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Most Asian Countries Fail To Include Rotavirus Vaccine In National Immunization Programs Citing Cost As Barrier

“Most countries in Asia have yet to make the rotavirus vaccine part of their national immunization program (NIP), despite a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to do so,” IRIN reports. “Worldwide, rotavirus accounts for 37 percent of all diarrhea deaths in children under five with 95 percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries,” the news service states, noting, “There are no antibiotics or any other drug to fight the infection and since 2009 WHO has recommended the global use of the rotavirus vaccine.” Forty-one countries worldwide include rotavirus vaccine in their NIPs, but “only two countries in Asia — Philippines and Thailand — are vaccinating (or are about to) children against rotavirus,” according to IRIN. An email to IRIN from WHO’s Manila office stated, “Price continues to be an important barrier to introducing rotavirus vaccine,” the news service notes (9/7).

APEC Leaders Discuss Food Security

During the second day of a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group in Vladivostok, Russia, on Sunday, leaders from 21 Asia-Pacific nations discussed food security, VOA’s “Breaking News” blog reports. “Russian President Vladimir Putin called food security one of the most acute problems today as he opened the final day of talks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit,” the blog writes (9/9). The leaders also discussed trade and innovative growth in the region, Xinhua notes (9/9). “During their meetings, the APEC leaders are expected to approve various initiatives, including one that will cut tariffs on environmental-related goods — such as waste-water treatment technologies — to five percent by 2015,” the Associated Press/Washington Post writes, adding, “They also are expected to endorse measures for ensuring food security, protecting supply chains and beefing up emergency preparedness” (Berry, 9/8).

UNAIDS Officials Say Progress Being Made Against HIV/AIDS In Africa, Asia

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).

S&P Warns Some G20 Nations Face Downgrade Unless Reforms To Stem Rising Health Care Costs Enacted

“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).

Estimating Number Of Births Without Skilled Birth Attendants In South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa

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).

UNICEF Stresses Need For Higher Breastfeeding Rates In East Asia

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.

New Disease Causes AIDS-Like Symptoms But Not Spread Through Virus

“Researchers have identified a mysterious new disease that has left scores of people in Asia and some in the United States with AIDS-like symptoms even though they are not infected with HIV,” the Associated Press reports. “This is another kind of acquired immune deficiency that is not inherited and occurs in adults, but doesn’t spread the way AIDS does through a virus, said Dr. Sarah Browne, a scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,” who “helped lead the study with researchers in Thailand and Taiwan where most of the cases have been found since 2004,” according to the news service. “Researchers are calling this new disease an ‘adult-onset’ immunodeficiency syndrome because it develops later in life and they don’t know why or how,” AP writes, adding, “The fact that nearly all the patients so far have been Asian or Asian-born people living elsewhere suggests that genetic factors and something in the environment such as an infection may trigger the disease, researchers conclude” (Marchione, 8/22).

USDA's Economic Research Service Report Examines Global Food Security

In a post on the USDA Blog, economists Stacey Rosen and Shahla Shapouri of the Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Food Security and Development Branch describe the latest ERS International Food Security Assessment, which covers 76 countries in Asia, Latin America, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa. “For 2012, we estimate the situation overall to improve slightly, with the number of food-insecure people declining to 802 million people, from 814 million in 2011. The decade ahead presents a different picture, with food-insecure numbers rising by 37 million, although this 4.6 percent increase is below the 16.7 percent rise in population,” they write, noting, “The key factors we measure in determining the level of food security are countries’ domestic food production and their import capacity” (8/2).

Blog Examines Impact Of Adolescent Pregnancy In South Asia

As part of its monthly series Stories Behind the Statistics, “guest edited by FHI 360 on behalf of USAID’S IYWG, which provides technical leadership to improve the reproductive and sexual health of young people,” the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog features a story by Gaj Bahadur Gurung, program coordinator for the National Federation of Women Living with HIV and AIDS in Nepal, who discusses the impact of adolescent pregnancy on girls and young women in South Asia. He writes, “Policies and programs must both help prevent early and unintended pregnancy (for married and unmarried women) and mitigate the negative consequences for girls who do become pregnant. Programs should provide young women access to, control over, and informed choice of their sexual and maternal health services” (8/3).

Change In Drug Policy Needed To Reverse HIV/AIDS Epidemic In Eastern Europe, Central Asia

Noting the United Nations last week “announced the appointment of Dr. Michel Kazatchkine, the former head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as the U.N. Secretary-General’s new special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia,” Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, director of the Open Society Foundations’ global drug policy program, writes in this Huffington Post opinion piece, “[W]hile Dr. Kazatchkine’s skills will be principally devoted to a handful of E.U. Member States and some neighbors, all of Europe would be wise to heed his guidance on the importance of sensible drug policies in the HIV response.” She continues, “As a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy — a body of experts from politics, health, academia and business — Dr. Kazatchkine reminded leaders that ‘the war on drugs has fueled the HIV epidemic.'”