“‘Hundreds of millions of children and adults in Africa live at risk of disfigurement, impaired development, blindness, and even death from seven major preventable so-called neglected tropical diseases [NTDs], including river blindness, elephantiasis, trachoma, and various types of intestinal parasites,’ said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim at the opening of a November 16-18 conference in Washington D.C.: Uniting to Combat NTDs: Translating the London Declaration into Action,” the World Bank reports in an article on its webpage. “Using community health systems to deliver treatments donated by the private sector, over 80 million people a year are now protected from river blindness in Africa,” the article states, adding, “Learning from what worked in this effort and using the same system, the World Bank and many other partners are now working to push back all seven major neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that can be prevented through medication (river blindness, elephantiasis, trachoma, roundworm, whipworm, hookworm, and bilharzia) but continue to place hundreds of millions of poor people at risk on the African continent” (11/17).
An analysis published Thursday in the Lancet examines trends in and interventions for preterm birth in 39 developed countries, with the authors writing, “Shockingly, very little reduction is currently possible,” Examiner.com reports. The analysis “said there are a handful of proven protections of preterm births and if the U.S. and other developed countries do a better job of using them, together they could keep 58,000 babies a year from being born too soon,” the news service states. The analysis is meant to inform the report “Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth,” which was published in May by an international coalition including the World Health Organization, Save the Children, U.S. National Institutes of Health, March of Dimes and other groups, according to Examiner.com.
“In a breakthrough for the fight against meningitis in poor countries, researchers say the WHO has ruled that a key vaccine can be transported or stored for up to four days without refrigeration,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Called MenAfriVac and made by the Indian company Serum Institute, the vaccine costs less than 50 cents a dose and, according to the latest research, can be conserved without any refrigeration, even an icepack, at temperatures up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) for four days,” the news agency writes (11/15). “Epidemics of meningitis A occur every seven to 14 years in Africa’s ‘meningitis belt,’ a band of 26 countries stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia, and are particularly devastating to children and young adults,” Reuters notes.
Improving access to family planning for the 222 million women who lack such services would bring many benefits, including helping to reduce maternal mortality and improve infant survival, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin says in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, citing the recently released State of the World Population 2012 report. However, “[i]n many poor countries, contraceptives may not be available or families may lack the money to buy them,” and “social barriers and family resistance are also powerful barriers,” he says, adding, “So too is the lack of proper health or distribution systems or trained workers to give confidential advice.” He continues, “This huge unmet need comes despite the fact that there is almost universal agreement that access to family planning is a human right. By denying this right, we are putting other basic rights at risk across the world.”
“It happened quietly, and it didn’t make any headlines, but an agreement reached in Geneva last week represents a key step forward in the battle against some of the world’s biggest killers: non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes,” Ambassador Betty King, permanent representative of the United States to the U.N., writes in the U.S. Department of State’s “DipNote” blog. She continues, “The WHO’s landmark agreement on NCDs is a remarkable demonstration of political will. By establishing a global monitoring framework based on nine voluntary benchmarks, and assessments of 25 risk factors and indicators, we have taken a historic next step towards global action to prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other NCDs.” King notes the framework agreement “will be submitted to the WHO governing bodies in 2013 for final adoption” (11/14).
Writing in Huffington Post’s “The Big Push” blog, Lucy Chesire, executive director and secretary to the board of the TB ACTION Group, notes “countries from north and south, U.N. organizations, private sector companies and [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)] are meeting in Geneva [this week] at the Board meeting of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to discuss how best to invest available resources against the three killer diseases.” She highlights “a new approach to fight AIDS, which basically could lead to the end of the global pandemic,” noting, “UNAIDS calls it ‘the people-centered investment approach.'” Chesire interviews Bernhard Schwartlander, director of evidence, innovation and policy at UNAIDS, about this new approach.
