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MENA Region Among Top Two Regions With Fastest Growing HIV Epidemic, Report Shows

“A report on the HIV epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) shows that while the overall HIV prevalence in the region is still low, the rise in new infections since 2001 has put the MENA region among the top two regions in the world with the fastest growing HIV epidemic,” UNAIDS reports (12/4). The regional report was released Monday in Cairo, Egypt, under the auspices of the League of Arab States, according to the Egypt Independent (Helmy, 12/6). “The report outlines many recommendations on how to strengthen the AIDS response in the MENA region,” according to UNAIDS, including “review of laws and policies that hinder access to HIV prevention and treatments services, to invest smartly using an evidence-informed and human rights based approach, and the importance of strong political leadership” (12/4).

FAO Food Price Index Remains Virtually Stable; Some Improvements Seen In Somalia

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released its latest Food Price Index on Thursday, saying the Index “in November was virtually unchanged from its October level,” an FAO press release reports, adding, “At the new level of 215 points, the Index was 23 points, or 10 percent, below its peak in February 2011 but remained two points, or one percent, above its level in November 2010” (12/8). The report “also pointed out that, despite some improvements in Somalia thanks to substantial humanitarian assistance and favorable rains, food insecurity is expected to remain ‘critical’ in drought-affected areas until the harvest of short-season crops in early 2012,” the U.N. News Centre writes, adding, “In the Horn of Africa as a whole, food insecurity remained critical for some 18 million people” (12/8).

Inter Press Service Features Interview With Incoming FAO Director General

Inter Press Service features excerpts from an interview with Jose Graziano da Silva, former Brazilian minister of food security, “who takes over as the new director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Jan. 1.” Graziano da Silva “believes it is possible to eradicate hunger in the world” and “says that what is needed is an increase in political commitment, the mobilization of even modest resources, and the adoption of absolute rather than relative targets,” according to IPS (Frayssinet, 12/8).

Forbes Interviews Babatunde Osotimehin About His Work In HIV/AIDS, Maternal Health, Leadership

Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and under-secretary-general of the U.N., answers questions about his work from Forbes contributor Rahim Kanani in this interview excerpt. Osotimehin “discussed current trends in population growth, innovative approaches to tackling HIV/AIDS, leadership lessons in public health, challenges to safeguarding maternal health while encouraging family planning, and much more,” according to Forbes (12/8).

Gilead Sciences To Donate $8M In Visceral Leishmaniasis Drug To WHO

Gilead Sciences, Inc. “will donate 445,000 vials of AmBisome over five years to help the World Health Organization (WHO) treat more than 50,000 patients with visceral leishmaniasis (VL), also known as kala-azar,” a Gilead press release states, adding, “If sold at Gilead’s no-profit access price, today’s donation would cost more than…

U.N. Seeks Aid Money For Zimbabwe, Half For Food; WHO Says Country Must Spend More On Health

“The United Nations said on Friday it was seeking $268 million for aid efforts in Zimbabwe next year, with half the money to be used to buy food for more than 1.4 million people facing shortages” in 2012, Reuters reports. “The humanitarian situation in the country has continued to improve over the past couple of years. However, challenges still exist such as food insecurity” and lack of access to safe water, which has led to cholera and typhoid outbreaks, Alain Noudehou, country head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said, the news service notes (12/9).

Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad To Introduce New Meningitis Vaccine

“The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said that Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, who are in the ‘meningitis belt’ stretching across Africa, will this month introduce a new vaccine designed to eliminate a particular strain of the often deadly disease,” Afrique en ligne reports (12/10). “Alison Brunier, a spokesperson for WHO, told journalists in Geneva that the three countries plan to vaccinate about 22 million people [among] them, focusing on the highest-risk demographic category — those aged between one and 29 years” and that “the immunization campaign should be completed within a couple of weeks,” the U.N. News Centre writes (12/9).

Millions Of People In African Sahel Need Food Assistance, U.N. Agencies Say

“Millions of people in Africa’s Sahel region need urgent help to cope with food shortages brought on by erratic rainfall and drought, and at least one million children in the area face malnutrition next year, U.N. agencies warned,” AlertNet reports. “The World Food Programme (WFP), which called for a new type of response to climate-related crises, estimates that between five and seven million people in the semi-arid zone just south of the Sahara need assistance now,” and it “said the situation would worsen if nothing was done to help the countries in need — as more people are expected to run out of food supplies by February and March next year,” the news service writes (Fominyen, 12/9).

Malaria Mortality Rates Down, But Progress Threatened By Funding Shortfall, WHO Report Says

“Malaria mortality rates have fallen by more than 25 percent globally since 2000, and by 33 percent in the WHO African Region, according to the World Malaria Report 2011, issued [Tuesday] by [the] WHO,” the organization reports in a press release. “This is the result of a significant scaling-up of malaria prevention and control measures in the last decade,” the press release adds. However, the press release notes, “WHO warns that a projected shortfall in funding threatens the fragile gains and that the double challenge of emerging drug and insecticide resistance needs to be proactively addressed” (12/13).

U.N. Issues $1.5B 2012 Joint Appeal For Humanitarian Aid In Somalia

The U.N. on Tuesday issued its 2012 consolidated appeal process (CAP), or joint appeal, for $1.5 billion to fund 350 projects in Somalia, “where famine and conflict have already cost tens of thousands of lives,” the Guardian reports (Chonghaile, 12/13). “The $1.5 billion appeal is based on a realistic assessment of the emergency needs of four million people in crisis, tens of thousands of whom will die without assistance,” Mark Bowden, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, said, Agence France-Presse notes.

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