“Two new task forces being [established] by U.S. Africa Command [Africom] have set their sights on one of the biggest killers on the continent: the mosquito,” the American Forces Press Service reports in an article on the U.S. Department of Defense webpage. “Ninety percent of the world’s malaria-related deaths are reported in Africa, and the disease kills some 600,000 African children each year,” the news service notes, adding, “Africom incorporates malaria prevention into much of its theater engagement, distributing mosquito nets and teaching new diagnostic techniques during training events throughout Africa.”
National Security and Bioterrorism
“A Pakistani militant group threatened action on Saturday against anyone conducting polio vaccinations in the region where it is based, saying the health care drive was a cover for U.S. spies,” Reuters reports, adding, “The group, based in North Waziristan and led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, said it had banned vaccinations for as long as U.S. drone aircraft continued to make missile strikes in Pakistan” (Mujtaba, 6/16). “The statement by Hafiz Gul Bahadur is an obstacle to efforts to beat polio in Pakistan, one of only three nations where the virus is endemic,” the Associated Press writes (6/17).
U.S. Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan on Thursday “hosted a roundtable discussion with World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan and senior officials from across the U.S. Government,” during which “[p]articipants discussed the steps needed to advance key elements of a U.S. Government-WHO memorandum of understanding on global health security, signed last year on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly,” the White House Blog reports. The “meeting reflects our deepening commitment to build relationships across sectors and with other nations in recognition that the response to health threats must be global,” the blog writes, adding, “The Obama Administration sees yesterday’s meeting as an important step towards protecting the health of the American people as well as people around the world against potential public health emergencies” (6/15).
The New York Times examines several studies published in the journals Nature and Science looking at how the H5N1 bird flu virus could mutate to become more virulent among humans and outlines the history of controversy surrounding the studies. “While scientists have offered two possible ways in which H5N1 might become a human flu, they’re almost certainly not the only two,” the newspaper writes, adding, “There is no checklist of mutations that any bird flu must acquire to start infecting humans.” According to the newspaper, “Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hopes scientists will be able to amass a longer list of potential mutations, and even find a common denominator in how they alter H5N1,” which might make it “possible to monitor emerging strains for signs that they are about to cross over into humans” (Zimmer, 6/25).
In an article on the U.S. Department of Defense webpage, the American Forces Press Service reports on the first U.S. National Strategy for Biosurveillance, issued by the White House “to quickly detect a range of global health and security hazards.” According to the article, “the Defense Department has a running start in implementing the new plan, a senior defense official said,” and “many of the activities described in the strategy are ongoing at DOD.” “So much of what we’re doing is integrating the efforts and working hard on the overlap between global security and global health, in what [President Barack Obama] refers to as global health security,” said Andrew Weber, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, the news service writes (Pellerin, 8/22).
“More than 435,000 people have been displaced in Mali, as the country faces a complex humanitarian emergency due to conflict and food insecurity, according to a new report released by the United Nations relief agency,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/16). “The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report nearly 262,000 displaced persons have registered as refugees in neighboring countries, including Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria, while another 174,000 are internally displaced in the northern towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal,” according to United Press International (8/16). “The World Food Programme (WFP) says there are 4.6 million people at risk of hunger in Mali,” Examiner.com notes (Lambers, 8/18).
“As researchers from both sides of the debate over two controversial H5N1 studies weighed in [Tuesday] on full publication versus a more cautionary approach, two U.S. journals” — the Journal of Infectious Diseases (JID) and its sister publication, Clinical Infectious Diseases — “said they are developing policies to address any future such instances,” CIDRAP News writes. “We are developing policies that address these issues on a case-by-case basis, so that freedom of scientific expression can be maintained without sacrificing individual safety or national security,” JID Editor Martin Hirsch wrote in an editorial, the news service notes, adding, “He also introduced three new JID perspective pieces that discuss the difficult issues” (Schnirring, 3/28).
U.S. intelligence agencies released a report (.pdf) on Thursday warning that “[d]rought, floods and a lack of fresh water may cause significant global instability and conflict in the coming decades, as developing countries scramble to meet demand from exploding populations while dealing with the effects of climate change,” the Associated Press reports (Lee, 3/22). “The Intelligence Community Assessment report says the water challenges will increase regional tensions and distract countries from working with the U.S. on important issues,” VOA News writes, noting, “The report’s purpose was to assess the impact of global water issues on U.S. security interests over the next 30 years” (3/22).
Speaking at State Department headquarters in recognition of World Water Day on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “announced a new partnership of organizations to apply the nation’s abundant experience in water issues to solving global water challenges,” according to IIP Digital. “The partnership will bring together more than 30 agencies, institutions and advocacy organizations with diverse experience and knowledge of water issues,” the news service writes (Porter, 3/22). The U.S. Water Partnership will “creat[e] a platform for fostering new partnerships among the U.S.-based private sector and the non-profit, academic, scientific, and expert communities” and “will mobilize the ‘Best-of-America’ to provide safe drinking water and sanitation and improve water resources management worldwide,” according to a State Department press release (3/22). “Something as simple as better access to water and sanitation can improve the quality of life and reduce the disease burden for billions of people,” Clinton said, VOA News notes (3/22).
Ukraine Security Secretary Says HIV, TB Remain Threat To Nation’s Security, Encourages Cooperation With Global Fund
Speaking about two bills concerning Ukraine’s cooperation with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Ukraine Secretary of National Security and Defense Council Andriy Kliuyev said “[t]he epidemics of AIDS and tuberculosis [TB] remain a threat to national security in Ukraine and require redoubled efforts to treat and prevent these diseases,” Interfax reports. Submitted to Ukraine’s parliament by the Cabinet of Ministers, the two bills “propos[e] to exempt from taxes and duties all transactions connected with the use of grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Ukraine,” the news agency notes. “The NSDC secretary said the state should explore every avenue to minimize the sickness rate and create conditions for the treatment and prevention of dangerous diseases, adding that the grants of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are valuable support for Ukraine,” Interfax writes (3/3).