Speaking at the World Bank on Wednesday, “Irish rock star and anti-poverty activist Bono said thousands of people could die from AIDS if the United States cuts development assistance to reduce the budget deficit,” Reuters reports. Bono is in “Washington this week to urge politicians to spare U.S. development aid, as Congress is embroiled in negotiations aimed at preventing looming tax hikes and spending cuts known as the ‘fiscal cliff,'” the news agency writes. Citing “figures from amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research,” Bono said “a shrinking U.S. budget for global health would leave more than 275,000 people without treatment for the autoimmune disease, leading to 63,000 more AIDS-related deaths,” the news service writes (Yukhananov, 11/14). “We know there’s going to be cuts. … We understand that. But not cuts that cost lives,” Bono said, according to the Wall Street Journal (11/14). “Bono … also spoke to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Wednesday about the need for transparent data to fight corruption, and the deadline for eliminating poverty,” Reuters adds (11/14). “According to Bono, who peppered his serious speech with jokes, guaranteeing transparency would be the biggest ‘turbo-charger’ to the fight against extreme poverty,” the Manila Bulletin reports (11/15). Business Insider provides video footage of Bono’s discussion with Kim (Ro, 11/14).
UNFPA Calls Family Planning An ‘Essential Human Right,’ Says Meeting Unmet Need Could Save More Than $11B Annually
In its annual State of the World Population 2012 report, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) on Wednesday “called family planning an ‘essential human right’ and urged the world’s nations to help meet the needs of 222 million women in developing countries,” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports (Pecquet, 11/14). According to Inter Press Service, the report “says the huge unmet need for family planning persists, ‘despite international agreements and human rights treaties that promote individuals’ rights to make their own decisions about when and how often to have children'” (11/14). However, “[i]t is the first time the … annual report explicitly describes family planning as a human right,” the Associated Press notes, adding, “It effectively declares that legal, cultural, and financial barriers to accessing contraception and other family planning measures are an infringement of women’s rights” (11/14). “UNFPA insists that family planning is not optional; it is a fundamental right, and the obligation to fulfill it is a formal treaty obligation,” IRIN writes (11/14). But “[i]t is not binding and has no legal effect on national laws,” CBS News notes (11/14).
“More than two million people in Sudan’s Darfur region will be vaccinated against a rare yellow fever outbreak suspected of killing 107 people since late September, health officials said on Tuesday,” Agence France-Presse/France 24 reports (11/13). In a joint statement, the WHO and the Sudanese Ministry of Health said the mosquito-borne disease has spread throughout the western territory, which “has been plagued by conflict since rebels took up arms in 2003,” Reuters notes (Dziadosz, 11/13). The International Coordinating Group on Yellow Fever Vaccine Provision, a WHO partnership with vaccine manufacturers, will provide the vaccines, according to VOA News (Lipin, 11/13). Anshu Banerjee of the WHO office in Sudan “said that while no yellow fever cases have been found outside Darfur, the WHO is planning a risk assessment in the next two weeks on the assumption that all areas in Sudan may be at risk of infection,” the Associated Press reports. “The WHO estimates that more than 500 million people in 32 countries in Africa are at risk of yellow fever infection,” the news service notes (Fick, 11/13).
Objections From India Bar Experts Calling For Global Treaty Against Fake Drug Trade From WHO Meeting
“A group of experts calling for a global treaty to stop the lethal trade in fake medicines has been barred from attending a World Health Organization meeting, highlighting deep divisions that are blocking progress on the subject,” Reuters reports (Hirschler, 11/13). In an analysis published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Tuesday, Amir Attaran of the University of Ottawa and colleagues from the World Federation of Public Health Associations, International Pharmaceutical Federation, and the International Council of Nurses “urge the World Health Organization to set up a framework akin to its one [on] tobacco control to safeguard the public,” BBC News writes. The experts “say while governments and drug companies alike deplore unsafe medicines, it is difficult to achieve agreement on action because discussions too often trespass into conflict-prone areas such as pharmaceutical pricing or intellectual property rights,” the news service writes, adding, “Although some countries prohibit fake medicines under national law, there is no global treaty which means organized criminals can continue to trade using haven countries where laws are lax or absent” (Roberts, 11/13).