“The United States Government has played a major role in ensuring that patients with certain [neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)] receive urgently needed treatments through the [USAID] NTD Program, while simultaneously being the largest funder of basic research for NTDs through the National Institutes of Health,” Rachel Cohen, regional executive director of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) of North America, writes in this post in the Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs” blog. “However, today U.S. Government funding for NTDs is under threat,” as the “recently announced U.S. fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request from the Obama Administration has slashed the USAID NTD Program budget, which was already miniscule at $89 million, by nearly 25 percent to $67 million. … This isn’t trimming the fat — it’s cutting into muscle,” she adds (Lufkin, 3/28).
Access to Health Services
Health workers with Medical Teams International, a medical non-governmental organization, “say they are overwhelmed” by high demand at five health clinics in two southwestern Ugandan refugee centers, PlusNews reports. The refugees, “many of whom came from conflict-prone areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” and local residents are in need of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) prevention information, and care and treatment services, according to the news service. “Uganda suffers from a chronic shortage of health workers — less than half of the vacant health positions are filled — but the recent influx of refugees fleeing violence in neighboring DRC has put even more pressure on [the region’s] health services,” PlusNews writes. Physicians, who see 30 to 50 patients daily and often work double shifts, say gaps in the supplies of antiretroviral (ARV) and TB drugs poses concern, as does trying to follow-up with patients who may not return for visits, the news service notes (3/29).
Lack Of Aid Money In Haiti Threatening Health, Human Rights Of Displaced People, U.N. Official Warns
“The United Nations warned on Tuesday that a lack of aid money for Haiti was putting hundreds of thousands of displaced people at risk by forcing humanitarian agencies to cut services in one of the world’s poorest countries,” Reuters reports. Noting Haiti only received half of the $382 million aid request in 2011 and so far has received only 10 percent of this year’s $231 million appeal, Nigel Fisher, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, said, “(Underfunding) threatens to reverse gains achieved in the fight against cholera through the promotion of sanitary and hygiene practices. … It threatens the very existence of hundreds of thousands of (displaced people) living in camps,” according to the news agency. “Fisher said the humanitarian community was urgently requesting $53.9 million for the April-June period to protect those living in camps and to continue to provide services such as clean water, food and crime prevention and respond to cholera outbreaks, among other things,” Reuters writes (Nichols, 3/27).
Ethiopia’s new HIV/AIDS workplace policy, instituted in January by the government in cooperation with the country’s main employees’ and employers’ associations, “is expected to protect job seekers from mandatory HIV tests, while facilitating voluntary counseling and testing and defending the right of employees living with HIV to medical leave or job re-allocation,” PlusNews reports. The policy “provides guidelines for the establishment of an AIDS fund to help employees cope with living with the virus” and “stipulates that employers will make the necessary investments to ensure universal precautions in workplaces to protect employees from HIV infection, and … put in place a post-exposure prophylaxis system for their workforce,” the news service writes. Tadele Yimer, president of the Ethiopian Employers Federation, said, “What we hope [the new policy] will do is bring about an agreed consent and uniform approach among employers to fight HIV/AIDS nationally,” according to PlusNews (3/26).
Speaking at an event where South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe urged the mining industry to take greater steps to address tuberculosis (TB) and HIV among its employees, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu “announced that mining companies, whose HIV, TB and workplace safety policies are being audited by her department, will have to submit their policies as a prerequisite for renewing their mining licenses,” PlusNews reports. “According to Shabangu, South Africa’s mining sector sees three times as many cases of active TB as the general population,” the news service writes.
Speaking on Saturday at a World Tuberculosis (TB) Day event, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “called for a global effort to diagnose and treat tuberculosis,” United Press International reports (3/24). According to the WHO, 8.8 million people contracted TB in 2010, and 1.4 million people died of the disease, primarily in low and middle-income countries, CBS News’ “Health Pop” blog notes (Castillo, 3/24). “Let us vow to end the neglect of TB and to end deaths from this disease in our lifetime,” Ban said, adding, “It is critical to support those who lack the means to respond with the care and treatment they need to enjoy healthy and productive lives. … With the right interventions, we can make a major difference,” according to the U.N. News Centre (3/24).
NGOs Release Joint Statement Calling For Governments To Increase Payments To Global Fund To Fill Gap In TB Funding
Ahead of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day on March 24, three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) released a joint statement warning that “[a] $1.7 billion funding shortfall to fight [TB] over the next five years means 3.4 million patients will go untreated and gains made against the disease will be reversed,” Reuters reports. The International HIV/AIDS Alliance, the Stop AIDS Campaign and Results UK said in the statement that the cancellation of Round 11 grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was endangering the expansion of treatment and prevention programs, the news agency notes. The statement “called on governments to scale up funding of TB, HIV and malaria programs at a G20 meeting in Mexico in June in an effort to replenish the Global Fund with $2 billion,” according to Reuters (Mollins, 3/23).
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday during a visit to the Institute of Respiratory Medicine in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, “urged countries to step up their efforts to prevent tuberculosis (TB)” and “called for ‘intensified global solidarity to ensure that the children and people of all the countries get medical support, so that they can breathe with health,'” the U.N. News Centre reports. Speaking ahead of World Tuberculosis Day on March 24, Ban said “that countries have the means to prevent unnecessary deaths, but need to implement policies that not only raise awareness about the issue but provide accessible health care to their citizens,” according to the news service. In 2011, 1.4 million people died of TB, the news service notes (2/22).
Political Instability, Humanitarian Crises Reversing Maternal Health Gains In Africa, Health Experts Warn
“Political instability, civil strife and humanitarian crises in Africa have over the past decades reversed countless maternal health development gains on the continent, health experts warn,” Inter Press Service reports. “‘African countries with good maternal health statistics are generally those that have long-term political stability. This shows that stability is a fundamental basis for development. If it doesn’t exist, other priorities overtake,’ Lucien Kouakou, regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF) in Africa, told IPS,” the news service writes.
This week the WHO brought together lawmakers from across Southeast Asia in Bangkok “to discuss how to bolster their health systems back home,” IRIN reports. Meeting participants were “called on to advocate the boosting of health spending, workforces and access to health care in their home countries in addition to drafting ‘healthy public policies,’ such as conducting health assessments before large infrastructural projects are undertaken,” the news service writes.