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Children Under Five At Risk Of Malnutrition, Death From Looming Sahel Famine, UNICEF Warns

The Guardian examines child malnutrition in Chad, where “[r]ising therapeutic feeding center admissions highlight the growing urgency of the situation in one of Sahel’s driest, most remote areas.” Chad’s Kanem region “is one of the worst-hit regions in the current food crisis, which UNICEF estimates is affecting approximately 15 million people in the Sahel,” the news service writes. “‘The needs are many and varied in Chad, as we are facing multiple crises,’ said Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF, during a visit to Mao,” according to the Guardian. The news service writes, “Chad has a cereal deficit of about 400,000 tons this year, and stocks of only about 40,000 tons” (Hicks, 4/10). “The United Nations has warned that at least one million children under the age of five across Africa’s Sahel region are at risk of dying from severe famine and malnutrition due to drought,” Press TV reports, adding, “UNICEF said it needs $120 million to tackle the looming crisis” (4/10).

Improved Access To Family Planning In Africa Will Lead To Economic Development

Melinda Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation writes in an opinion piece in Nigeria’s Vanguard, “My top priority as a co-chair of the foundation I run with my husband is making sure that all families have access to safe and effective contraception tools that empower them to make a decision about what’s best for them and their family. And that means encouraging aid donors and governments here in Nigeria and across Africa to make family planning a priority.” Improved access to modern methods of contraception and child spacing would save millions of lives, “[b]ut family planning doesn’t just save lives; it also makes life better for families and communities, becoming a key driver of economic development,” Gates continues.

New Initiative Aims To Strengthen Regulatory Capacity, Systems For Delivery Of Medicines In Africa

“The need to ensure that people in Africa have access to essential, high quality, safe and affordable medicines has just received a major boost with the launch of the East African Community (EAC) Medicines Registration Harmonization Project in Arusha, Tanzania, on 30 March 2011,” UNAIDS reports in a feature story on its website. An alliance “bringing together the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, the U.K. Department for International Development (DfID), and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI),” “hope[s] to strengthen regulatory capacity and systems for medicines in Africa, including antiretroviral drugs, so that fewer lives are lost due to drugs which are unsafe and of poor quality or which are largely unavailable or delivered inefficiently,” according to the article (4/2).

UNICEF Launches Social Media Campaign To Raise Awareness Of Malnutrition Among Children In Sahel Region

UNICEF on Tuesday launched a social media campaign “to raise awareness about children in the Sahel region in northern Africa who are in urgent need of food aid,” CNN reports. UNICEF estimates that one million children in the region are at risk of starvation, and the U.N. says more than 10 million people risk severe acute malnutrition, the news agency notes. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, “the main causes of the humanitarian crisis in the region are ‘drought, chronic poverty, high food prices, displacement and conflict,'” CNN writes. The campaign also aims to raise funds for the crisis, as UNICEF reports having only $30 million of a $120 million appeal in its coffers, according to the news agency (4/3).

Regulatory Streamlining Can Improve Access To Treatments

Loren Becker, manager of the Global Health Technologies Coalition’s (GHTC) Global Health Regulatory Team, discusses the new East African Community’s (EAC) Medicines Regulatory Harmonization initiative, launched at the end of March in Arusha, Tanzania, in this post in GHTC’s “Breakthroughs” blog. The program aims “to streamline and harmonize regulatory processes to reduce the time and cost of delivering new products” to improve patient access to necessary therapies, and includes “regulators from six agencies in five East African countries — Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda — as well as Zanzibar,” she writes. Becker adds, “Over the next several years, support for these efforts — in the form of technical assistance, training opportunities, and political backing — from the FDA and other experienced regulatory authorities will be crucial” (Lufkin, 4/11).

