U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday “urged a stronger global partnership to advance progress on the development targets world leaders have pledged to achieve by 2015, as a new United Nations report finds that significant gains risk slowing due to declining aid,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed on by world leaders at a U.N. summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development,'” the news service notes (9/20). According to the 2012 MDG Gap Task Force Report (.pdf), official development assistance (ODA) from the 23 primary donors in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development dropped by almost three percent (in real terms) in 2011 after reaching a peak in 2010, Agence France-Presse notes. “To reach the U.N. target of 0.7 percent of gross national income devoted to aid, the world’s richest nations should be spending more than $300 billion,” the news service writes (9/20).
“If left unaddressed, [non-communicable diseases (NCDs)] will lead to more death, disability and the implosion of already overburdened health systems in developing countries at huge cost to individuals, families, businesses and society,” Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and former UNAIDS executive director, writes in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, adding, “Like AIDS, NCDs are a problem for rich and poor countries alike, but the poor suffer the most.” He continues, “The 2011 U.N. High-Level Meeting on NCDs — only the second time the U.N. had convened a major meeting on a health issue, following the U.N. AIDS Summit in June 2001 — was a landmark event in the short history of the fight against NCDs but was not a tipping point. Much more remains to be done.”
“Spending on maternal and child health has stalled, according to an expert analysis, raising concerns that efforts to cut deaths in poor countries to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) may falter,” the Guardian reports. According to a report (.pdf) from the Countdown to 2015 Group published in the Lancet, there has been “a downturn in the total amount of overseas development aid earmarked for these goals between 2009 and 2010 — the latest year for which there is data,” the newspaper notes. “Over the period that Countdown has been tracking, funding for maternal and child health has more than doubled, from $2,566 million in 2003, to $6,480 million in 2010,” but after years of steady increases, the latest data show a slight decrease of 0.5 percent, or $32 million, in funding, the Guardian states.
Noting the Copenhagen Consensus has stated that “large-scale micronutrient fortification is a proven and cost-effective intervention that can mitigate malnutrition in the form of vitamin and mineral deficiencies and enhance the well-being of millions,” Marc Van Ameringen, executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), writes in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, “On September 9, 2012, [GAIN] launched a partnership in Kabul with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health, the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation (KBZF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to help alleviate the burden of malnutrition in Afghanistan by bringing more nutritious wheat flour, vegetable oil, and ghee to approximately half of the country’s population.”
The annual number of child deaths worldwide has fallen more than 40 percent since 1990, “the result of myriad improvements in nutrition, access to vaccines and antibiotics, cleaner deliveries, better care of infants immediately after birth, and the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets,” according to “the findings of a report released Wednesday by three United Nations agencies and the World Bank,” the Washington Post reports (Brown, 9/12). “In 1990, there were 12 million deaths of young children, but the latest figures … show that deaths had fallen by nearly half, to 6.9 million, by 2011,” the Guardian writes (Boseley, 9/12). “[T]he number of deaths is down by at least 50 percent in eastern, western and southeastern Asia, as well as in northern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean,” the report says, VOA News notes (Schlein, 9/12). However, “[i]n some, mainly sub-Saharan countries, the total number of deaths of children younger than five increased,” BBC News writes, adding, “The Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Somalia, Mali, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso saw annual deaths of children under five rise by 10,000 or more in 2011 as compared with 1990” (Doyle, 9/13).
Approximately one-third of children under the age of five in southern Afghanistan, about one million, have acute malnutrition, “with a level of deprivation similar to that found in famine zones, a government survey has found, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid that has been poured into the region,” the Guardian reports. The U.N.-supported “Afghanistan Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) found 29.5 percent of children are suffering from acute malnutrition there,” the newspaper states, noting that a level of more than 30 percent is one indicator of famine, as are death rates and families’ access to food.
“Saying dengue virus infections and deaths have mushroomed in recent years, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a strategy report that sets a goal of cutting deaths in half and reducing cases by 25 percent over the next eight years,” CIDRAP reports. “The report, titled ‘Global Strategy for Dengue Prevention and Control,’ also sets a goal of estimating the true burden of dengue disease by 2015 — signaling how little is known about the global impact of the mosquito-borne illness,” the news service writes. “In general, the report says that the tools already exist to make a big dent in the dengue problem, but that better tools, particularly in the diagnostic realm, are urgently needed,” CIDRAP notes, adding, “Currently there is no licensed vaccine or specific treatment for dengue fever or its more serious complication, dengue hemorrhagic fever” (Roos, 9/4).
In a post on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, foundation Co-Chair Bill Gates writes about traveling to New York this week to deliver a speech to the U.N. on polio eradication, one of the top five global health priorities as described by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “New polio cases are the lowest they’ve ever been and there are currently just three countries, down from 125 in 1988, where polio is still endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan,” Gates notes. He adds, “[T]he world is coming together with the financial resources, the political commitment, and the innovation necessary to do something absolutely extraordinary, to protect every child everywhere from this preventable disease” (9/25).
“Women and children shared the spotlight at the 27th session of the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday,” Devex’s “Development Newswire” reports (Ravelo, 9/26). At the high-level event at the U.N. in New York, “U.N. Women, the United Nations body for female empowerment and gender equality, called for stronger action from world leaders to prevent and punish sexual violence in conflict,” Inter Press Service writes (Bergdahl, 9/26). “Representatives from Member States, U.N. agencies and more than 30 non-governmental organizations took part in the discussion, which also drew the participation of women Nobel Peace Laureates Shirin Ebadi from Iran, Leymah Gbowee from Liberia, and Jody Williams from the United States,” the U.N. News Centre notes (9/25).
In the BMJ Groups blog, Amanda Glassman, director of the global health policy program at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and her colleagues at CGD examine “whether [universal health coverage (UHC)] as a post-2015 development goal is a good idea.” They write, “While we support the notion and concept of UHC, it may not be a useful banner for the global health community to rally around in pushing for a post 2015 development goal.” The authors describe four reasons for this opinion, saying, for example, that “the concept of UHC is not easily understood or defined” and “there is still limited empirical evidence connecting general health care utilization and/or financial risk protection to health impact.” They conclude, “Universal health coverage is important for all countries to pursue, but it is not yet a universally agreed analytical concept that will be useful as a post 2015 development goal” (9/25).