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USAID Committed To Early Action On Sahel Drought, Drawing From Lessons From Horn Response

“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.”

Funding Gaps Could Hinder Future Of Health Care In Africa, Report Says

The “improvement and extension of health care in Africa is … being constrained by gaps in financing,” according to a new report (.pdf) by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) based on research commissioned by Janssen Pharmaceutica, a Belgian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, the Financial Times’ “beyondbrics” blog reports (Wheatley, 3/1). The report, titled “The Future of Healthcare in Africa,” “discusses the continent’s traditional health care issues, such as communicable diseases or financing health care in economically difficult circumstances” and “also addresses less well-known topics, such as the threat of obesity and heart disease, the use of mobile technology, development of more preventive care, and more,” according to the Janssen website (3/1). The report “identif[ies] the key trends shaping African health care systems” and uses them “to develop [five] scenarios that depict the possible health landscape on the continent in 2022,” a Janssen press release (.pdf) states (3/1).

WHO Criticized For Not Efficiently Communicating Recommendations On HIV, Contraception To African Women, PlusNews Reports

“HIV organizations, researchers and activists have criticized the WHO and UNAIDS for not clearly communicating [guidelines on HIV and hormonal contraception] to African women, who remain the most affected by the continent’s high HIV prevalence rates,” PlusNews reports. In February, the WHO confirmed its existing recommendations after a study published last year suggested that using hormonal contraceptive injections might double the risk of women acquiring HIV or transmitting the virus to a male partner, according to the news service. “However, because the U.N. agency was unable to definitively rule out the possibility that progesterone-only birth-control shots like Depo-Provera posed no HIV risk, it is now strongly advising women at risk of or living with HIV to use condoms concurrently to prevent HIV infection or transmission,” PlusNews writes.

Millions At Risk Of Malnutrition As Horn Of Africa, Sahel Face Dry Seasons

Only weeks after the U.N. declared an end to the famine in Somalia, regional climate scientists meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, at the 30th Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum have said preventive measures should be taken to stem the effects of drought that likely will return to Somalia and other parts of the Horn of Africa over the next three months, IRIN reports. USAID’s “FEWS NET said people should expect erratic rain in southern Somalia and southeastern Kenya” and will “be releasing a detailed outlook in the coming weeks,” the news service notes. But “[o]ne of the problems highlighted was the lack of linkage between early warning and early action. ‘There is no framework that allows the trigger of funds when the early warning bell is sounded,’ said one aid worker,” IRIN writes (2/29).

Aid Agencies Must Implement Long-Term Solutions In Horn Of Africa To ‘Banish Hunger’

With each of the three droughts in the Horn of Africa over the last decade, “the international community agreed that long-term measures were needed to prevent another tragedy. But each time, when the rains finally came, the world’s good intentions melted away,” Jose Graziano de Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) writes in a Project Syndicate opinion piece. “We must ensure that this does not happen again by joining forces now to banish hunger from the region once and for all,” he continues.

CDC Official Speaks About HIV, TB Work In Africa, Haiti

As part of its series of interviews with CDC staff working on global HIV and tuberculosis (TB) research and development, the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog spoke with Jordan Tappero, “who is currently serving as director for the Health Systems Reconstruction Office in the Center for Global Health, an office opened in response to the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.” In the interview, “Tappero describes his early research in HIV and TB, thoughts on why Uganda is the only sub-Saharan African country not enjoying a reduction in HIV incidence, and how quickly HIV services were restored to people living in Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake,” according to the blog (Mazzotta, 2/29).

Republican Presidential Candidate Santorum Could Be Beneficial To Global Health Programs If Elected President

In the Republican campaign for the presidential nomination, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), “the most religiously conservative candidate, surprisingly, is the most fervent advocate for U.S. global health diplomacy,” Jack Chow, former U.S. ambassador on global HIV/AIDS and former assistant director-general of WHO on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, writes in a Foreign Policy opinion piece. “Santorum has staked out global health as one of his preferred instruments of asserting American power abroad” and “seems determined to lay the groundwork for a global health agenda that is not only far more extensive than his competitors’, but would surpass both [George W.] Bush and Barack Obama in advancing U.S. interests abroad through fighting disease,” Chow writes.

‘Global Leadership’ Through Foreign Assistance Is ‘Strategic Imperative’ For U.S.

“[T]oday, with the national debt approaching $14.7 trillion, Americans rightly demand fiscal responsibility. Yet efforts in Congress to cut billions from the president’s proposed budget for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are short-sighted,” Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. He adds that “all of our foreign aid programs and foreign policy initiatives — from sending diplomats to Afghanistan to helping reverse the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa — cost less than one-tenth of our annual military expenditures” and “comprises a mere 1.5 percent” of President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request.

Eradication Of River Blindness In Africa Is Feasible

In this AlertNet opinion piece, Simon Bush, director of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) at Sightsavers, an international NGO helping people with visual impairments in developing countries, examines efforts to rid Africa of onchocerciasis — a blinding NTD. “In 1947 when Sightsavers’ founder, Sir John Wilson, coined the phrase river blindness to describe the almost unpronounceable disease, … there was little choice for those living in areas where what we now call a neglected tropical disease was endemic,” he writes, adding, “Today, although the World Health Organization estimates that 120 million people are at risk of river blindness, there is hope.”

Gates Calls For Greater Coordination Among U.N. Food Agencies, Announces Nearly $200M In Grants For Agricultural Development Projects

In a speech delivered at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome on Thursday, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told IFAD, the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that the “approach being used today to fight against poverty and hunger is outdated and inefficient” and asked the agencies “to unite around a common global target for sustainable productivity growth to guide and measure their efforts,” a Gates Foundation press release states. “Gates also announced nearly $200 million in grants, bringing to more than $2 billion the foundation’s commitment to smallholder farmers since the agriculture program began in 2006,” according to the press release (2/23).