“After more than a century as a global scourge and hundreds of thousands lives lost, polio may now be on the verge of being the second human disease wiped off the face of the Earth,” Charles Kenny, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, writes in his column for ForeignPolicy.com, “The Optimist,” and asks whether it is worth it to spend billions of dollars to wipe out the few remaining cases of the disease. Kenny discusses the cost-effectiveness of eradication efforts and writes, “In part because of the considerably greater complexity of the vaccination program, the cost of the polio eradication program is mounting.”
Programs, Funding & Financing
In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Victoria Fan, a research fellow at CGD, and Rachel Silverman, a research assistant at the center, respond to India’s marking of one-year since a case of polio was found in the country, writing, “While we applaud India for its commitment to reaching this milestone, let us not allow this recent success obscure the sorry state of vaccination in India.” They provide statistics regarding vaccination coverage in India and conclude, “We wonder whether India’s focus on polio may have come at the expense of other diseases,” and, “[w]hile India should be applauded for its contribution to global eradication, we urge India to consider the trade-offs in focusing on any one disease at the expense of another and, as much as possible, to try to piggy-back one effort to another effort” (1/14).
Mark Bowden, the U.N.’s official in Somalia, on Sunday said “tens of thousands of people will have died over the last year” in the country’s famine, adding that the rates of malnutrition are “amazingly high,” BBC News reports. “He said a quarter of a million Somalis were still suffering from the famine,” and he “said malnutrition rates have begun to drop but the crisis was likely to continue for the next six or seven months,” the news service notes (1/15).
The expected re-appointment of Margaret Chan as the WHO’s director-general “comes at a perilous moment for WHO,” a Lancet editorial states. Although “WHO is in crisis” and “[r]escue is needed,” the situation is not “a fair reflection of the director-general’s performance,” the editorial adds, noting several successes of her first term, including initiatives on women’s and children’s health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
A Congressional delegation traveling in Africa visited Arusha, Tanzania, on Wednesday “to see first-hand the impact of development projects” funded by the U.S., IPP Media reports, noting that the delegation included Senators Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), John Thune (R-S.D.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.). The delegation met with farmers who have used drought- and disease-resistant maize varieties, as well as “visited Ngarenaro Health Centre in Arusha, which receives support from private and U.S. government organizations,” including USAID, the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), and PEPFAR, the news service writes. According to a press statement, “the delegation also visited Ghana and South Africa, and would meet with the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) officials in Stuttgart, Germany, following their trip to Africa,” IPP notes (1/14).
Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, on Monday “urged Ukraine to step up its efforts to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” calling “on the Ukrainian authorities to expand opiate substitution therapy, ensure HIV/AIDS treatment in prison and increase government funding of anti-AIDS programs,” the Associated Press reports. “‘This is the region of the world — the only region of the world — where the AIDS epidemic is still growing,’ Kazatchkine told reporters in Kiev, adding that other countries have managed to stabilize their epidemics,” the news service writes. “The United Nations says Ukraine has Europe’s worst AIDS epidemic, with 1.3 percent of the population above [age] 15 infected with HIV,” according to the AP (1/16).
GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports on a roundtable held on Thursday and organized by the Ministerial Leadership Initiative for Global Health (MLI) — a “five-year project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation” — at which “U.S. officials, developing country leaders, and heads of non-governmental organizations that do tens of millions of dollars of work in health around the world” discussed country ownership with respect to development aid. According to the blog, “several senior U.S. officials said they were committed to building up country ownership, along with systems that closely monitor spending” (Donnelly, 1/13).
Bloomberg examines the effects of the global financial crisis and a resulting stall in development aid for global health programs, writing, “Governments struggling to curb deficits from Spain to the U.S. have cut or slowed the growth of their contributions to the World Health Organization and disease-fighting funds that prop up health services in the world’s poorest countries, according to a report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a research unit at the University of Washington in Seattle.”
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “administered polio vaccination drops to children in New Delhi on Friday as India marked one year since its last case of the crippling disease,” the Associated Press reports (1/13). The Hill’s “Healthwatch” reports that “[o]fficials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] say U.S. funding and experience were key to beating back the disease,” but “[t]he news comes as federal funding for global health programs now faces sharp cuts from Tea Party lawmakers and others worried about the deficit” (Pecquet, 1/12). “ÂGlobally, the U.S. government has provided $2 billion for the polio eradication campaign, Rotary International has raised about $1 billion from its members, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated more than $1 billion,” and the CDC “weighed in with crucial expertise,” the Washington Post writes (Denyer, 1/12).
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah on Thursday appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation to discuss rebuilding efforts in Haiti two years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed much of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Shah said, “[O]ver the last two years, we’ve seen real signs of hope. A number of things have worked. Partners and the Haitian government and Haitian leaders have done things differently so that today, … more people have access to clean water and safe sanitation in Port-au-Prince than the day before the earthquake,” according to the transcript.