Despite Progress In Reducing Measles Deaths, International Community Falls Short Of 90% Reduction Target, Study Says

The number of deaths from measles fell about 74 percent between 2000 and 2010, from slightly more than 535,000 in 2000 to an estimated 139,200 people worldwide in 2010, “missing an internationally agreed target for a 90 percent fall mainly because of low vaccine coverage in India and Africa where the virus kills tens of thousands a year,” Reuters reports. A study led by the WHO and involving researchers from Penn State University and the CDC, published on Tuesday in the Lancet, “found that despite rapid progress, regular measles outbreaks in Africa and slow implementation of disease control in India were major concerns and led to the target being missed,” the news agency writes (Kelland, 4/24). According to the Associated Press/Seattle Times, “the figures come with a big grain of salt [because] scientists only had solid data for 65 countries,” and “[f]or the 128 others, they used modeling to come up with their estimates” (Cheng, 4/23). “[E]xperts say increasing vaccination rates to above 95 percent worldwide and keeping them up is the only way to eradicate measles,” according to Reuters (4/24).

FAO Head Calls On Oil-, Mineral-Rich Countries To Establish Fund To Fight Hunger In Sahel

Speaking at a conference in Brazzaville, Congo, on Friday, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva “appealed to oil- and mineral-rich nations to set up a fund to combat the food crisis gripping the Sahel desert region and other parts of Africa,” Agence France-Presse reports. He said the organization needs $110 million in the short term to combat hunger in the region, which includes Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, according to the news service (4/27). He said, “We are very concerned about the Sahel because there are already many conflicts in the region,” Bloomberg notes, adding “[m]ore than five million people in Niger are facing food insecurity, along with three million in Mali and 1.5 million in Burkina Faso, according to the FAO” (Mbakou, 4/27).

Financial Times Examines Cuban Company Selling Larvicides For Malaria Control In Africa

Though “[m]ost international support credited with the recent decline in malaria in Africa has been channeled to providing bednets, diagnostics and drugs, a Cuban company called Labiofam is marketing bacterial larvicides in Africa to help fight the disease,” the Financial Times reports. According to the newspaper, “health specialists have voiced concerns about the cost and effectiveness of the technology the Cubans are selling,” and the WHO “is finalizing guidance that concludes larvicides have only a ‘specific and limited’ role to play, where there are sites for mosquito larvae that are ‘few, fixed and findable’ — something that is rarely the case in Africa.”

Delegates At 126th IPU Assembly In Uganda Focus On Child, Maternal Health

“Over 600 parliamentarians from more than 100 countries” met in Kampala, Uganda, this week for the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly, where participants discussed child and maternal health and nutrition, UNICEF reports in a news article. Speaking at the opening session, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said, “The damage [malnutrition] causes to a child’s development is irreversible. … I can’t think of any greater inequity than condemning children, while in the womb, to a loss of their ability, of their right, to live fully … to learn fully … and to realize their potential,” according to the article (Ponet, 4/5). “During a panel discussion on tackling malnutrition, Dr. Werner Schultink, the UNICEF Chief of Nutrition, urged legislators to be at the vanguard of the fight against malnutrition through application of their legislative power and influence,” Uganda’s The Observer notes (Kakaire, 4/4).

FEWS Network Warns Of ‘Significantly Below Average’ Rainfall During Horn Of Africa Growing Season

“Rain may be ‘significantly’ below average in the Horn of Africa’s main growing season, potentially threatening a region still recovering from famine in 2011, the Famine Early Warning Systems [FEWS] network reported” in a statement (.pdf) on its website on Tuesday, Bloomberg writes. “Rain from March through May in the region, which includes Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, is expected to begin late and amount to only 60 percent to 85 percent of average, the U.S.-funded provider of food-security warnings” said in the statement, according to Bloomberg (Ruitenberg, 4/4). “The report warned of ‘significant impacts on crop production, pasture regeneration, and the replenishment of water resources’ in a region that in 2011 suffered one of its worst drought-related food crises in decades,” IRIN reports (4/5).