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U.N. Official Warns Millions At Risk Of Starvation In African Sahel

“Millions of people in Africa’s turbulent Sahel region are on the brink of starvation due to drought and conflict, the United Nations said on Wednesday, and aid response plans are less than 40 percent funded ahead of an expected crisis peak,” Reuters reports (3/29). Following a week-long trip to Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, John Ging, director of operations at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said, “This is already an appalling crisis in terms of the scale and degree of human suffering and it will get worse unless the response plans are properly funded. … It’s a matter of life or death for millions who are on the brink,” according to the U.N. News Centre. “More than 15 million people in the Sahel are directly affected by worsening food shortages and malnutrition brought on by the ongoing drought, which has been compounded by conflict and insecurity,” the news service writes, noting that Ging added, “More than 200,000 children died of malnutrition last year and over one million are threatened with severe acute malnutrition right now” (3/28).

ONE Releases 2012 DATA Report Looking At E.U. Commitments To Development, Africa

ONE released its 2012 DATA Report this week, the ONE Blog reports, noting that the report this year focuses on the European Union’s commitments to development and to Africa. The report “tracks the progress of the E.U. institutions and the 27 E.U. Member States towards their promised goals of collectively providing 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income towards development assistance by 2015,” and a pledge to provide half of all aid increases to Africa, the blog notes. “The DATA report finds that while progress towards the 0.7 percent goal is mixed, all are lagging on their Africa promises,” the blog writes (Gunzburg, 6/25). E.U. Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs welcomed the report in a statement, saying, “I share the view that, in order to meet the 0.7 percent of GNI dedicated to aid, political courage and leadership is required but I’m confident that European governments will not make savings on the back of the poor. As Commissioner for Development, I will continue to call on Member States to keep their promises” (6/25).

Pregnancy Complications Are Leading Killer Of Teenage Girls Worldwide, Save The Children Report Says

Pregnancy is the biggest killer of teenage girls worldwide, with one million girls annually dying, being injured, or contracting a disease because of pregnancy or childbirth, according to a report (.pdf) released Tuesday by Save the Children, the Daily Mail reports (6/26). “Save the Children also cited official data which revealed that nearly one million babies born to teenage mothers die each year before their first birthday,” Agence France-Presse writes. “Worldwide, one in five girls give birth before they turn 18, according to the report,” which also said that the risk of a 15-year-old dying in pregnancy or childbirth is five times higher than for a woman in her twenties, the news service notes.

Success In Fighting Malaria Helping To Fuel Africa's Economic Growth, Reuters Reports

Reuters examines how the fight against malaria in Africa is helping to fuel the continent’s economic growth. “The number of malaria deaths has fallen dramatically in the last decade due to increased aid spending on basic items such as insecticide-treated bed nets and drugs, the World Health Organization (WHO) says,” the news agency writes, noting that an experimental vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline is showing prospect. The news agency discusses the efforts of AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s third largest gold producer, to prevent and treat malaria among its workers, which “‘made economic sense because of the absenteeism and the cost of medication,’ said Steve Knowles, the head of AngloGold’s anti-malaria operations.”

Agence France-Presse Reports On Efforts To Eradicate Sleeping Sickness In Sub-Saharan Africa

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.”

Vatican Official Calls On International Community To Provide 'Free, Efficient' HIV Treatment In Africa

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state and number two official, “called Friday on the international community to provide ‘free and efficient treatment’ for AIDS in Africa, starting with pregnant women, mothers and their babies,” Agence France-Presse reports (6/22). During a conference sponsored by the Sant’Egidio Community, which operates the DREAM program (Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition) in 10 African countries, “Bertone said the results of DREAM and research by the World Health Organization ‘confirm that universal access to care is achievable, scientifically proven and economically feasible,’” the Catholic News Service writes.

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).

WHO Identifies Best Target Areas For Seasonal Malaria Treatment

“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).

First International Podoconiosis Initiative Launched

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).

Slight Drop In Infant, Child, Maternal Mortality Indicators For Africa, Report Says

According to a report (.pdf) drafted by the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Union (A.U.) Commission that reviews the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for Africa, the continent recorded a slight drop in infant, child, and maternal mortality in 2011, PANA/Afrique en ligne reports. Released at a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Thursday, the report showed that while North African nations are making good progress on maternal, infant, and child mortality indicators, countries in sub-Saharan Africa still lag behind U.N. goals for reducing mortality, the news service reports. In sub-Saharan Africa, the under-five mortality rate fell from 174 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 121 per 1,000 live births in 2009, and at least 24 nations in the region had a maternal mortality rate above 500 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008, according to PANA (3/23).