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Legislation In Congress Is ‘Good Start’ To Raising Awareness Of, Preventing Attacks On Medical Workers

Attacks, kidnappings, and the murders of health care workers in the uprisings taking place across the Arab world violate principles held in the Geneva Conventions and international human rights treaties, Richard Sollom, deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights, writes in this Global Post opinion piece. “Recently I briefed the U.S. Congress on eight proximate causes — which I describe below — for the recent rise in such abuses across the Arab world,” he says. The eight causes include the unaccountability of military forces; medical workers have first-hand knowledge of the extent and responsible party of attacks; health care workers sometimes are viewed as “helping the enemy” and are attacked out of retribution; “perceived political activism”; “discrimination based on religious identity”; and “[o]f course error is a possible cause for violations of medical neutrality,” he notes.

NIH To Award $20M Over 5 Years To Support Global Health Training For Scientists

“A network of global health research training institutions will increasingly focus on the rising levels of chronic diseases in developing countries, the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center announced on Wednesday,” CQ HealthBeat reports (Bristol, 4/4). NIH will award “about $20.3 million … over the next five years to support 400 early-career health scientists on nearly year-long research fellowships in 27 low- and middle-income countries,” according to a press release from the Fogarty International Center. “Program trainees will study the traditional global health problems such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and maternal and child health, and will address the chronic non-communicable diseases that cause a majority of deaths in developing countries, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” the press release states (4/4).

Health Workers Feeling Effects Of Staff, Supply Shortages At Clinics In Southwestern Uganda

Health workers with Medical Teams International, a medical non-governmental organization, “say they are overwhelmed” by high demand at five health clinics in two southwestern Ugandan refugee centers, PlusNews reports. The refugees, “many of whom came from conflict-prone areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” and local residents are in need of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) prevention information, and care and treatment services, according to the news service. “Uganda suffers from a chronic shortage of health workers — less than half of the vacant health positions are filled — but the recent influx of refugees fleeing violence in neighboring DRC has put even more pressure on [the region’s] health services,” PlusNews writes. Physicians, who see 30 to 50 patients daily and often work double shifts, say gaps in the supplies of antiretroviral (ARV) and TB drugs poses concern, as does trying to follow-up with patients who may not return for visits, the news service notes (3/29).

Insecurity Threatening Success Of West, Central African Mass Polio Vaccination Campaign

Instability and insecurity in some West and Central African nations are threatening the success of a 20-country polio vaccination campaign, which aims to immunize 111.1 million children against the disease, IRIN reports. Ongoing insurgent attacks threaten the campaign in Nigeria, the region’s only polio-endemic country and home to 57.7 million of the children targeted, the news service notes. Parts of Mali, Niger, and Chad also pose security problems for health care workers trying to access children in remote or disputed areas, according to IRIN. “Human error and weak health systems also play an important role in sub-optimal immunization reach,” the news service writes, noting so far, “only Ghana, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Gambia, and Togo have achieved the required 90 percent coverage, according to UNICEF” (3/23).

Al Jazeera Examines Global Maternal Mortality

Al Jazeera examines maternal mortality worldwide, saying, “If the situation continues at its current rate, the world will not meet” the U.N. Millennium Development Goal “to reduce maternal mortality by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015.” Though the estimated number of women who die of maternal mortality has dropped from 546,000 in 1990 to 340,000 today, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying during or following pregnancy in developing countries “is still high at one in 31,” compared with one in 4,300 in developed countries, the news agency reports. “Attaining zero maternal death would require greater community involvement and commitment” and increased access to contraceptives and skilled birth attendants, according to experts, Al Jazeera notes (Arjunpuri, 3/19).

Zimbabwe’s Plan To Conduct Household HIV Testing Raises Concerns Among Some Advocates

PlusNews examines the challenges and concerns surrounding Zimbabwe’s plan to conduct a door-to-door HIV testing campaign, which has not yet begun but “is already being met with skepticism by activists who feel this is not a priority for the country, especially with global HIV/AIDS funding on the decline.” National AIDS officials say the country’s “AIDS levy — a three percent tax on income — has become a promising source of funding”; in 2010, $20.5 million was collected, with most of that going to purchase antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), PlusNews notes. Of the estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV in Zimbabwe, 347,000 access ARVs through a national program, and another 600,000 people “urgently” need them, according to the news service.

Kenyan Nurses End 2-Week Strike; Kenyan PM Odinga Revokes Mass Dismissal

“Tens of thousands of Kenyan nurses agreed Wednesday to end a two-week strike after talks with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who revoked their mass dismissal during the standoff,” Agence France-Presse reports. “‘The meeting agreed that the ongoing health workers strike should be called off immediately and all the officers return to work unconditionally,’ a statement from Odinga’s office said,” the news service notes. “The nurses stopped work on March 1 to protest the government’s failure to raise wages as agreed last year, when they also demanded improved services in Kenya’s mostly ill-equipped public hospitals,” the news service writes, adding, “The strike has crippled hospitals, with patients sometimes being sent home untreated, [with] others languishing in wards unattended” (3/14).

Cote d’Ivoire Working To Rebuild Health Care System Under New Presidential Administration

“Ten months after the West African country [of Cote d’Ivoire] started to emerge from a presidential election crisis during which almost all hospitals and clinics had to shut down for a good six months because they had been vandalized, looted and occupied, the new government under President Alassane Ouattara is trying to make public health care a priority,” including implementing “[a] new national health regulation, which came into effect on Mar. 1, that offers free health services to pregnant women, children under five years and people suffering from malaria,” Inter Press Service reports. “But in a country recovering from 12 years of political instability since a military coup in December 1999 that was followed by 10 years of [former President Laurent] Gbagbo’s autocratic rule, rebuilding a crumbling public health care system takes time,” IPS writes, adding, “Hospitals have been suffering from lack of skilled staff, basic equipment and technology for years.”

Poor Hospital Care In Developing Countries Puts Patients’ Lives At Risk, Study Suggests

“Poor hospital care poses a risk to the lives of many patients in the developing world,” according to a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Tuesday, BBC News reports (McGrath, 3/13). For the study, which was supported by the WHO, researchers from the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation “looked at patients from 26 hospitals altogether across eight countries” — Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, Sudan, South Africa and Yemen — and “found that harm to patients caused by their health care rather than their disease is a major public health problem and consistent with previous reports from the developed world,” according to a BMJ press release.

Foreign HCWs Make Decisions To Emigrate Based On Information

Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), addresses a recent New York Times article on “medical brain drain” in this CGD “Global Development: Views From The Center” blog post, saying the article’s approval of “a horrific proposal to put recruiters of health workers on trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity … is breathtakingly misguided.” He continues, “Recruiters do not ‘steal’ people. They give information to people about jobs those people are qualified for. The professional ambitions of those people have equal value to yours and mine, and those ambitions cannot be realized without information.” Clemens says “coercively blocking the unconditional right of a health worker to emigrate — such as by declaring her to be owned by a government and prosecuting her recruiter at The Hague — is a crime against humanity,” and cites several other articles he has written on the subject (3/12).