CNN examines nodding disease, a seizure disorder that has affected at least 3,000 children in Northern Uganda, as well as children in Liberia, Sudan, and Tanzania. Though the disease has no known cause or cure, “there are clues,” the news service notes, writing, “WHO officials say 93 percent of cases are found in areas also with the parasitic worm Onchocerca Volvulus, which causes river blindness and is carried by the Black Fly. And many cases show a deficiency in Vitamin B6. Nutrition also seems to play an important role.”
UNICEF’s West and Central Africa Regional Office “on Tuesday appealed to western African governments to prevent a new cholera outbreak, after the disease claimed nearly 3,000 lives there last year,” Agence France-Presse reports. The “bureau said that ‘at least 105,248 cases of cholera were registered in 17 countries in 2011, and 2,898 people died’ in what was one of the most severe outbreaks of the disease in years,” the news agency writes. Though the number of cases is close to zero in most countries now, “governments should be prepared ‘to minimize risks for the next season which, in West and Central Africa, is projected to start in April 2012,’” the agency said, and noted it was concerned the disease could spread to the Sahel region, where people already are weakened by malnutrition, according to AFP (3/6).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a statement on Monday “announced an extra $58 million in aid for Horn of Africa countries,” Agence France-Presse/Times Live reports (10/23). “Clinton said the humanitarian situation in the region is fragile, with more than nine million people in need of assistance because of conflict, flooding, drought, and economic problems,” VOA News writes, noting, “The U.S. State Department says the United States has given $1.3 billion in emergency assistance since 2011 to affected people in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti” (10/22). “The U.S. ‘is also fighting chronic food insecurity by helping vulnerable communities diversify and adapt their livelihoods, improve smallholder agricultural and other efforts so they can become more resilient,’ [Clinton] said,” according to AFP (10/23).
U.N. Report Shows Francophone African Countries Lag Behind In AIDS Treatment; NGOs Call For Increased Funding
“Despite great progress within a short time, the 29 French-speaking countries of sub-Saharan Africa are lagging far behind other states in the region in the battle against HIV/AIDS and need a massive increase in international aid, according to a United Nations report” (.pdf) released Friday, the U.N. News Centre reports. The report — titled “Decision Point La Francophonie: No new HIV infections, no one denied treatment” and released at a meeting of the 56-member state International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF) in Kinsasha, Democratic Republic of Congo — said while antiretroviral treatment coverage in IOF countries increased rapidly between 2003 and 2011, resulting in a nearly 30 percent decline in AIDS-related deaths, “an estimated 970,000 people are still waiting to access life-saving HIV treatment in IOF countries, accounting for 14 percent of the global treatment gap,” according to the news service.
“Achieving the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the prevalence of hunger in the world by 2015 is still within reach, but a strong, sustained acceleration of efforts is needed,” U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva writes in a Reuters opinion piece. He notes a new report from the Rome food agencies shows the “global number of chronically hungry people has declined by 130 million since 1990, falling from a little over one billion people to 868 million — 852 million of them in developing countries.”
Though the number of children dying of preventable and treatable diseases worldwide has dropped significantly since 1990, there is “realistic hope for much more” progress, particularly if “[i]mproved hygiene and sanitation … play a key role in the next stage,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. Noting that “diarrhea and pneumonia are the two leading killers of children, accounting for almost 30 percent of under-five deaths globally,” they state, “Vaccines can help, but improved hygiene and sanitation are also vital, and therefore key to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of cutting the child mortality rate by at least two-thirds by 2015.”
Some countries in Africa “still rely on dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) for [malaria] vector control,” therefore “[i]t is … problematic that the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), without the consent of member states, and violating its own treaties, exerts relentless pressure to ban DDT globally,” Richard Tren, director of Africa Fighting Malaria, and Richard Nchabi Kamwi, Nambia’s minister of health and social services, write in a BMJ opinion piece. Nineteen countries reserve the right to use DDT under the 2000 Stockholm Convention, which “made an exception for DDT in disease vector control,” and the WHO endorses DDT, “arguing that a premature shift to less effective or more costly alternatives will have a negative impact on disease burden,” the authors state.
The Financial Times has published a special report (.pdf) on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) featuring 10 articles examining issues including prevention, research, and treatment.
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog on Friday published two posts reporting on ID Week, which concluded in San Diego on Sunday. “Wafaa El-Sadr of Columbia University offered an ID Week presentation Thursday about the impact of treatment on the global epidemic and the new promise of changing the trajectory of the epidemic by scaling up treatment both to save lives and reduce HIV incidence,” the blog writes in the first post, adding, “She reminded her audience that treatment has already had a major impact” (Lubinski, 10/19). “A trio of presentations on HIV, Women and Child Health [on Friday] morning told a story of success in preventing transmission of HIV from parents to children in the United States that has yet to be duplicated in developing countries, of options that could make a difference, and, in a look at the burdens children born with HIV will carry into adulthood, of some of the relatively rarely discussed consequences of gaps in efforts so far,” the blog writes in a second post (Barton, 10/19).
U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg on Saturday said food shortages are “a chronic problem” in southern Africa, “where more than 5.5 million people in eight countries need aid this year, a 40 percent increase compared to 2011,” according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Associated Press reports. Ending a five-day trip to the region, “Bragg … said worsening food shortages are the result of drought or floods and rising world food prices,” according to the AP (10/20). Bragg met with officials in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa to discuss increased cooperation and preparedness, the U.N. News Centre reports, noting Malawi, Lesotho, and Swaziland also are affected by chronic food shortages, according to OCHA (10/19).