“The World Health Organization reports Guinea worm disease, which has plagued people for thousands of years, is on the verge of eradication,” VOA News reports. “The U.N. agency says fewer than 400 cases of the infectious parasitic disease exist in four African countries, and that it will soon become only the second, after smallpox, to be wiped off the face of the earth,” the news service writes (Schlein, 8/28). “The number of Guinea worm disease cases has dropped from 3,190 in 2009 to just under 396 cases during the first six months of 2012, according to the [WHO],” the U.N. News Centre notes, adding, “Gautam Biswas of WHO’s Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases told a news conference in Geneva … that aggressive public health and hygiene awareness among the communities where the disease is still endemic is vital to eradicating it” (8/28).
“In today’s world, the majority of deaths go unregistered,” but “the information that comes from accurate and complete records of deaths — who died, and why — constitutes a huge resource for evidence-based health planning and development,” Peter Byass, a professor of global health at Umea University in Sweden and director of the Umea Centre for Global Health Research, writes in this post in the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog. “This week sees the release by the World Health Organization of the 2012 WHO Verbal Autopsy Instrument, a major new global resource for systematically recording the details of deaths,” he notes, adding, “This new verbal autopsy (VA) instrument brings together the best aspects of many previous VA questionnaires, and also incorporates the accumulated experience of the team who have worked on developing it” (8/22).
In this Forbes opinion piece, John Lechleiter, president and chief executive officer of Eli Lilly and Company, examines the business of counterfeit medicines, writing, “With global sales last year estimated as high as $200 billion, counterfeit medicine is big business, and it’s growing.” “In a recent Forbes column, Henry I. Miller cited an estimate by Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute that more than 100,000 people die every year from counterfeit drugs,” he continues, adding, “That’s why fighting counterfeits is essential to safeguarding health. We need action — national and international — to better secure the pharmaceutical supply chain.”
The August issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on performance-based financing in low- and middle-income countries, a public health news roundup, and a systematic review of demographic and health survey data availability and utilization, among other articles (August 2012).
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released two reports on issues related to global health. In “Ensuring Drug Quality in Global Health Programs,” the agency writes, “Concerns have been raised about the potential for substandard drugs to enter the supply chains of global health programs,” and notes that it concluded, “U.S.-funded global health programs have put regulatory and policy requirements in place to help prevent procurement of substandard drugs” (8/1). In another report looking at the WHO, titled “Reform Agenda Developed, but U.S. Actions to Monitor Progress Could be Enhanced,” GAO found, “The United States has provided input into WHO’s reform agenda, particularly in the areas of transparency and accountability, but the Department of State’s (State) tool for assessing progress in the area of management reform could be enhanced” (7/23).
In a series of “News Focus” articles in Science, the magazine examines the global effort to eradicate polio. One article examines the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) — a partnership of the WHO, Rotary International, UNICEF, the CDC, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — and recent reports on the program by an Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), “an oversight body” that provides feedback and guidance. A second and third article look at efforts to vaccinate children against polio in Pakistan, which “is the perfect case study for why it is so hard to eradicate poliovirus from its last few strongholds — and what it might take to pull it off.” The WHO’s Chris Maher “and others attribute the explosion of cases last year to a perfect storm of all the problems that are Pakistan: poverty and illiteracy; a health system in tatters; ethnic and sectarian violence; a government struggling to deal with corruption and dysfunction; huge population movements; and, especially since 9/11, rising extremism and anti-Western views — not to mention the natural attrition that accompanies any program that has dragged on for so long,” according to Science (Roberts, 8/3).
A report released Thursday by the U.N. resident coordinator’s office in Pyongyang, North Korea, said the country needs food aid following severe flooding that has killed at least 119 people and left tens of thousands of people homeless, the Associated Press reports (Kim/Pennington, 8/2). According to BBC News, “A U.N. spokesman in New York confirmed that the North Korean government has asked the U.N. to release emergency supplies such as food and fuel” (8/2).
“Some 2.5 million people face destitution in Syria as fighting grows ever more intense in populated areas, the United Nations top relief official said [Thursday], calling on the Government and donors to facilitate more aid through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the ground,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos “reported that over a million people have been uprooted and face destitution, and that perhaps a million more have urgent humanitarian needs due to the widening impact of the crisis on the economy and people’s livelihoods,” the news service writes (8/16). “‘Their needs for health care, shelter, food, water and sanitation are growing,’ Amos said,” according to Reuters. “The U.N. and its partners are reaching more people with emergency aid every month. But we are only meeting some of the needs,” she added, the news service notes (8/16).
In this post in KPLU 88.5’s “Humanosphere” blog, journalist Tom Murphy interviews reporter Jonathan Katz, “the first to break the story connecting U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal to the” cholera outbreak in Haiti. According to the interview transcript, they discuss Katz’s original reporting, the humanitarian response to the outbreak, and the current state of the outbreak, among other topics (8/16).
“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).