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Cities, Leaders Worldwide Mark World Health Day

Cities throughout the world are marking World Health Day today by promoting urban health, as part of the WHO’s “1,000 cities, 1,000 lives” campaign, CNN reports (Shaikh, 4/7).

ICRC Will Nearly Triple Aid To Combat Food Shortages, Drought In Niger And Mali

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced Tuesday that it plans to increase aid to Niger and Mali, “where several million people are suffering from serious food shortages triggered by drought,” SAPA/News24 reports. “The ICRC’s additional 23 million Swiss franc ($22m) programme nearly triples the Geneva-based agency’s existing 13 million franc relief aid earmarked for the two poverty-stricken countries this year,” according to the news service.

The aid will target 100,000 people in northern Mali and northwestern Niger “where food shortages are aggravated by sporadic communal violence, [ICRC] spokesperson Marcal Izard said” (4/6).

“The ICRC will distribute food rations over the next eight months, monthly food rations for about 85,000 people,” Izard said, VOA News reports. “Plus it will distribute seeds and tools and will also help with training for around 40,000 farmers,” he added. “Government statistics indicate more than 250,000 people in northern Mali are short of food. And, in Niger, the government estimates more than half of the entire country’s population, or eight million people, is suffering from moderate to severe food insecurity,” the news service writes (Schlein, 4/6).

Nicolai Panke, head of ICRC operations in Mali and Niger, said that rainfall last year was “irregular and approximately 70 percent below the annual average.” He said, “Because of the weather conditions and the difficulty of moving about amid the violence, the harvest was poor and people have been running out of food while cattle don’t have enough pasture.”

ICRC plans to provide food and farming supplies to address the situation. It will also buy “cattle at pre-crisis prices from 45,000 nomadic herders to cut down herds and distribute meat locally,” SAPA/News24 writes (4/6).

Meanwhile, Niger’s military government said that children have not been attending schools in the country’s southern Zinger region because families have had to go closer to the capital and search for food, VOA News reports in another story.

“Zinder is one of the areas hardest hit by poor rains in a country where more than half the families are food insecure,” writes the news service. “We have children in a bad situation living in bad conditions and lacking everything, meaning health care and food and attention and now education,” according to Anne Boher, who works for UNICEF in Niger. “Food insecurity at the moment is affecting one person out of two here in Niger. Twenty percent of the population are children under five, so you can imagine the impact on children.”

At least 200,000 children in Niger have severe acute malnutrition, which requires hospital treatment, according to UNICEF. “The government says more than 45,000 cases were recorded by the middle of last month. That is double last year’s figure.” Boher said, “The impact on children will be terrifying if we can not provide to these people the adequate food, but also treatment and health care” (Stearns, 4/6).

IPS Examines Malnutrition, Obesity In Latin America

Inter Press Service examines malnutrition and factors contributing to the rising rates of “obesity and obesity-related illness – such as type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, some forms of cancer and osteoporosis – in Latin America, and especially among the poorest sectors of the population.”

Urbanization, Health Tackled On World Health Day

Several media outlets examine the health risks associated with rapid urbanization around the world – the theme of this year’s World Health Day, to be marked on Wednesday.

Toronto Star Examines Cost Of Fighting Maternal Mortality, Canada’s G8 Initiative

Experts say that fighting maternal mortality will cost the world a total of $24 billion annually, or an additional $12 billion per year, the Toronto Star writes in an article about Canada’s G8 maternal and child health initiative and a maternal health conference that is being planned ahead of the G8 meeting.

Foreign Minister Says Canada’s G8 Maternal, Child Health Plan Will Not Include Abortion

At this summer’s G8 meeting, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will move forward with his “‘signature initiative’ on maternal and children’s health, despite disagreements with the United States and Britain over funding for abortion in the developing world, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon says,” the Globe and Mail reports (McCarthy, 4/4).

Recent Releases In Global Health

Community Groups Offer Cost-Effective Mechanism For Reducing Maternal Mortality “Achieving the [Millennium Development Goal] MDG 4 target of reducing newborn and child mortality will require concerted efforts to scale up evidence-based interventions, especially community-based preventive and therapeutic strategies in primary care,” according to a Lancet comment that reflects on the challenges associated…

U.N. Releases Report On Poverty In Afghanistan

A new U.N. report (.pdf) finds that “the majority of Afghans live in dire poverty, despite an estimated $35 billion in aid being poured into the country between 2002 to 2009,” the Associated Press reports.

Family Planning, Access To Safe, Legal Abortion Key To Maternal, Child Health, U.S. Sec. Of State Says

Following a two-day meeting of foreign ministers from G8 countries in Quebec on Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “appeared at odds… with [Canadian] Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s G8 initiative on maternal and child health, saying family planning, contraception and access to legal, safe abortions were vital elements of maternal health care,” Canwest News Service/Ottawa Citizen report (O’Neill, 3/31).