In a report published last week, the World Bank “called on African governments and international donors to increase efforts to prevent new HIV infections in order to control treatment costs,” VOA News reports. “One of the report’s co-authors, Markus Haacker, said countries facing the highest burden are often not those with the highest infection rate, but rather low-income countries that lack the resources to keep pace with each new infection,” VOA notes.
According to a report (.pdf) drafted by the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Union (A.U.) Commission that reviews the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for Africa, the continent recorded a slight drop in infant, child, and maternal mortality in 2011, PANA/Afrique en ligne reports. Released at a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Thursday, the report showed that while North African nations are making good progress on maternal, infant, and child mortality indicators, countries in sub-Saharan Africa still lag behind U.N. goals for reducing mortality, the news service reports. In sub-Saharan Africa, the under-five mortality rate fell from 174 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 121 per 1,000 live births in 2009, and at least 24 nations in the region had a maternal mortality rate above 500 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008, according to PANA (3/23).
“To break free of its dependence on donor money and supplies from India, Africa must develop its own pharmaceutical pipeline by creating policy frameworks that encourage a fledgling drug industry,” journalist Priya Shetty argues in this SciDev.Net opinion piece. “Although India’s drug industry continues to churn out generics against killer diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, there is no end to resistance from global pharmaceutical companies wanting to extend the duration of market exclusivity on their brand-name drugs to prevent competition from generics,” she writes, and notes, “The Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED) forum, to be held in South Africa in April 2012, will discuss how resource-poor nations can become more self-sufficient.”
“The rising enthusiasm for providing more medicines threatens to come at the expense of promising initiatives for preventing HIV infections in the first place — initiatives that could save many lives, with less money,” Craig Timberg, the newspaper’s deputy national security editor, and Daniel Halperin, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, write in this Washington Post opinion piece. “Ambitious treatment efforts and smart prevention programs are, of course, not inherently at odds. But especially in an era of fiscal constraint, these two goals could come into conflict,” they write, continuing, “The result, wasteful in dollars spent and lives diminished, would represent only the latest misjudgment by powerful donor nations such as the United States, which still struggle to understand the root causes of an epidemic that has spread most widely in weaker, poorer nations.”
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “on Friday appealed for an extra $69.8 million to aid 790,000 vulnerable households in the drought-hit Sahel region in West Africa,” Agence France-Presse/Vanguard reports (3/10). “In a news release, the [FAO] said that at least 15 million people are estimated to be at risk of food insecurity in countries in the Sahel, including 5.4 million people in Niger, three million in Mali, 1.7 million in Burkina Faso and 3.6 million in Chad, as well as hundreds of thousands in Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania,” the U.N. News Centre writes (3/9). FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, “We need to act to prevent further deterioration of the food security situation and to avoid a full-scale food and nutrition crisis,” according to AFP (3/10).
“A year after the worst drought in 60 years sent 13.3 million people in the Horn of Africa into crisis, we are now facing a rising threat of crisis in the Sahel — an arid belt that stretches from Senegal through Niger and Burkina Faso to Chad,” Nancy Lindborg, head of democracy, conflict, and humanitarian assistance at USAID, writes in this post in Huffington Post’s “The Blog.” She notes, “Today, rising food prices, another failed rain, and conflict in Mali and Libya, means that between seven and 10 million people are at risk of sliding into crisis as we enter the lean season of the months ahead,” and writes, “As we focus on the rising crisis in the Sahel, we are committed to responding immediately and acting on the most important lessons learned from the Horn response.”
Instability and insecurity in some West and Central African nations are threatening the success of a 20-country polio vaccination campaign, which aims to immunize 111.1 million children against the disease, IRIN reports. Ongoing insurgent attacks threaten the campaign in Nigeria, the region’s only polio-endemic country and home to 57.7 million of the children targeted, the news service notes. Parts of Mali, Niger, and Chad also pose security problems for health care workers trying to access children in remote or disputed areas, according to IRIN. “Human error and weak health systems also play an important role in sub-optimal immunization reach,” the news service writes, noting so far, “only Ghana, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Gambia, and Togo have achieved the required 90 percent coverage, according to UNICEF” (3/23).
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.
“Some 111.1 million children below the age of five are to be vaccinated against polio in a synchronized campaign covering 20 countries in West and Central Africa starting on Friday,” the WHO and UNICEF said in a joint statement on Wednesday, PANA reports (3/21). The campaign, which will last for four days, “is intended to serve as a massive boost in efforts to eradicate the disease, and will involve national health ministries and U.N. agencies, as well as tens of thousands of volunteers who will go from door-to-door immunizing children,” the U.N. News Centre writes (3/21).
UNAIDS and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency on Tuesday “signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) calling for strategic collaboration to advance sustainable responses to HIV, health and development across the African continent,” according to a UNAIDS press release. “Under the terms of the agreement, UNAIDS and the NEPAD Agency will work with partners to: support the development of common African positions for the AIDS response, with an emphasis on sustainable financing; address constraints in access to HIV medicines; facilitate policies and partnerships to eliminate new HIV infections in children and improve the health of mothers; enhance country ownership and accountability; and encourage South-South cooperation,” the press release states (3/27).