GlobalPost reports on Cuba’s medical outreach to Africa, writing, “A generation ago, Fidel Castro sent Cuban soldiers to intervene in African civil conflicts and fight the Cold War against U.S. proxies. Now, Cuba’s doctors are fanning out across the continent as the island expands its role in administering medical services to some of the world’s most ailing countries.” The news service continues, “Some 5,500 Cubans are already working in 35 of Africa’s 54 countries, Cuban Foreign Ministry official Marcos Rodriguez told reporters this week at a press conference in Havana,” noting, “Of those, 3,000 are health professionals, and 2,000 are doctors, he said.”
“Journalists from across Africa announced the creation of the first continent-wide professional association of health journalists,” South Africa’s Health-e reports. “The new organization, the African Health Journalists Association, aims to improve the quality and quantity of reporting on health issues so that people across the continent can make healthy choices for their lives,” the news agency writes, adding, “The group’s media coverage will encourage the best possible public health programs and policies throughout the continent.” “‘This network will take health journalism to a new level of professionalism and cooperation in Africa,’ said Joyce Barnathan, president of the International Center for Journalists, which organized the meeting at the request of African journalists,” according to Health-e (7/6).
“Journalists, policy experts, bloggers (including myself) and World Food Programme staff joined in a robust discussion last week about the current hunger situation in Africa’s Sahel region, including its causes and what can be done moving forward,” Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, noting, “In the Google+ hangout, streamed on YouTube, Denise Brown, the World Food Programme’s country director for Niger, logged on from the capital, Niamey, to report precisely what is happening in the region and how people are faring in the wake of no rains, failed crops, and increased food prices.” She continues, “One of the primary points that Brown emphasized was about early warning systems and data propelled early intervention,” and concludes, “The state of the hunger crisis in the Sahel dictates that aid must happen now. But those who are working in the region, like Brown, understand that to prevent another food shortage next year ideas to combat another hunger season have to be employed” (6/8).
Agence France-Presse reports on human African trypanosomiasis, “commonly known as sleeping sickness, which is transmitted by tsetse flies found in 36 sub-Saharan African countries,” writing, “Without treatment in four months to a year, ‘the parasite penetrates into the brain, causing serious neurological symptoms, until death,’ said Doctor Benedict Blaynay, head of neglected tropical diseases at French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi.” The news service highlights efforts to control the disease in Chad, noting, “For the people living in Chad’s rural communities, the strange symptoms of sleeping sickness have long been shrouded in superstition about witchcraft and demonic possession. But the World Health Organization says it is not a losing battle.”
“Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibe Wednesday called for the production of anti-retroviral drugs [ARVs] in Africa to make the life-saving medicines against AIDS accessible to patients and boost the medicines manufacturing sector on the continent,” PANA/AfriqueJet reports. Speaking at the 16th West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) Summit in Lome, Togo, “Sidibe said it was time for the continent to negotiate strong partnerships with emerging countries, including India and Brazil, to support the local production of ARVs in Africa,” the news service writes, adding, “According to [Sidibe], Africa accounts for only one percent of the medicine manufacturing sector that is expected to generate as much as $1 trillion by 2015” (6/7).
“Pre-emptive treatment of children living in regions where [malaria] is prevalent only during the rainy season could avert 11 million cases and 50,000 deaths a year,” the journal Nature reports, adding, “The estimates are based on the world’s first guidance on seasonal malaria chemoprevention, issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March.” “‘One-size-fits-all policies, like bed nets, are great,’ explains Rob Newman, director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Programme in Geneva,” Nature writes. “But for policies with a number of requirements, we need these sorts of analyses to help policymakers chart the path forward,” he added, according to the journal. “Researchers think that parts of Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger will emerge [as] the most promising candidates for seasonal chemoprevention according to three factors: malaria burden, predicted malaria seasonality and the efficacy of the drug combination sulphadoxine, pyrimethamine and amodiaquine (SP-AQ),” Nature adds (Maxmen, 6/6).
UNAIDS Executive Director Calls On African Leaders To Reduce 'Triple Dependency' On External Sources Of HIV Drugs, Commodities, Technologies
“Delivering a speech at [Wednesday's] opening session of the 16th Conference of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe congratulated leaders across the region for their personal commitment to the HIV response, specifically with regard to upholding human rights and protecting human capital,” UNAIDS reports in an article on its website. “Addressing eight Heads of State and other high-level participants in Lome, Togo, he called on African leaders to reduce their ‘triple dependency’ on external sources for HIV drugs, commodities, and technologies,” the agency writes, adding, “To ensure the health and security of their populations, African leaders should focus greater attention and resources on the local production of medicines, said the UNAIDS executive director” (6/6).
The Nairobi-based African Institute for Development Policy on Tuesday presented a report called “Africa on the Move!” at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, VOA News reports, noting the report “says that in some African countries, political will, maternal and child health concerns as well as more and more funding are helping to develop effective family planning.” According to VOA, “Steve McDonald, the host of the event and Africa director at the Wilson Center, said partnerships between governments and religious organizations, which sometimes provide the bulk of health services in remote areas, are also crucial.”
“The Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS] sent a distress call Tuesday to the international community declaring that more than six million people are at risk of hunger in the Sahel region of Africa, including more than a million children exposed to severe malnutrition,” CNN reports. “The distress call was issued at the end of a two-day, high-level meeting [in Lome, Togo] to address the issue of food security in the region, especially in Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad,” the news service adds.
International Community Should Focus On Resilience, Not Just Relief, In Response To Drought In Horn Of Africa
“Over the past year, 13.3 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia were thrown into crisis as a result of drought in the Horn of Africa, the worst in 60 years,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah writes in this Devex opinion piece. “Droughts cannot be prevented, but they can be predicted and mitigated thanks to investments in early warning systems, satellite technology and on-the-ground analysis,” he writes, adding, “By identifying those communities facing the gravest risks and strategically focusing our efforts, we can help them withstand crisis.”