Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine this week are hosting a conference in New York, titled “Lives in the Balance: Delivering Medical Innovations for Neglected Patients and Populations,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. In a video presentation, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim “told the conference … that the goal is to ‘lay the foundation of a health science that works for the poor,'” according to the newspaper. “That means innovative research on diseases and delivery systems geared to people in developing nations, not the more affluent ones, greater sharing of ideas, and support for developing nations so they can assist in the process from beginning to end,” the newspaper writes (Sell, 12/14).
Private Sector Involvement
The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” examines efforts to prevent and treat cervical cancer in sub-Saharan Africa, where “cervical cancer kills large numbers of women, many of whom are never diagnosed because local hospitals do not recognize the disease until it is too late.” However, “[a] very simple and cheap form of screening has begun to be introduced — and now there is the possibility of a vaccination program against the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes most cervical cancers,” the blog writes, noting a recent announcement by the GAVI Alliance that it plans to fund HPV immunization programs in several countries. According to the blog, “15 countries [are] asking to be considered,” and “Uganda and Rwanda have already been approved, although some ‘clarifications’ are required from the governments on how their programs will run.” The blog continues, “No one believes it will be easy to introduce the HPV vaccination in Africa, and there may be problems,” including issues with efficacy and cost (Boseley, 12/14).
Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, writes in a Guardian opinion piece, “In order to support investment in agriculture, governments have … come to rely on private sector investment and development aid — and increasingly a partnership of the two,” and he notes “[t]he New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, proposed by [U.S. President] Barack Obama and the U.S. Agency for International Development and launched in May 2012, will draw more than $3 billion of private sector investment into food security plans in Africa.” He continues, “One potential danger of development aid, and particularly of private-led projects, is that the goals of poverty reduction and rural development can be relegated below the goal of raising food production.”
“Canada’s foreign aid agency will work with Grand Challenges Canada in a bid to bring ideas for health innovation to the developing world, International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino says,” the Globe and Mail reports. “Fantino announced the partnership with the federally funded group Tuesday morning as he opened a multi-day Grand Challenges Canada meeting in Ottawa,” the newspaper notes, adding, “Fantino used his opening speech to tout Canada’s contribution to maternal and child health through its landmark Muskoka Initiative and call for new ideas that can help increase maternal and child survival.”
“Each year, the United States spends more than $1.5 billion feeding starving people overseas,” columnist Farah Stockman writes in a Boston Globe opinion piece. “But our charity comes with a catch: The food has to be bought in America, and much of it must be shipped on American ships,” she continues, adding, “Researchers estimate that buying food closer to where needy people are costs about half as much.” She continues, “We are the last donor country in the world to have these rules,” and writes, “At a time of budget cuts, you would think that one thing Republicans and Democrats could agree on would be making sure every tax dollar stretches as far as it can.” Stockman asks, “Why don’t we just change it?”
Vaccines “save lives by protecting people against disease,” but they “also are an engine for economic growth — far beyond their health benefits,” GAVI Alliance CEO Seth Berkley writes in a CNN opinion piece. GAVI and its “many partners, including prominent companies,” “recognize that in addition to the humanitarian need, countries such as Tanzania are emerging markets that can fulfill their economic ambitions only if they also can ensure good health for their citizens,” he states. Berkley describes efforts to increase vaccination rates in Tanzania, and he writes, “[W]e know for a fact that vaccines — in addition to saving lives and improving health — are the cornerstone of a vibrant economy, fuel growth and serve as a magnet for foreign investment. Indeed, research has shown vaccines to be among the most cost-effective investments in global development.”
“British mobile phone group Vodafone and drug maker GlaxoSmithKline are joining forces on a novel project to increase childhood vaccination rates in Mozambique using text messaging,” Reuters reports. With the aim of increasing the proportion of children covered by vaccination by five to 10 percent, a one-year pilot project supported by Save the Children “will register mothers on a ministry of health database, alert them to the availability of vaccinations and allow them to schedule appointments by text,” the news agency notes. In addition, a three-year partnership between Vodafone and the GAVI Alliance, supported by the British government, will “study how health ministries across sub-Saharan Africa can use mobile technology to improve their immunization programs,” Reuters notes, adding, “Britain will match Vodafone’s contribution of technology and services with a $1.5 million cash contribution to GAVI” (12/10).
“In an effort to fight the human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer, more than 30 million girls will be immunized against HPV by 2020 with GAVI support, the global health alliance announced on Thursday,” Xinhua/Global Times reports. “Rwanda and Uganda have been conducting HPV pilot projects through donations from vaccine manufacturers and are expected to roll out the vaccine nationwide with GAVI support in 2014,” the news service writes, adding, “By 2015, GAVI plans to immunize approximately one million girls with HPV vaccines and a large number of other countries are expected to run HPV pilot projects, and by 2020, more than 30 million girls will be immunized against HPV, [GAVI Alliance CEO Seth] Berkley said” (12/7).
New Public-Private Partnership Will Allow Brazil To Produce Patented ARV For National Treatment Program
For the first time, Brazil in 2013 will enter into a new type of public-private partnership that allows the nation to produce a generic version of the antiretroviral (ARV) drug atazanavir sulphate, which will be under patent through its producer Bristol-Myers Squibb until 2017, Inter Press Service reports. Under the “productive development partnership,” Farmanguinhos, “a technical-scientific unit of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) and the Health Ministry’s largest pharmaceutical laboratory,” will make the drug, one of 20 ARVs the government distributes at a cost of about $425 million annually, according to the news service.
UNFPA and mobile phone company Nokia announced this week that the “company will donate the equivalent of 3,000 clean delivery kits to the fund,” according to an UNFPA press release. “The kits, designed and distributed by UNFPA, help ensure safe delivery of babies in humanitarian settings,” and are being provided as a result of the fund’s social media campaign “Safe Birth. Even Here.,” the press release states, adding, “The campaign, which reports on and tracks safe deliveries in refugee camps and emergencies around the globe, is active on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, and aims to raise awareness about maternal health and the challenges faced by expectant mothers in crisis settings” (12/4).