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India Taken Off WHO List Of Polio Endemic Countries

“India was taken off a list of polio endemic countries by the World Health Organization on Saturday, marking a massive victory for health workers battling the crippling disease” and “leav[ing] just three countries with endemic polio — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria,” Agence France-Presse reports (2/26). “Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the WHO removed India from the list after the country passed one year without registering any new cases,” the Associated Press/CBS News writes, adding, “India must pass another two years without new cases to be declared polio-free” (2/27).

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the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that the “approach being used today to fight against poverty and hunger is outdated and inefficient” and asked the agencies “to unite around a common global target for sustainable productivity growth to guide and measure their efforts,” a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).

Scientific American Examines Gates Foundation Toilet-Design Initiative

“Advocates for universal access to and use of basic personal sanitation hope their efforts will get a big boost in August, when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation present several hygienic innovations developed through its Reinventing the Toilet Challenge,” Scientific American reports in a feature article. “The foundation’s involvement could do for sanitation what it has accomplished in the battle to eradicate malaria — raise the visibility of a fundamental health care crisis and encourage new efforts to end it,” the magazine writes.

India Still Faces Challenges In Efforts To Eradicate Polio

The PBS NewsHour examines polio eradication efforts in India, which has gone an entire year without reporting a polio case. “For India, the challenge is to remain vigilant and polio free for two more years to officially fall off the list of endemic countries,” according to the news service (De Sam Lazaro, 2/20). “The success in India has been achieved through a partnership between the Indian government, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary, UNICEF and with major contributions from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” BBC News reports in an analysis of India’s success. “The global effort to eradicate polio is the biggest public health initiative in history. It has cost billions and has already stopped a huge amount of disability and many deaths,” but the disease remains endemic in three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, the news service notes (Walsh, 2/19).

Understanding The Economic Impact Of The ‘Girl Effect’

In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Jill Sheffield, founder and President of Women Deliver, responds to an opinion piece published in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” on Friday in which Ofra Koffman — a Leverhulme postdoctoral fellow in the department for culture, media and creative industries at King’s College London — “questions the contributions that girls and young women can make to economies when they delay childbirth,” and argues “that the so-called ‘Girl Effect’ of delaying childbirth does not necessarily ‘stop poverty before it starts,’ as the Department for International Development (DFID) claims.” Sheffield writes, “The ability to choose if and when to have children is a huge piece of the puzzle to the ‘Girl Effect,’ but it is not the only piece. … The ‘Girl Effect’ is an amalgamation of exactly these three components: security, health, and power” (2/15).

More Collaborative, Flexible Approach Needed To Combat NTDs

“To tackle neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), we need a far more collaborative and flexible approach,” Mark Booth, acting deputy director of Durham University’s Wolfson Research Institute and head of the N8 Parasitology Group, writes in this New Statesman opinion piece. Booth references the publication of new malaria mortality estimates in the Lancet and the signing of the so-called “London Declaration on NTDs” by a consortium of public and private partners last week and writes, “Malaria is not classified as an NTD because relatively large amounts of attention and funding have been pitted against the parasite. But if we now have to rethink malaria control strategies, then how confident can we be about controlling or eradicating any of the 17 NTDs identified by the World Health Organization?”

Global Malaria Deaths Twice As High As Previously Estimated, IHME Study Suggests

“Malaria is killing more people worldwide than previously thought, but the number of deaths has fallen rapidly as efforts to combat the disease have ramped up, according to new research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington” published in the Lancet on Thursday, an IHME press release reports. “More than 1.2 million people died from malaria worldwide in 2010, nearly twice the number found in the most recent comprehensive study of the disease,” the press release states (2/2). The study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “used new data and new computer modeling to build a historical database for malaria between 1980 and 2010,” BBC News notes (Bowdler, 2/2).

Media Outlets Examine Global Fund’s Future As It Enters Second Decade

The Guardian examines the future of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as it enters its second decade, writing, “Despite its staggering successes — including helping put 3.3 million people on AIDS treatment, 8.6 million on anti-tuberculosis treatment and providing 230 million insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria — the fund’s recent troubles had threatened to overshadow its accomplishments as it prepared to mark a decade as the world’s main financier of programs to fight these three global epidemics.” The news service highlights a $750 million pledge to the Fund by Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses recent managerial changes within the Fund, and quotes a number of experts about future challenges (Kelly, 2/2).

Large Public-Private Partnership Announced To Speed Progress Against NTDs

Thirteen pharmaceutical companies; the governments of the U.S., U.K. and United Arab Emirates; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the WHO; the World Bank; the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi); and other global health organizations “announced a new, coordinated push to accelerate progress toward eliminating or controlling 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by the end of the decade,” according to a press release (.pdf) from Global Health Strategies. “In the largest coordinated effort to date to combat NTDs,” the partners will provide 14 billion doses of medications by the end of the decade and share expertise and products to speed research and development of new drugs, the press release notes.

Access To Food Must Be Considered In Talks Focused On Global Financial Crisis, WEF Participants Say

Business and political leaders meeting in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Thursday agreed that the focus on the global financial crisis “won’t matter unless people have one basic thing: Enough food to eat,” the Associated Press reports. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “estimates there are at least 925 million undernourished people in the world — almost one in seven,” the AP notes. FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, “The problem is not the supply side. … The problem is the access — they don’t have the money to buy it or they don’t have the water and land they need if they are subsistence farmers,” according to the news service (Heilprin, 1/26).