“The United Nations [on Thursday] announced that it will allocate $55 million to bolster operations in eight countries with neglected humanitarian emergencies,” the U.N. News Centre reports, adding, “Afghanistan, Cameroon, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Sudan will all receive funds from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to help provide food, water, health and other basic services.” According to the news service, “[t]he new allocations will bring the total amount allocated by CERF to more than $158 million this year, as 13 countries were given nearly $104 million in January” (8/9). “‘These CERF grants provide critical funding. The money will save lives by helping aid agencies reach people in desperate need,’ said the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said in a news release,” Nigeria’s “Leadership” writes (Oluwarotimi, 8/10). According to the Devex “Development Newswire,” Amos “hopes the funding will serve to ‘draw’ the world’s attention to the situation of people in the chosen countries, as ‘millions more people are still in need'” (Ravelo, 8/10).
Highlighting a recent report by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine about the use of the drug misoprostol to prevent postpartum hemorrhage and the WHO’s inclusion of the drug on its Essential Medicine List, Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in this post in her “Global Health Blog,” “Seldom has there been a drug that has excited as much controversy as misoprostol.” She continues, “Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, which is why it can stop postpartum hemorrhage, the cause of around a quarter of maternal deaths,” but “there has been a huge fight over whether and how well it works, which in some quarters has been ideologically motivated, because misoprostol can also bring about an abortion.”
“Sierra Leone has declared a cholera outbreak that has left 176 people dead since the start of the year a national humanitarian emergency, officials said Friday,” AlertNet reports, adding, “Jonathan Abass Kamara, public relations officer for Sierra Leone’s health ministry, said the outbreak was the worst in the West Africa country’s history” (Akam, 8/17). “The decision was announced after a meeting between [the] government and officials from the World Health Organization and United Nation’s children agency UNICEF,” Agence France-Press/ReliefWeb writes, noting the government “has also set up a special task force to deal with the epidemic” (8/16).
The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for the establishment of a global stockpile of the cholera vaccine to respond to outbreaks like the one that has gripped Haiti since an earthquake hit the country in 2010, NPR’s “Shots” reports (Knox, 8/17). “On Thursday, experts meeting in Washington endorsed the use of the vaccine to control the continuing outbreak in Haiti and the Dominican Republic,” the New York Times writes, adding, “Studies conducted by medical charities there showed that up to 90 percent of people who had received one dose of the vaccine returned for a second dose and were therefore protected” (McNeil, 8/17). “The WHO’s technical advisers cited the recent Haiti vaccination project, involving 100,000 people in Port-au-Prince and a rural area, as evidence that cholera vaccination can work in the midst of an outbreak,” “Shots” notes. According to the blog, “the WHO is seeking funds to launch the stockpile, which would initially contain enough doses to vaccinate a million people and cost $10 million a year to maintain” (8/17).
The number of confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in Uganda has risen to 36, according to a WHO spokesperson, who added the disease remains confined to the rural Kibaale district, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports. “A team, led by the CDC, WHO and Uganda’s Ministry of Health, are now on the scene to determine the scope of the outbreak and then control it,” according to the blog (Doucleff, 7/31). CNN’s “The Chart” blog reports that 14 people have died of the disease, which has a 25 to 90 percent fatality rate in African outbreaks, according to a WHO fact sheet (7/31).
“North Koreans hit by recent deadly floods badly need drinking water, food and medical assistance, an aid group said Wednesday after official media had reported 88 dead and nearly 63,000 homeless,” Agence France-Presse reports. A spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said a team from the organization visited the provinces of South and North Pyongan in the west of the country to assess damage, the news agency notes (8/1). In another article, AFP notes that the U.N. also is sending a team to assess the damage and humanitarian needs of the worst affected areas (7/31). “Even before the latest flooding, a dysfunctional food distribution system, rapid inflation and international sanctions over Pyongyang’s weapons programs have created what is thought to be widespread hunger,” Reuters writes (Park/Blanchard, 7/30). “Following an inspection visit last autumn, U.N. agencies estimated that three million people would need food aid this year even before the deluge,” according to AFP.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday “announced the members of a High-level Panel to advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015, the target date for achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The eight 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 writes (7/31).
“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).
The Ebola virus outbreak that began last month in Uganda is under control, with health agencies having isolated the 176 people who had even slight contact with people who have contracted the virus, Joaquim Saweka, the WHO representative in Uganda, told reporters on Friday in the capital, Kampala, the Associated Press/NPR reports. At least 16 Ugandans have died of the disease in the most recent outbreak, the news service notes. Doctors were slow to recognize the disease because most patients showed atypical symptoms, the AP adds (8/6).
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday reported that nearly 170 people have died, 400 people are missing, and more than 84,000 people are homeless because of severe flooding in the country, the Guardian reports, noting that the World Food Programme (WFP) “announced on Friday the details of its first batch of emergency food aid to the country, although it did not state when it would arrive” (8/4). “WFP said it would send emergency assistance comprising ‘an initial ration of 400 grams of maize per day for 14 days,'” Reuters notes, adding the statement said a recent U.N. mission to North Korea found significant damage to crop fields.