“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).
Political Instability, Humanitarian Crises Reversing Maternal Health Gains In Africa, Health Experts Warn
“Political instability, civil strife and humanitarian crises in Africa have over the past decades reversed countless maternal health development gains on the continent, health experts warn,” Inter Press Service reports. “‘African countries with good maternal health statistics are generally those that have long-term political stability. This shows that stability is a fundamental basis for development. If it doesn’t exist, other priorities overtake,’ Lucien Kouakou, regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF) in Africa, told IPS,” the news service writes.
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.”
“[O]ften seen in the wealthy West as a disease of bygone eras,” Reuters examines rising rates of tuberculosis (TB) — drug-resistant TB in particular — among the world’s rich and poor. “[R]apidly rising rates of drug-resistant TB in some of the wealthiest cities in the world, as well as across Africa and Asia, are again making history,” Reuters writes. According to the news service, “London has been dubbed the ‘tuberculosis capital of Europe,’ and a startling recent study documenting new cases of so-called ‘totally drug-resistant’ TB in India suggests the modern-day tale of this disease could get a lot worse.”
Al Jazeera examines maternal mortality worldwide, saying, “If the situation continues at its current rate, the world will not meet” the U.N. Millennium Development Goal “to reduce maternal mortality by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015.” Though the estimated number of women who die of maternal mortality has dropped from 546,000 in 1990 to 340,000 today, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying during or following pregnancy in developing countries “is still high at one in 31,” compared with one in 4,300 in developed countries, the news agency reports. “Attaining zero maternal death would require greater community involvement and commitment” and increased access to contraceptives and skilled birth attendants, according to experts, Al Jazeera notes (Arjunpuri, 3/19).
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog highlights “the first-ever international podoconiosis initiative, Footwork,” launched on March 15. “Footwork is aimed at raising public awareness about the causes and impact of podoconiosis” — a form of elephantiasis — “in affected communities, and advocates for it to be included in global health and [neglected tropical disease] agendas,” the blog writes, adding, “An estimated four million people in highland tropical Africa are affected with podoconiosis, and it has been confirmed in at least 15 countries in Africa, Central America and Asia” (Patel, 3/16).
“The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is warning that more than a million children below the age of five in the Sahel are facing a disaster amid the ongoing food crisis in the drought-prone region of Africa,” the U.N. News Centre reports (3/16). “‘More extreme conditions could see this number rise to about 1.5 million and the problem is that funding is not coming in at the rate that we need in order to prepare properly,’ [UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado] said. ‘So far we have received just one-fifth of the $119 million we have asked for in 2012,'” VOA News writes (3/16).
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.
Progress In AIDS Fight Must Be An Impetus For Increasing Investment, Sustaining Advancements In Africa
In this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe examines the role of the fight against AIDS in sustaining economic and social development in Africa. “Africa is breaking records,” he writes, noting the economic growth, increased access to information, rise in democracy, decline in poverty, increased school enrollment — especially for girls — and decline in AIDS-related deaths on the continent. “Africa is now poised to push towards a new vision of: zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths,” and “it needs everyone’s support,” he continues.
Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), addresses a recent New York Times article on “medical brain drain” in this CGD “Global Development: Views From The Center” blog post, saying the article’s approval of “a horrific proposal to put recruiters of health workers on trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity … is breathtakingly misguided.” He continues, “Recruiters do not ‘steal’ people. They give information to people about jobs those people are qualified for. The professional ambitions of those people have equal value to yours and mine, and those ambitions cannot be realized without information.” Clemens says “coercively blocking the unconditional right of a health worker to emigrate — such as by declaring her to be owned by a government and prosecuting her recruiter at The Hague — is a crime against humanity,” and cites several other articles he has written on the subject (3/12).