Speaking at the High-Level Meeting on the Sahel on the sidelines of the 67th U.N. General Assembly in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday “called for urgent international support for the people and governments of West Africa’s Sahel region, warning that the area is at a critical juncture with 18 million people affected by a severe food crisis,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “Political turmoil, extreme climatic conditions and fragile economies are combining to create a perfect storm of vulnerability,” Ban said, according to the news service. “The Sahel region is currently facing a swathe of problems, which are not only political but also involve security, humanitarian resilience and human rights,” the news service writes (9/26).
In this blog post on FeedtheFuture.gov, Tjada McKenna, deputy coordinator for development for Feed the Future, and Jonathan Shrier, acting special representative for global food security and deputy coordinator for diplomacy for Feed the Future, answer five questions about the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which was established by the G8 in May 2012. They report on the progress of the New Alliance, “which is a unique partnership between African governments, members of the G8, and the private sector to work together to accelerate investments in agriculture to improve productivity, livelihoods and food security for smallholder farmers.” In addition, they discuss the relationship between Feed the Future and the New Alliance; the role of nutrition in the New Alliance; how the New Alliance will ensure accountability among its partners; and why the New Alliance focuses on Africa (9/26).
David Winder, chief executive of WaterAid USA, highlights the findings of the recently released UNICEF report on child mortality in this Huffington Post “Impact” blog post, saying the decrease in annual number of child deaths “is great news, but is tempered by sobering statistics, especially for children in sub-Saharan Africa,” who continue to face high rates of mortality. “However all is not lost and much can be done to ameliorate the situation. Improving access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene is a key step in preventing many of these needless deaths,” he writes, adding, “Known collectively as WASH, these three basic services are important factors in preventing pneumonia and diarrhea, the leading causes of mortality among children between one month and five years of age.”
“For all its importance to human well-being, agriculture seems to be one of the lagging economic sectors of the last two decades,” Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. “That means the problem of hunger is flaring up again, as the World Bank and several United Nations agencies have recently warned,” and in Africa, for example, “[t]he expansion of the … middle class and the decline in child mortality rates are both quite real, but the advances have not been balanced — and agriculture lags behind,” he states.
Researchers from South Africa and South Korea are developing a smartphone-based device and application able to “photograph and analyze blood samples in areas far from laboratories to diagnose HIV and even measure the health of [patients'] immune systems,” Agence France-Presse reports. The device, called Smartscope, is a small microscope that clips over a phone’s camera and holds a standard chip with a blood sample, the news service notes, adding the camera then photographs the sample and the application analyzes the photo to produce a CD4 cell count. “The team hopes that trials in clinics may start next year,” according to AFP (8/31).
With nearly 6,000 reported cholera cases, including more than 100 deaths, Guinea is facing the worst cholera outbreak since 2007, and “some residents of the capital Conakry are clamoring to be vaccinated,” IRIN reports. “The cholera vaccine has shown promising results in the handful of communities where it has been used: none of those vaccinated have been infected,” the news service writes, noting, “For now cholera vaccination is not generally done on a large scale.” According to IRIN, “WHO and partner agencies are planning a cholera vaccine stockpile for epidemic control and looking at the possibility of introducing the two-dose oral vaccine into national immunization programs in endemic areas,” but the agency also “says such stockpiles should not detract from other prevention efforts: detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cases with oral rehydration and antibiotics; establishment of a safe water supply; implementation of adequate waste disposal, sanitation, and hygiene; and communication and social mobilization.”
“An outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever has claimed possibly as many as 31 lives in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo since May, Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi said Thursday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Numbi said an international committee for technical and scientific coordination in the fight against Ebola had carried out retrospective research to find previous cases, which raised the death toll,” according to the news agency (9/13). “We can expect an increase in the number of cases as more people are tracked. These are not necessarily new cases,” WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said, adding, “I want to stress that this is a serious outbreak, and there is a risk of the Ebola virus spreading, but we would not say that it’s out of control,” NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports (Doucleff, 9/13). “The latest WHO figures show there are now 65 probable or suspected cases of Ebola in Congo, with 108 people under surveillance,” Reuters notes (9/13). “Last month an outbreak of a more deadly Ebola strain in neighboring Uganda killed 16 people, but health workers say the two outbreaks do not appear to be related,” according to BBC News (9/13).
“More than half a million people in northern Mali, occupied by Islamist fighters, need aid to cope with rising food prices, collapsed public services and a lack of health care, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday,” Reuters reports. “Public services practically no longer function, basic health services are not provided and supplying clean drinking water is difficult. Needs are huge,” Yasmine Praz Dessimoz, head of ICRC operations for North and West Africa, said at a news conference in Geneva, according to the news agency. “The ICRC, which deploys 111 aid workers in Mali, is one of few humanitarian organizations to have access to all of northern Mali, where no United Nations aid agencies deploy any staff,” Reuters notes (Nebehay, 9/13).
Rwanda next week will host the Conference on Social Health Protection in the East African Community, which “will consider various approaches to providing universal health coverage in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi,” VOA News reports. The news service highlights a new study on universal coverage, published in the WHO Bulletin, “that reviewed health systems in 12 African and Asian countries” and, based on “impact indicators” that include “the way financial resources are collected to fund insurance plans, the amount of coverage provided to recipients, whether that coverage is provided to all segments of society and whether there’s been an improvement in the quality of life,” found “social and community health insurance plans ‘hold untapped potential’ for achieving universal coverage.” According to VOA, study author Ernst Spaan of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands said “that the study’s findings ‘back the World Health Organization’s view that pre-paid financing mechanisms, such as health insurance, are a key route to universal coverage'” (DeCapua, 9/4).
The Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm) — an innovative financing mechanism that subsidizes the cost of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) in order to expand access to the most effective treatment for malaria — “brought more than 100 million doses of malaria drugs to clinics and pharmacies in 2011” and “also increased access to the top malaria medicines by 26 to 52 percent in six countries,” according to results from the first phase of the program, which is hosted and managed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. The results of the evaluation, released on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., do not estimate how many lives were saved because of improved access to effective malaria medications, as “AMFm ran for only a year and half in most countries,” according to the blog. “The AMFm negotiated with drugmakers to reduce ACTs prices, and then the Global Fund subsidized the initial purchasing of the drugs by clinics and pharmacies,” the blog notes.