The Financial Times has published a special report (.pdf) on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) featuring 10 articles examining issues including prevention, research, and treatment.
“This past June, more than 100 participants gathered in Accra, Ghana, for the Regional Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting on Neglected Tropical Diseases hosted by the WHO-AFRO to discuss the challenges, resources requirements, and goals to controlling and eliminating Africa’s NTDs,” the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog reports. “Immediately following that meeting, NTD program managers met at the Annual Regional NTD Program Managers Meeting, where they discussed the recently finalized multi-year integrated NTD control and elimination plans, a huge step towards controlling and eliminating NTDs in the region,” the blog writes, noting, “Though still in draft form, the Accra Call to Action called for increased political support for NTD control, and invited partners in all sectors to contribute resources to this effort” (Jarrett, 10/9).
“African countries are most at risk of social unrest and famine stemming from food shortages and rising prices, according to risk advisory firm Maplecroft,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The news service writes, “Africa accounts for 39 of the 59 most at-risk countries in Maplecroft’s Food Security Risk Index and has nine of the 11 nations in the ‘extreme risk’ category, the Bath, England-based company said in a statement today” (Almeida, 10/9). “Despite strong economic growth, food security remains an issue of primary importance for Africa, according to a new study by [the] risk analysis company …, which classifies 75 percent of the continent’s countries at ‘high’ or ‘extreme risk,’” according to the statement (10/1). “African countries at ‘extreme risk’ include Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as Burundi, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Comoros, and Sierra Leone, according to Maplecroft,” Bloomberg notes (10/9).
“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.”
“In an attempt to tackle tuberculosis [TB] among current and former miners, their families, and affected communities, 15 southern African leaders signed a Declaration on TB in the Mining Sector, a legal instrument, at the recent summit meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government in Maputo, Mozambique,” the Lancet reports. “The declaration is to ensure commitment and accountability by member states to improve the lives of those affected by tuberculosis,” the journal writes, adding, “A code of conduct, to accompany the declaration, will be signed by the region’s health ministers next month.”
Foreign Policy reports on “a recent study by Ashley Fox of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine [that] compares rates of HIV infection across 170 regions in 16 sub-Saharan African countries.” Fox “found that in the poorest regions, it was richer people who were more likely to be infected with HIV, while in wealthier regions, the poor were more at risk,” the magazine writes, adding, “The reason, she argues, is that AIDS acts more like a chronic condition, such as obesity, than the infectious disease it is.” “In the three decades since it was identified, AIDS has gone through a remarkable socioeconomic mutation, from a condition closely identified with gay men in urban areas of the United States to one synonymous with poverty in the developing world,” Foreign Policy continues, adding, “Fox’s data suggest that despite more than 30 million deaths over the past 30-odd years, it’s still a disease we don’t understand very well” (Keating, November 2012).
“A huge vaccination campaign to protect 50 million people against meningitis has been launched in seven African countries aiming to stamp out the deadly virus, health officials said on Thursday,” Sapa/AFP/IOL News reports. “The so-called ‘Meningitis Belt’ countries — Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan — are to get the jabs to ensure ‘a dramatic impact across the continent,’ said Seth Berkley, managing director of the GAVI Alliance,” according to the news service (10/4). “The seven countries targeted are vulnerable to seasonal severe outbreaks of meningitis with up to 430 million people at risk from the illness, according to a news release issued by the GAVI Alliance,” the U.N. News Centre writes, noting, “The vaccination drive will ensure those at high risk, particularly children and young adults, are vaccinated by the end of December” (10/4).
In the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, Smisha Agarwal, co-founder and India country director of Global Health Bridge, examines the global migration of health workers, highlighting a book titled “Insourced,” in which Kate Tulenko, senior director for health systems innovation at IntraHealth International, “argues that the U.S. drains health care workers from poor countries.” Agarwal writes, “A quarter of physicians in the U.S. are imported mostly from developing countries; a quarter of which come from India, where the deficit of health care workers is amongst the largest in the world.” She continues, “Billions of dollars of health care aid from the U.S. may help with improving infrastructure, but there is no replacement for the lost health care providers.”
“Although no official decision has been announced about whether to continue the … Affordable Medicines Facility-Malaria (AMFm), many of those familiar with it have told Nature that it must change or be phased out after this year,” the magazine reports in an article examining the future of the pilot program that distributes malaria drugs in seven African countries. “The AMFm aims to make artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) readily available and affordable in malaria-ridden countries by relying on the free market for their distribution,” but “it is unclear how many of the drugs reached the pilot program’s target populations,” Nature writes. The magazine describes possible options for the program, and notes the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will recommend a future path for the program at its meeting next month (Maxmen, 10/2).
Leading up to the debates this month and the November presidential election, “President Obama would be wise to talk up our effective aid programs and the soft power they provide with regional allies,” particularly the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), Roger Bate, a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, and Kimberly Hess, a researcher with Africa Fighting Malaria, write in a New York Daily News opinion piece. “Pointing to the enormous success of this program — and announcing a budget increase — would score valuable points with swing voters and potentially even help Democrats pull some of them off the fence,” they write. Seven years after former President George W. Bush launched PMI, the program “stands among the most effective government programs in recent history — and a rare, genuinely bipartisan foreign policy achievement,” the authors state, noting “under-five mortality rates have declined by 16-50 percent in 11 PMI target countries in which surveys have been conducted.”