“Achieving the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the prevalence of hunger in the world by 2015 is still within reach, but a strong, sustained acceleration of efforts is needed,” U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva writes in a Reuters opinion piece. He notes a new report from the Rome food agencies shows the “global number of chronically hungry people has declined by 130 million since 1990, falling from a little over one billion people to 868 million — 852 million of them in developing countries.”
During a meeting with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe on Tuesday, Indonesia Minister of Health Nafsiah Mboi “pledged to scale up HIV testing and treatment programs” with a “focus on 141 districts where key affected populations are the highest,” a UNAIDS feature story reports. “Indonesia also plans to become one of several countries in the region to offer universal health care by 2014,” with HIV treatment to be covered, according to the health ministry, UNAIDS notes. Sidibe said, “Indonesia is a key partner in the drive to end the AIDS epidemic. … Universal health coverage is a game changer for Indonesia. I am delighted to know that HIV treatment will be included in this national program. This sets the stage for sustainable funding of HIV programs,” the article states. “The Ministry of Health estimates that more than 600,000 people are living with HIV and that there are more than 76,000 new HIV infections each year,” according to UNAIDS, which adds, “Currently HIV treatment coverage is at less than 20 percent” (10/23).
UNICEF “has voiced alarm at the decline of breastfeeding across East Asia, stressing the need for mothers to understand its long-term benefits for the survival and development of their children,” Bernama reports (5/2). In Thailand, as few as five percent of all mothers breastfeed, about 10 percent of mothers breastfeed in Vietnam, and approximately 28 percent of mothers do so in China, according to the U.N. News Centre. “The low breastfeeding rates across East Asia result from economic developments that enable more women to enter the workforce, as well as ‘aggressive’ marketing of infant formula in the region, [UNICEF] added in a news release,” the news service reports.
“Drug-resistant malaria is spreading in Asia, experts warned as a high-level conference opened Wednesday with the aim of hammering out an action plan to strengthen the region’s response,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Resistance to the drug used everywhere to cure the life-threatening disease has emerged in Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar,” Richard Feachem, director of global health at the University of California, San Francisco and former head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said, according to the news service. “The danger is that at some time this resistance may break out of Southeast Asia and crop up in Africa,” he added, AFP writes. Feachem spoke ahead of the “Malaria 2012: Saving Lives in the Asia-Pacific” conference in Sydney, which “will seek consensus on the actions needed to strengthen the region’s response to malaria,” according to AFP (Coorey, 10/31).
“Malnutrition is likely to be the most serious health threat linked to climate shifts in the coming decades, as farmers struggle to cope with more unpredictable weather, … epidemiologist Kris Ebi warned during a recent World Health Organization (WHO) briefing on adapting health systems to climate shifts,” AlertNet reports. “Linkages between climate change, extreme weather and health have so far focused mainly on an expected increase in deaths from disasters and heat waves, as well as rising cases of malaria, dengue fever and diarrhea,” the news service writes.
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).
“Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s warned it may downgrade ‘a number of highly rated’ Group of 20 [G20] countries from 2015 if their governments fail to enact reforms to curb rising health care spending and other costs related to aging populations,” Reuters reports. “Developed nations in Europe, as well as Japan and the United States, are likely to suffer the largest deterioration in their public finances in the next four decades as more elderly strain social safety nets, S&P said in a report,” the news agency writes (Hopfner et al., 1/31).
Approximately 85,000 HIV-positive people in Burma, also known as Myanmar, are in need of antiretroviral treatment (ART) and cannot access it “due to a lack of funding, despite renewed international engagement with the government amid a wave of political reform, according to a report released Wednesday” by the medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Associated Press/CBS News reports (2/22). “At the launch of a new report called ‘Lives in the Balance,’ MSF said that only a quarter of the estimated 120,000 people living with HIV and AIDS were receiving treatment, and that it was turning people away from its clinics,” BBC News writes. While plans were made last year among MSF and its partners to scale up treatment for HIV and tuberculosis (TB), “those proposals were shelved after the Global Fund” to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria cancelled its Round 11 grants, according to the news agency. “The money was expected to provide HIV drugs for 46,500 people in Myanmar, along with treatment for another 10,000 people sicken[ed] by drug-resistant tuberculosis in the country, [the report] said,” BBC writes (Fisher, 2/22).
“The World Health Organization warned Monday that the battle against the age-old scourge of leprosy is not yet over, with more than 5,000 new cases reported yearly in the Western Pacific, where the disease was declared eliminated in 1991,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (2/13). “‘Leprosy is still much alive in the Western Pacific,’ said Shin Young-Soo, WHO regional director,” at a meeting of national leprosy control program managers from the Western Pacific, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C writes, adding, “Policymakers, health workers and the public should not be misled that the disease is totally gone and must continue to fight it, he said.”
“Delegates at a special U.N. meeting about high food prices Friday blamed the hikes on speculation, futures markets and national responses to crop failure,” the Associated Press/Moscow Times reports (9/27).