In this Guardian opinion piece, Lisa Shannon, founder of A Thousand Sisters, Run for Congo Women, and co-founder of Sister Somalia, examines how, in the context of famine, sexual violence in the Horn of Africa, and particularly in Somalia, “is being de-prioritized as primarily a psychosocial issue,” and asserts that grassroots international organizations offer a solution “outside the traditional big-aid model.”
Programs, Funding & Financing
“U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Gration has advised Kenya to seek new sources of money to finance health programs,” Kenya’s the Star reports, adding, “Gration said projects initiated by donors will only be sustainable if the Kenyan government takes over.” According to the newspaper, Gration made the comments after launching a campaign called “Let’s Live,” which will focus on maternal and infant mortality, HIV/AIDS, non-communicable diseases and child health “to reduce preventable deaths in Kenya by 50 percent by December 2012.”
“Kenyans marked the World Mental Health Day Monday with a pledge to increase public investments in the treatment of mental illnesses, which affects at least 10 million people in the East African nation,” Afrique en ligne reports, adding, “Kenya’s Medical Services Minister Anyang Nyong’o said estimates show that at least one in every four Kenyans suffer from one form of mental-health related ailment.”
WHO Says Global TB Cases Decline For First Time Ever But Warns Funding Gap, Resistant Strains Put Progress At Risk
New data published in the WHO’s 2011 Global Tuberculosis Control Report on Tuesday, “shows that the number of people who fell ill with [tuberculosis (TB)] dropped to 8.8 million in 2010, after peaking at 9 million in 2005,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The report shows that the TB death rate dropped 40 percent between 1990 and 2010, and all regions, except Africa, are on track to achieve a 50 percent decline in mortality by 2015,” the news service writes (10/11). “The countries the WHO especially noted for progress in the fight against the disease were Kenya, [Tanzania], Brazil and China,” Reuters reports (Selyukh/Ulmer-Nebehay, 10/11).
Time examines the issue of maternal mortality in Afghanistan, where the Health Ministry says “about 18,000 Afghan women die during childbirth every year.” The magazine writes, “According to a recent report by the NGO Save the Children, Afghanistan ranked as the worst place to give birth, followed by Niger and Chad,” Time writes, adding that getting women in rural areas to hospitals, a lack of midwives and a stigma against pregnancy “because it’s a public acknowledgement of sex with their spouses” are all challenges to improving maternal health in Afghanistan. The magazine highlights the HHS-funded Afghan Safe Birth Project, which has “has helped reduce deaths during [caesarean] sections at [Kabul’s Rabia Balkhi Hospital] by 80 percent” since 2008, according to Faizullah Kakar, an epidemiologist and special adviser on health to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Time reports. “[I]n April, the U.S. government cut the program’s $5.8 million annual funding, and Kakar says the Afghan government doesn’t have the money to keep it going,” the magazine notes (Kakissis, 10/11).
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded United Therapeutics Corporation a contract for up to $45 million over five years “to help develop a potential oral treatment for viruses like influenza and the mosquito-borne tropical fever dengue,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (10/10). The funding comes from NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and will be used “for studies directed at the development of a broad-spectrum antiviral drug based on [United Therapeutics’] glycobiology antiviral platform,” according to a press release from United Therapeutics, which adds, “Funding will support the development of a candidate compound through preclinical safety and efficacy studies toward potential clinical trials against dengue” (10/10).
The U.S. has pledged a record $56 million donation from PEPFAR to the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) aimed to “dramatically increase resources for programs in Ethiopia providing vital nutrition assistance to people living with HIV (PLHIV),” according to a WFP press release. With the donation, “WFP will work in Ethiopia’s least developed regions … to improve the nutritional status, treatment success and quality of life of PLHIV,” the press release states (10/11).
“India’s Aurobindo Pharma has become the first major generic drugmaker to join” the Medicines Patent Pool, launched by the UNITAID health financing system and “designed to make HIV/AIDS treatments more widely available to the poor,” Reuters reports. “The Medicines Patent Pool said on Tuesday the agreement would allow Aurobindo to make a range of AIDS drugs licensed to the pool by Gilead Sciences, the leading maker of HIV drugs, in July,” according to the news service. “Aurobindo has also elected to take advantage of a key provision in the pool’s licenses in order to sell one drug, tenofovir, to a wide range of countries without paying royalties,” Reuters writes, adding, “These could include several middle-income countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Ukraine and Uruguay” (Hirschler, 10/11).
Preliminary Analysis Suggests HIV/AIDS Prevention Program In India May Have Prevented Some 100,000 Infections
A $258 million HIV/AIDS prevention program in six Indian states may have prevented an estimated 100,000 infections from 2003 to 2008, researchers from the Public Health Foundation of India and the University of Washington suggest in a study published in the Lancet on Tuesday, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (10/10). The analysis “concluded that infections dropped significantly in three populous southern states, a little in Tamil Nadu, and not at all in northern Manipur and Nagaland,” the New York Times reports (McNeil, 10/10). “While the initial findings regarding the … Avahan project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, come with large uncertainty due to data limitations and methodology, the study’s authors say … that investing in prevention can make a dent in one of the world’s largest epidemics,” AP writes (10/10). Tactics used in the program, which targeted high-risk groups, “included one-on-one safe-sex counseling, free condoms, exchanging used needles for sterilized ones, clinics to treat sexually-transmitted disease and advocacy work within the community,” Agence France-Press reports (10/10).
WHO representative Guido Sabatinelli has assured Pakistan health officials that the organization “will be scaling [up] its humanitarian response in all the flood-affected areas of Sindh to resolve health issues faced by the displaced people,” News International reports. WHO officials say Norway, the U.S., the U.K. and Spain are “the only donor countries which have pledged funds â€¦ to assist millions of flood-affected Pakistanis” and that “these donations account to only nine percent of the funding needs of the health sector to properly respond to the emergency,” the newspaper writes (Bhatti, 10/8).