The Wall Street Journal examines how “Greece has seen decades of advances in public health rolled back, as a flood of illegal immigrants, a dysfunctional government and budget cuts ravage a once proud health-care system.” Noting “[o]ver the past two years, more than 50 endemic cases of [malaria] and more than 100 imported cases have been identified in Greece,” the newspaper writes, “The return of malaria, a scourge in developing countries, to Greece is a disturbing indicator of the nation’s decline since it crashed in 2009 under the weight of a debt binge.” The Wall Street Journal examines the history of malaria’s return to the country and how the government is responding. “In addition to malaria, public health officials say they are worried about rises in everything from infectious respiratory-tract diseases and skin conditions to tuberculosis and HIV,” the newspaper notes (Granitsas, 11/14).
Programs, Funding & Financing
The U.S. government, and in particular U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby, the head of PEPFAR, “have a unique opportunity to make [the program’s] money stretch farther and do more good, at very little cost to U.S. taxpayers: release the reams of data that PEPFAR and its contractors have already collected, at substantial cost — perhaps as much as $500 million each year,” Mead Over, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), writes in the Center’s “Global Health Policy” blog. “This would be a first step in what I hope will be [a] 2013 drive to improve the efficiency, the quality and the accountability of the U.S.’s most frequently praised foreign assistance program,” he states. Over goes on to describe the Data Working Group and its recommendations to PEPFAR (11/13).
Noting that an estimated $2 billion was spent on the U.S. presidential campaigns, Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, writes in the Huffington Post “Healthy Living” blog, “Many of us in the global health community can only look upon that $2 billion figure in awe because of the potential for those dollars to be repurposed to immediately and dramatically improve the lives of the poorest people who suffer from disease.” Hotez says neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) “are the most pervasive and common infections of the world’s poorest people” and “not only impair health but actually trap people in poverty.” He says the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases can provide pharmaceutical “rapid impact packages” that “can control or even eliminate many of these diseases as public health problems … for as little as 50 cents per person per year, making NTD treatments one of the world’s most cost-effective public health interventions.”
The Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria began as a pilot program in 2010 to “provide a ‘co-payment’ to the manufacturers of [artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs)], thereby allowing commercial wholesalers and private or government health services to purchase the drugs at a fraction of the already low negotiated price,” Kenneth Arrow, a Nobel laureate in economic sciences in 1972 and an emeritus professor of economics at Stanford University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. The program subsidized ACTs — a newer, more effective malaria treatment — to “sell [them] as cheaply as [less-effective] chloroquine in Africa’s private pharmacies and shops, where half of all patients first seek treatment for malaria-like fevers,” he states. “Strikingly, it has worked,” Arrow writes, noting a recent independent review of the program published in the Lancet.
Joint U.N. Assessment Finds Better Harvests In DPR Korea But Warns Undernutrition Persists Among 2.8M Vulnerable People
“There has been an increase in staple food production in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for the second year running, but undernutrition persists for nearly three million people, according to a new United Nations assessment released” Monday, the U.N. News Centre reports. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme’s (WFP) joint Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission “found that overall production for the main 2012 harvest and 2013 early season crops is expected to be 5.8 million metric tons, an improvement of 10 percent over last year,” the news service writes (11/12). “This, however, should not mask an ongoing struggle with undernutrition and a lack of vital protein and fat in the diet, especially for an estimated 2.8 million vulnerable people,” an FAO/WFP joint press release states (11/12). “DPR Korea still needs international help,” Kisan Gunjal, FAO economist and mission co-leader, said in a statement, adding, “The new harvest figures are good news, but the lack of proteins and fats in the diet is alarming,” Reuters writes (11/12).
Noting “[t]he WHO has estimated that there is a global shortage of more than four million trained health care workers,” Robert Bollinger, professor of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, writes in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, “It is very clear that new and innovative strategies are needed to train the large number of health professionals needed for Africa, Asia, and Latin America.” He continues, “It is also clear that these strategies must ensure that the quality of training is excellent and that there are new efforts to support the long-term training of graduates in their own communities, to reduce brain drain, and to ensure that the communities they serve benefit from more and better trained health care providers.”
Singer Bono To Meet With Congressional, Obama Administration Officials To Urge Maintenance Of Development Aid
U2 lead singer and anti-poverty activist Bono is in Washington, D.C., this week to meet with congressional lawmakers and senior Obama administration officials and urge them “to spare U.S. development assistance programs from cuts as Congress tries to avert the looming ‘fiscal cliff’ of tax hikes and spending reductions early next year,” Reuters reports. Kathy McKiernan, a spokesperson for the ONE Campaign, said Bono “will stress the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance programs and the need to preserve them to avoid putting at risk progress made in fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria,” according to the news service. On Monday, Bono participated in a panel discussion at Georgetown University, where he discussed the importance of social movements, and he is scheduled to meet with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Wednesday for a webcast discussion on poverty eradication, Reuters notes (Wroughton, 11/12). A webcast of the Georgetown presentation is available online (11/12).
“Private philanthropists in the European Union and the U.S. spent some $644 million on global HIV/AIDS programs in 2011, a five percent increase from 2010, largely driven by funding from a small number of large donors, a new report [.pdf] has revealed,” IRIN reports. “In their annual report, two groups — the U.S.-based Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) and the European HIV/AIDS Funders Group (EFG) — reported that U.S. funders spent $491 million in 2011 while E.U. funders spent $170 million,” the news service writes (11/9). The report notes in a footnote that “$17.4 million was deducted from the combined total to avoid double-counting of grants that were given between U.S. and European-based funders and re-granted in 2011” (November 2012).
Recent successes in increasing the treatment and decreasing the incidence of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria, along with other global health advances, “is thanks to the hard work and cooperation of people from many different walks of life: politicians of all stripes, business leaders, grassroots activists, clergy, health workers, government agencies and many more,” Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, writes in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog. She says the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has been “[c]entral” to these developments, and the “U.S. government has been a crucial leader in supporting international health and the Global Fund.” She adds, “Sustained commitment will ensure more lifesaving success.” Derrick also recognizes the work of doctors and businesses.
The BMJ examines the history of fraud allegations against the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the organization’s ongoing reform efforts. “Most observers agree that after a honeymoon first decade, the Global Fund had grown so big, and the economic climate and attitudes to diseases such as AIDS have changed so dramatically, that more rigor and efficiency was needed, fraud or no fraud,” BMJ writes. The Fund is expected to appoint a new director “and a new funding model, to be announced on November 15, [which] are supposed to get things back on track” (Arie, 11/12).