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Six Reasons Why Obama’s Proposal To Cut PEPFAR Funding Should Be Rejected By Congress

In this post in The Hill’s “Congress Blog,” Chris Collins, vice president and director of public policy for amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, responds to a recently released analysis of adult mortality rates in African countries, which “found that between 2004 and 2008, in those nations where the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was most active, the odds of death were about 20 percent lower than in other countries in the region.” He writes, “It was one more piece in the growing collection of evidence that PEPFAR has been a tremendously successful program, advancing U.S. humanitarian and diplomatic priorities and saving millions of lives.” Collins continues, “That is why the proposal in President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget to cut bi-lateral HIV programming through PEPFAR by nearly $550 million, or 11 percent, has stunned so many on Capitol Hill and in the global health community.”

Smartphones Cheaper, More Effective Than Paper Surveys For Disease Monitoring, Study Suggests

“Using smartphones is cheaper and more effective than using paper surveys to monitor diseases in the developing world, according to a new study by Kenyan researchers with the [CDC] … presented Monday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta,” the International Business Times reports. “The study compared 1,019 paper-based questionnaires to 1,019 smartphone questionnaires collected at four sample sites for influenza surveillance in Kenya,” the news service notes (3/12).

Kenya, Tanzania Face Ongoing Health Worker Strikes

About 2,000 Kenyan health workers attended a demonstration outside the Ministry of Health on Friday, the Associated Press/Seattle Times reports, noting, “Some 40,000 health workers nationwide went on strike on March 1 to protest low pay and poor working conditions.” According to the news service, “[t]he government announced Thursday that it fired 25,000 workers who defied an order to return to work” (3/9). “Anyang Nyong’o, minister for medical services, said on Thursday that the sacked workers would be required to re-apply if they are to be considered for reappointment,” MWC News notes (3/9).

Global Fund Donors ‘Earmark’ Funds For Capacity-Building, Fund’s General Manager Says

Gabriel Jaramillo, the general manager of the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said in an interview on Friday that “quite a few donors” to the fund “have earmarked portions of their donations to us, their contributions, to capacity-building,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. According to the AP, the Global Fund “is increasingly being forced to devote a portion of its donations to improving its own spending controls rather than disease-fighting,” the news service writes. “France, whose nearly $2.9 billion in donations have made it the fund’s second-largest contributor after the U.S., will sign a new pledging agreement this month requiring that five percent of its money go to tighten financial accountability among grant recipients, he said,” the AP writes.

FAO Calls For Nearly $70M In Additional Aid For Sahel Households Threatened By Drought

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “on Friday appealed for an extra $69.8 million to aid 790,000 vulnerable households in the drought-hit Sahel region in West Africa,” Agence France-Presse/Vanguard reports (3/10). “In a news release, the [FAO] said that at least 15 million people are estimated to be at risk of food insecurity in countries in the Sahel, including 5.4 million people in Niger, three million in Mali, 1.7 million in Burkina Faso and 3.6 million in Chad, as well as hundreds of thousands in Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania,” the U.N. News Centre writes (3/9). FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, “We need to act to prevent further deterioration of the food security situation and to avoid a full-scale food and nutrition crisis,” according to AFP (3/10).

ScienceInsider Reports On Lancet Letters Regarding CDC Center For Global Health

In a letter (.pdf) published Wednesday in the Lancet, officials from the CDC refute “point by point” three letters previously published in the journal that were critical of the agency’s Center for Global Health, ScienceInsider reports. Lancet Editor Richard Horton on February 11 “published criticisms of the institution’s Center for Global Health that he received from an anonymous letter writer” and then “ran complaints made by two more unnamed critics of the CDC center on March 3,” the news service states, adding, “As Horton noted, the letters ‘raise questions about leadership, management of resources, proper use of the CDC’s authority and power, and the scientific rigor of CDC research.'”

U.S. Officials Pledge Continuing Support For Solutions To Hunger In Africa; Oxfam Calls For Action Against Emerging Hunger In Sahel

“U.S. officials pledged Thursday to work for permanent solutions to ease hunger in the Horn of Africa, warning that Somalia remained a major crisis even though its famine is officially over,” Agence France-Presse reports. Testifying before a congressional commission on human rights, Nancy Lindborg, USAID assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, “said that the United States and other major donors would meet in Kenya in late March to support longer-term Horn of Africa plans,” according to the news agency. She added, “We cannot afford to let people slide into crisis every couple of years and respond with massive humanitarian assistance,” AFP reports. According to Lindborg, the U.S. “provided $935 million during the crisis, ensuring direct food assistance to 4.6 million people and emergency health care for nearly one million more,” the news agency notes (3/8).

GHI, Uganda Working Together To Improve Maternal, Child Health Outcomes

A feature article in the Ugandan Observer examines a recent agreement signed by the U.S. and Ugandan governments “to drum up more support for maternal and reproductive health in Uganda.” U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI) Executive Director Lois Quam spoke at the signing, saying, “Investment in health in Uganda is one of the largest we make anywhere else in the world. Government must do more. They must put in more resources. Too many mothers die because they are giving birth to too many children. Far too many women lose their lives,” according to the Observer.

Former British PM Gordon Brown Publishes Report Examining Child Marriage, Proposes ‘Global Fund For Education’

“Child marriage is a one-way ticket to a life of poverty, illiteracy and powerlessness for girls and the international community needs to take urgent action to stop it,” according to an analysis (.pdf) published Friday by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Guardian reports. “Brown’s review, seen exclusively by the Guardian, says that the issue of child brides has been ‘conspicuous by its absence’ in the efforts to cut global poverty, bring down child and maternal death rates and get children into school, which are stated Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015,” the newspaper notes.

Odds Of Adult Mortality Lower In PEPFAR Focus Countries Compared With Non-Focus Countries, Study Shows

“In an attempt to assess the impact of U.S. international assistance for AIDS, researchers from Stanford University carried out a review of the relationship between U.S. support provided through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and adult mortality in PEPFAR focus countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and whether there were differences in outcome between these countries and other African countries which did not receive PEPFAR support,” NAM’s Aidsmap reports (Alcorn, 3/8). Presenting the results at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle on Wednesday, Eran Bendavid said “[s]tatistical analysis found that adults living in focus countries between 2004 and 2008 had about a 20 percent lower odds of mortality compared to adults in non-focus countries,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” writes, adding, “Evidence for unintended health effects with respect to adult mortality is inconclusive, Bendavid said, but the likelihood of PEPFAR interventions eliciting unintended harms is low” (Mazzotta, 3/7).