Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia and the new chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), writes in a Huffington Post opinion piece about Africa’s efforts in the fight against malaria. “Supported by the lessons learned from the decade to ‘roll back malaria,’ which produced a 33 percent decline in malaria deaths in Africa between 2000 and 2010, 41 African presidents have now signed on to end deaths from the disease in their home countries as part of [ALMA],” she writes. But “[d]espite this encouraging progress, much work remains to be done,” she continues.
UNICEF on Friday “appealed … for $1.28 billion to provide humanitarian assistance to children in over 25 countries this year, with nearly one-third of the total amount earmarked for the crisis in the Horn of Africa,” the U.N. News Centre reports (1/27). The agency also released its annual “Humanitarian Action for Children 2012” report, which “decried the rising levels of starvation and malnutrition among children under the age of five in many of the world’s troubled regions,” GlobalPost writes (1/27). UNICEF “said it was seeking nine percent less than in 2011, linked to lower needs in Pakistan and Haiti, but that its needs for fighting hunger had jumped by nearly 50 percent,” according to Agence France-Presse (1/28). The agency said more than one million children in Africa’s Sahel region are at risk of severe malnutrition, Reuters reports (1/27).
Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, on Tuesday “urged the global community to take quick action to prevent millions of people in Africa’s Sahel region from slipping into a full-scale food emergency, warning that drought, poor harvests and rising food prices have left the region on the brink of a humanitarian crisis,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The area currently affected by the crisis covers a vast swath of territory, including Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger but concerns have also been extended to other countries in the region such as Burking Faso and Senegal,” according to the news service (1/24).
“For the third time in the past decade, drought has returned to the arid, western shoulder of Africa, bringing hunger to millions,” and “[a]id agencies are warning that if action is not taken now, the region known as the Sahel could slip into crisis,” the Associated Press reports. “Aid workers also worry that donors are suffering from ‘famine fatigue,’ as the looming West African crisis comes just six months after Somalia’s capital was declared a famine zone,” the news agency writes.
A funding shortfall led the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to announce in November that “it won’t make any grants to fund programs for at least two years,” a Deseret News editorial notes and calls on the U.S. to take a leadership position in saving the fund. The editorial states, “Few worldwide initiatives have the success record of the Global Fund …, but those breakthroughs may not have much chance to save many lives,” and notes that the non-profit lobbying group “Results is calling for the Obama administration to assemble an emergency meeting of donor nations this spring to find ways to ensure that the fund and its programs are able to continue and to provide new medicines where they are needed most.”
Speaking at a media briefing in Geneva on Thursday, Sheila Tlou, UNAIDS director of the regional support team for Eastern and Southern Africa, said the region is making progress in scaling up access to prevention and treatment services, including behavior change and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programs, the U.N. News Centre reports. “We have to now focus on making sure that we scale up voluntary medical male circumcision, behavior change, and all those [interventions] to make sure that we reduce infections,” she said, adding that improving access to treatment also is critical, according to the news service (1/19). “‘There has been quite a lot of progress since 1997 with a 25 percent reduction in new infections in our region,’ said Tlou,” Agence France-Presse notes (1/19).
Psychological, organizational and budgetary factors contributed to why governments did not respond sooner to early famine warnings in the Horn of Africa, Hugo Slim, a visiting fellow at the Institute of Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict at the University of Oxford, says in this Guardian opinion piece. In a new report (.pdf), Save the Children and Oxfam “suggest that government officials were reluctant to call a crisis until there was a crisis”; that organizing “NGOs and U.N. agencies to agree the scale of a problem and then to act in concert is always going to be difficult”; and that, “[m]ore importantly, budgets are still divided too strictly between emergency and development funds,” he writes.
“Scientists and aid organizations gave the world plenty of time to prepare, but a late response by the world’s donor nations cost 50,000 to 100,000 lives during last year’s drought in the Horn of Africa region,” the Christian Science Monitor’s “Global News Blog” writes about a report (.pdf) released on Wednesday by Save the Children and Oxfam (Baldauf, 1/18). “The two agencies blame ‘a culture of risk aversion’ among donors and NGOs, which meant the specially-built early warning system, FEWSNET, worked but was ignored until it was too late,” GlobalPost’s “Africa Emerges” blog writes (McConnell, 1/18). “A food shortage had been predicted as early as August 2010, but most donors did not respond until famine was declared in parts of Somalia last July,” the Associated Press/New York Times notes (1/18).
Community health workers (CHWs) “are seen to be a key part of a functioning primary health system,” especially in African nations, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes in a post on Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “This system should include a clinic within short walking distance, with supplies, a skilled birth attendant and other staff, electricity, and safe water; an ambulance for emergency transport; an emergency ’911’ number; a policy of free care at the point of service (so as not to turn away the indigent); and trained and remunerated CHWs, taught also to treat diseases and save lives in the community,” he says.
Noting that the “fifth Millennium Development Goal target for 90 percent of births in low- and middle-income countries to have a skilled birth attendant (SBA) by 2015 will not be met,” researchers from University College London estimate “that there will be between 130 and 180 million non-SBA births in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa from 2011 to 2015 (90 percent of these in rural areas)” in this BioMed Central Pregnancy & Childbirth article. They conclude, “Efforts to improve access to skilled attendance should be accompanied by interventions to improve the safety of non-attended deliveries” (1/17).