world,” the New York Times reports. Dengue is endemic in half of the world’s countries and continuing to spread, experts say, according to the newspaper. In India’s capital, New Delhi, “where areas of standing water contribute to the epidemic’s growth, hospitals are overrun and feverish patients are sharing beds and languishing in hallways,” the newspaper writes. With officials citing 30,002 cases of dengue in India through October, “a 59 percent jump from the 18,860 recorded for all of 2011,” several experts say the true number of infections in the country is in the tens of millions, the New York Times notes.
Access to Health Services
Wall Street Journal Examines Program In Pakistan Looking To Provide Health Insurance For Poor Urban Residents
The Wall Street Journal examines how “some local social entrepreneurs are coming up with new ideas to provide the poor with access to better medical services” in Pakistan, where the health care system is “split between low-cost government-funded hospitals offering basic services and expensive private-sector medical institutions … [b]ut the majority of the country’s 190 million people have little access to health care.” The newspaper describes how one program, called Naya Jeevan — “a non-profit micro-insurance program for the urban poor” that “offers an insurance program at subsidized rates under a national group health-insurance model” — operates to help ensure affordable medical care for the poor and how it has come “under scrutiny from the country’s insurance regulator” (Bahree, 11/6).
“Nigeria’s worst flooding in at least half a century has killed 363 people since the start of July and displaced 2.1 million people,” according to the country’s National Emergency Management Agency, Reuters reports. Between July 1 and October 31, 7.7 million people were affected by the flooding and 18,282 people were injured, the agency said, the news service notes (11/5). In makeshift camps without “water, sanitation or medical care, authorities fear outbreaks of disease could make things worse,” VOA News reports. In addition, “emergency officials say with tens of thousands of hectares of farmland destroyed, they fear food shortages in the coming months,” according to the news agency. In October, “[t]he Nigerian government … allocated $112 million to help families that have been displaced in 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states since the flooding began in July,” VOA writes (Murdock, 10/30).
Ongoing ethnic tension and sectarian violence in areas of western Myanmar are preventing Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) from delivering medical care in the region, the group said on Monday, the New York Times reports. The group “reported that many of its local staff members were afraid to work at refugee camps and medical centers in Rakhine State, where people wounded in clashes need treatment for wounds from guns, knives, arrows and other weapons,” the newspaper writes. “Aid workers have reported severe malnutrition among children and widespread malaria,” according to the New York Times (Fuller, 11/5). “[S]ince the outbreak of violence in June, MSF is operating at a fraction of its capacity due to access limitations largely stemming from threats and intimidation,” the organization said in a press release, adding, “Tens of thousands of long-term residents, previously receiving medical care, have gone without care for months.” In the press release, MSF “calls for unhindered access and for tolerance of the provision of medical care to all those who need it” in the region (11/5).
IRIN examines how patents and intellectual property protection in South Africa affects patients’ access to medicines. “A form of intellectual property protection, patents are typically awarded to companies that can prove their product is new,” IRIN writes, adding, “Not so in South Africa, say activists and researchers, who claim the country’s patent system allows pharmaceutical companies to apply for new patents on existing drugs based on immaterial changes — like adding table salt to a formulation or changing a pill’s color.” The news service continues, “While pharmaceutical companies cash in, patients face staggering health care costs, and medicines like cancer treatments, third-line antiretrovirals (ARVs) and treatments for drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) are often priced out of reach.”
In this UHC Forward blog post, Abeba Taddese, a program officer with the Results for Development Institute, writes about the importance of including policymakers in discussions surrounding universal health coverage (UHC). She provides the example of a recent workshop held in Marrakech, Morocco, which offered “a rare opportunity to bring technical experts and parliamentarians together for a full four days of interactive discussion.” She concludes, “The presence of policymakers in Marrakech was critical to building political commitment and consensus around country action plans. The success of the workshop holds much promise for future cross-country learning events. Policymakers can help make UHC forms a reality, supporting countries to move from plan to action” (11/5).
IRIN examines the controversy surrounding the Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm), writing, “The argument over the way it operates has reignited ahead of a board meeting of the [Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] on 14-15 November, which is due to assess the success of the project and its reliance on private sector providers.” The news service reports on an evaluation of AMFm published recently in the Lancet and another paper by Oxfam criticizing the facility. The Global Fund Board, which administers AMFm, “is meeting in nine days to decide whether AMF has worked as was intended, and whether it should be continued, scaled up, or abandoned altogether,” IRIN writes (11/5).
“Doctors were at the forefront of the AIDS treatment revolution a decade ago, denouncing stigmatization and inequality from conference platforms and lobbying politicians alongside the activists,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in her “Global Health” blog, asking, “Could we see cancer doctors take up the banners and the slogans on behalf of the poorest in the same way?” She continues, “Until last weekend, I personally did not think so. But in a lakeside hotel in Lugano in Switzerland, at a meeting of the World Oncology Forum, I watched what looked like a process of radicalization take place.” She adds, “Nearly 100 of the world’s leading cancer doctors were there,” noting, “The question for discussion over a day and a half was ‘Are we winning the war on cancer?'”
“Flooding in Haiti caused by Hurricane Sandy has triggered a surge in cholera, with three deaths and almost 300 suspected cases, adding to a death toll from the storm of 54,” the Financial Times reports (Mander, 11/2). “Already struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Isaac in August, which in turn set back rebuilding from the earthquake of January 2010, Haiti now faces renewed crises on multiple fronts,” PBS NewsHour’s “The Rundown” writes (Lazaro, 11/2). “Three days of torrential downpours and strong winds brought by Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of Haiti’s fragile agriculture and have put a million and a half Haitians at risk for hunger, the United Nations’ humanitarian-aid coordination office said over the weekend,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which notes, “Potential food-price increases worry international and Haitian officials” (Arnesen, 11/4).
Asia-Pacific Accounts For Second Highest Burden Of Malaria Outside Of Africa, RBM Partnership Report Says
At a meeting of leading malaria scientists, political leaders, and health experts in Sydney on Friday, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership released a new report (.pdf) showing that more than two billion people in the Asia-Pacific region are at risk of the disease, Agence France-Presse reports. “There were some 34 million cases of malaria outside Africa in 2010, claiming the lives of an estimated 46,000 people,” the news agency notes, adding, “The Asia-Pacific, which includes 20 malaria-endemic countries, accounted for 88 percent, or 30 million, of these cases and 91 percent, or 42,000, of the deaths” (Parry, 11/2).