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Muslim Women, Religious Leaders Being Enlisted In Global Campaign To Eradicate Polio

“The last three countries where polio is still paralyzing children — Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria — said on Thursday that they have enlisted Muslim women and religious leaders to allay fears of vaccination and wipe out the disease,” Reuters reports. According to Shahnaz Wazir Ali, a special assistant to Pakistan’s Prime Minister who is in charge of the polio eradication campaign, more than 20 leading Islamic scholars “have signed an endorsement of the polio eradication program, which is being used to persuade Pakistani parents” to allow their children to be vaccinated, the news agency writes. In Nigeria, the Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations is backing a polio immunization campaign there, Reuters notes. “It is not the first time that the world has come tantalizingly close to wiping out the crippling disease,” the news agency writes. “‘We’re so close, there is no time for complacency,’ Dr. Christopher Elias, head of global development at the [Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation], a major donor, told Reuters in Geneva,” Reuters adds (Nebehay, 5/24).

Also In Global Health News: Active TB Genetic Marker Found; African Bishops Fight HIV; Polio Eradication; PEPFAR In Dominican Republic

Active TB “Genetic Signature” Found Researchers have identified a “genetic signature” in the blood of active tuberculosis patients in the U.K. and South Africa that could one day lead to a test to predict who among latent carriers might develop the disease, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, Reuters reports…

Opinions: U.S. Foreign Aid Effectiveness; Faith-Based Groups’ Work Abroad

Foreign Aid Is A Smart Investment Although “foreign assistance is a very small proportion of the overall budget, its effectiveness is both measurable and priceless,” Sheila Nix, the executive director of ONE, writes in a Roll Call opinion piece. “These investments are helping shape a world where no one dies…

In Philippines, Church Entitled To Opinion On Birth Control, But Women Have Right To Choose

“Finally, after 14 years of debate and delay, lawmakers [in the Philippines] passed a bill that will provide free or subsidized birth control to poor people as well as require sex education in schools and mandate training in family planning for community health workers,” a Los Angeles Times editorial states. “For too long in the Philippine Congress, the priorities of the Roman Catholic Church took precedence over what most Filipinos wanted — and needed,” the editorial states. “The Philippines has one of the fastest-growing populations in Asia, and is also one of the most densely populated countries,” the editorial notes, adding, “It cannot produce enough food to feed its 96 million people.”

IRIN Examines Aid Funding In Muslim World

“Every year, somewhere between $200 billion and $1 trillion are spent in ‘mandatory’ alms [zakat] and voluntary charity [sadaqa] across the Muslim world, Islamic financial analysts estimate,” IRIN reports, noting, “At the low end of the estimate, this is 15 times more than global humanitarian aid contributions in 2011.” The news service writes, “With aid from traditional Western donors decreasing in the wake of a global recession, and with about a quarter of the Muslim world living on less than $1.25 a day, this represents a huge pool of potential in the world of aid funding.”

Challenges To Eradicating Polio In Nigeria

John Campbell, Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes in his “Africa in Transition” blog that “[t]he Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) reports eight new polio cases in Nigeria, bringing the total in that country to 70 for 2012,” with most of the cases occurring in the predominantly Muslim north. “Despite efforts by the Nigerian government and the international community, polio is far from being eradicated in Nigeria,” he states and discusses challenges to fighting the disease in the country (8/30).

Religion Not A Barrier To HIV Testing, Treatment, Study Finds

“Preachers who promise divine healing have often been blamed for turning desperate HIV-positive people against their life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) medication and risking their health, but recent research suggests that religious beliefs may not be a barrier to treatment after all,” IRIN/Plus News reports. “A survey published in the medical journal HIV Medicine in June found that strong religious beliefs about faith and healing among black Africans living in London were unlikely to act as a barrier to accessing HIV testing and ARV treatment,” the news service writes, adding, “The 246 respondents described themselves as Christians, including Roman Catholics, and Muslims. Only 1.2 percent said they did not belong to a religion.” “The results reinforce previous African studies, which found that the decision to start treatment is usually based on the level of education and knowledge of ARVs, rather than religion,” the news service notes (8/22).

U.N. Urges Philippines To Pass Reproductive Health Bill Amid Protests From Catholic Church

“The United Nations has urged the Philippines to pass a bill that will allow the government to provide free contraceptives,” BBC News reports (8/5). “UNFPA country coordinator Ugochi Florence Daniels said the [reproductive health (RH)] bill is important for the Philippines to achieve its health-related targets in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” including maternal health, HIV/AIDS and infant mortality, the Philippine Star writes (Crisostomo, 8/4). “The House of Representatives plans to decide Tuesday whether to end debate on the bill and put it to a vote,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times notes (Gomez, 8/5).

Politico Examines Republican Party's Abortion Platform In Relation To Other Countries' Policies

Politico examines the Republican Party’s stance on abortion policy compared with abortion laws in other countries worldwide, stating, “No other nation in the Western world restricts abortion as severely as the Republican Party is calling for in its draft platform.” The article cites statistics regarding other nations’ abortion-related laws from the U.N. report “World Abortion Policies 2011.” According to Politico, “Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican nominee, says he does not support a ban on abortions under any circumstances. He has said it should be allowed in cases of rape or incest. But the Republican National Committee slapped him down.” The article continues, “‘This is the platform of the Republican Party,’ committee Chairman Reince Priebus told MSNBC on Tuesday. ‘It’s not the platform of Mitt Romney'” (Brinkley, 8/27).