“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.
The May issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on the establishment of an evidence base for e-health; a public health round-up; an article on the future of e-health technologies; a research paper on the use of e-health in low- and middle-income countries; and a systematic review on the factors that promote or inhibit the implementation of e-health systems (May 2012).
Inter Press Service examines the relationship between climate change and family planning in least-developed countries (LDCs), writing the “double challenge of mitigating climate change and combating crushing poverty makes improving reproductive rights and promoting gender equality imperatives that can no longer be delayed, according to several recent reports and agreements.” IPS highlights several reports and agreements, including an agreement between U.N. Women and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) that “aims at tackling gender inequality in the 75 OIF member states, most of which are also LDCs”; an agreement between U.N. Women and the European Union “to strengthen cooperation between the two organizations in their work on gender equality”; and the Royal Society of London’s People and the Planet report, “which focuses on reproductive rights and social justice as cornerstones of global economic sustainability” (Godoy, 5/30).
The United Nations humanitarian office on Tuesday released its 2011 Annual Report of the Central Emergency Response Fund, which highlights the contributions of the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to humanitarian partners in 45 countries in 2011, the U.N. News Center reports. “Financed by voluntary contributions from Member States, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local governments, the private sector and individual donors, the CERF is a humanitarian fund established by the United Nations to enable more timely and reliable humanitarian assistance to those affected by natural disasters and armed conflicts, helping agencies to pre-position funding for humanitarian action,” the news service notes (5/29).
“Sustainable development cannot be realized unless hunger and malnutrition are eradicated, the [Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)] said in a policy document prepared for the Rio+20 Summit to be held in June in Rio de Janeiro,” an FAO press release reports. “At the Rio Summit, we have the golden opportunity to explore the convergence between the agendas of food security and sustainability to ensure that happens,” FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, according to the press release. The report says, “Improving agricultural and food systems is essential for a world with both healthier people and healthier ecosystems,” the release notes (5/30). According to Reuters, “The governments attending the Rio+20 summit in June should commit themselves to speed up efforts to reduce hunger and malnutrition and use the U.N.’s voluntary guidelines on the right to food, the FAO said” (5/30).
The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) “has warned clashes along the border between Sudan and South Sudan threaten to plunge the region into widespread hunger” and “said it is scaling up its humanitarian operation in South Sudan to assist a growing number of refugees and displaced people,” VOA News reports. WFP “plans to assist 2.7 million people in South Sudan this year under an emergency operation covering the border region and other areas,” the news service writes. WFP spokesperson Elizabeth Byrs “said [the agency] is providing special supplementary, nutritional feeding to about one-half-million young children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers who are suffering from, or are vulnerable to, malnutrition,” according to VOA (Schlein, 5/2). UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, said in a press release it also is concerned about the rising number of malnourished refugees arriving in South Sudan and the threat of water shortages in several border areas, the South Sudan News Agency notes (5/2).
India “has to actively and aggressively address the issue of family planning” in order to improve human development indicators, including health, education and living standards, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin said Wednesday, Reuters reports. “India, Asia’s third-largest economy, is set to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030,” but, “despite its impressive economic growth over the last two decades, it has failed to substantially reduce hunger as well as child and maternal mortality rates,” the news service writes, noting that “[a]bout 60 percent of Indian women have no access to family planning services.”
“Calculating the number of hungry people around the world at any given moment, let alone predicting how that number is likely to change in the future, is no easy task,” Reuters reports in an article examining the numerous challenges of estimating the number of undernourished people worldwide and noting the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is expected to release new data and methodology in October “as part of [its] annual report on food insecurity.” According to the news service, “The question is not whether metrics are necessary, but how to collect, interpret and share the data to present a realistic and accurate picture of the food security situation.” While “[i]mproving the way hunger is calculated could have far-reaching consequences for the way governments and aid agencies respond more effectively to hunger crises, experts say,” “[u]ltimately … it is not data, but action, that makes a difference,” according to Reuters (Rowling, 5/2).
“A third of the world’s population is carrying tuberculosis [TB], and the disease could become incurable if governments fail to act, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned,” noting that a “[l]ack of funding for public health programs, the sale of inaccurate blood tests and the misuse of drugs, particularly in the private health sector, are hampering the fight against the disease and leading to drug resistance,” the Independent reports. “The rate of TB deaths had declined dramatically — by 40 percent between 1990 and 2000 — after a worldwide health campaign, which was particularly successful in China,” but “the emergence of drug-resistant strains threatens to halt progress and jeopardizes the WHO’s goal of eradicating the disease as a public health problem by 2050,” the newspaper writes, noting, “Two billion people are carriers of the TB bacillus” globally.
IRIN examines the WHO’s regulatory approval process for making evidence-based recommendations, noting, “Governments will generally not implement an intervention without the WHO stamp of approval.” The news service writes, “No matter how compelling, medical research has historically not guaranteed swift regulatory approval, but researchers are finding ways to speed up translation of their conclusions into policy.” The news service cites the WHO’s recommendations regarding the use of insecticide-treated bednets in 2007 and the administration of seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) in children in sub-Saharan Africa in 2012 as examples. “Similarly, scientists working on a malaria vaccine are optimistic that they will receive a WHO recommendation soon after trial results are reported in 2014,” IRIN notes (5/23).