“Governments are failing to fund projects to improve access to toilets and other sanitation services in poor countries because the subject remains ‘taboo,’ a director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said on Monday,” Reuters reports. “About 1.1 billion people across the world still defecate in the open because they have no toilets, according to the United Nations,” Reuters writes. “It’s the last big taboo and as a result more than one million kids die every year. Diarrhea is the second largest cause of death after respiratory infections in young children,” Frank Rijsberman, director of water, sanitation and hygiene at the foundation, said at the Global Water Summit 2012 conference in Rome, the news service notes.
Programs, Funding & Financing
“The world is falling behind in its pledge to reduce HIV/AIDS infections and improve treatment, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a U.N. report [.pdf] released Monday” by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Associated Press reports. The report to the U.N. General Assembly “said that ‘critical challenges remain’ if the world is to make good on promises made at a U.N.-sponsored meeting on HIV/AIDS in June 2011,” the AP writes (Alt Powell, 4/30). “Among the targets set by the international community at the June 2011 high-level meeting are the elimination of new HIV/AIDS infections in children, cutting sexually transmitted infections by 50 percent, and delivering antiretroviral therapy to 15 million people,” Xinhua/China Daily notes (5/1).
The Guttmacher Institute on Friday released a media update examining the impact of U.S. international family planning assistance. The update highlights the benefits supported by $610 million “appropriated for U.S. assistance for family planning and reproductive health programs for FY 2012” and states, “These gains would be seriously jeopardized if this already modest funding for the program were to be cut again,” noting that “reductions of different magnitudes would have proportional effects” (4/27).
Some Public Health Advocates Disagree With Indian Government’s Decision To Roll Out Pentavalent Vaccines, IPS Reports
“Ignoring widespread concern over the safety, efficacy and cost of pentavalent vaccines” — which provide protection against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) — “India’s central health ministry has, this month, approved inclusion of the prophylactic cocktail in the universal immunization program in seven of its provinces,” Inter Press Service reports. Pentavalent vaccines have “had a history of causing adverse reactions and deaths in India’s neighboring countries like Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan,” the news service writes, noting that India’s National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) in 2010 “recommended limited introduction of pentavalents in southern Kerala and Tamil Nadu and evaluation of results over a year before extension to other states.” Despite this recommendation and outstanding public interest litigation, the government on April 16 announced the vaccines would be introduced in five additional states, IPS reports.
Speaking at a conference in Brazzaville, Congo, on Friday, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva “appealed to oil- and mineral-rich nations to set up a fund to combat the food crisis gripping the Sahel desert region and other parts of Africa,” Agence France-Presse reports. He said the organization needs $110 million in the short term to combat hunger in the region, which includes Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, according to the news service (4/27). He said, “We are very concerned about the Sahel because there are already many conflicts in the region,” Bloomberg notes, adding “[m]ore than five million people in Niger are facing food insecurity, along with three million in Mali and 1.5 million in Burkina Faso, according to the FAO” (Mbakou, 4/27).
This post in Malaria No More’s “Malaria Policy Center” blog reports on a two-part event held on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, April 25, World Malaria Day, titled, “U.S. Advancements in Science and Technology in Malaria: A Showcase of Domestic Research & Development to Save Lives and Keep Americans Safe.” During the event, which featured the “co-chairs of the Senate Working Group on Malaria and Congressional Caucus on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases as honorary hosts,” “20 universities, private companies, and research institutions highlighted cutting-edge scientific and technological advancements in malaria that could save millions of lives around the world, protect U.S. military service members, and create jobs here in their own states,” the blog writes, noting, “USAID Administrator Raj Shah also spoke about the impressive scientific achievements and the development of new tools that can be used in the fight against malaria” (Waltman, 4/27).
“A new report from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs applauds U.S. government agencies for food security leadership but calls on them to up the game in the face of rising global challenges and shrinking aid budgets,” Connie Veillette, director of the Center for Global Development’s rethinking U.S. foreign assistance initiative, writes in the center’s “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Blog,” adding, “While it is a positive assessment, the report highlights some areas of concern that could affect U.S. leadership in future years” (4/27). John Glenn, policy director at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, notes in the organization’s blog that Chicago Council “co-chairs Catherine Bertini and Dan Glickman called for the progress made to be institutionalized with Congressional authorization. Significant increases in food production, they suggested, will only be visible after a decade, which would require sustaining the commitments of the past three years for another seven years” (4/27).
“If we needed more evidence that the funding cuts at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria were going to be detrimental to people’s lives, a new study … makes it clear: Providing funding to fight malaria makes malaria go away,” Kolleen Bouchane, director of ACTION, a global partnership of health advocacy organizations, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “The authors write that as substantial new financial resources have become available to fight malaria since 2000, malaria has decreased considerably in many parts of the world,” she continues, adding, “But in the past, malaria has returned when malaria control programs have been weakened — and they’ve usually been weakened when resources dried up.”
“The U.S. government is the largest funder of global health research and development [R&D] in the world, spending $12.7 billion over the past 10 years,” according to a report (.pdf) released by the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) and Policy Cures on Friday, United Press International reports. The report, titled “Saving Lives and Creating Impact: Why investing in global health research works,” “found each year the U.S. government provided around 45 percent of the total global investment and 70 percent of all government investment worldwide in global health research and development,” the news service writes. “The U.S. funding helped lead to the development of more than half of the 45 new health products — including vaccines, drugs, diagnostics — in the last decade that have been used to save lives around the world, the report said,” according to UPI.
“Although coming off a rocky year in 2011, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is ‘not in crisis,'” Inter Press Service reports, referring to comments made by the organization’s deputy general manager, Debrework Zewdie, at a roundtable hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday. Zewdie noted the resumption of commitments to the fund from bilateral donors, despite the international economic crisis and last year’s allegations of mismanagement, the news service adds.