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U.N. Secretary-General Appoints Special Envoy For HIV/AIDS In Africa

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday named Asha-Rose Migiro of Tanzania, a former U.N. deputy secretary-general, as the new Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, according to a U.N. statement, PANA/Afriquejet reports. As deputy secretary-general from 2007 to 2012, Migiro “was integrally involved in promoting the AIDS response globally and within Africa, with special emphasis on reducing the vulnerability of women and girls and ensuring the rights of people living with HIV,” the news service writes (7/14).

IRIN Examines Food Security Issues

“With the help of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and food security experts, IRIN takes a closer look” at how droughts worldwide are affecting grain and cereal supplies, the resulting price fluctuations, and how these issues affect food aid operations. Though experts say a crisis is not imminent, “there is concern that staple grains like maize and wheat could become less affordable for the poor, and sharp fluctuations in prices or volatility could disrupt the efforts of grain-importing poor countries to stay within their budgets,” IRIN writes. In addition, “[t]he price of maize and wheat will affect agencies like WFP, said [Maximo Torero, director of the Markets, Trade and Institutions Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)],” IRIN notes, adding that Torero said, “But at this point I will not be alarmist, although cautious” (7/12).

Financial Boost To Malaria Fight Would Result In Beneficial Gains

“[A] surge in money for [insecticide-treated] nets and other interventions” to fight malaria over the past decade has reduced the malaria-related death rate by 26 percent since 2000, and a “new push” to fight the disease, which killed 655,000 people in 2010, would have beneficial results, according to a report set to be released by Ray Chambers, the U.N. special envoy for malaria, an Economist editorial notes. “But raising the cash will be tricky and getting the promised result harder still,” the editorial states. The African Leaders Malaria Alliance estimates that “[u]niversal deployment of good treatment, diagnostics and preventive measures, including bed nets, would — in theory — prevent 640 million malaria cases and three million deaths by 2015, the paper explains,” and notes “[t]his would cost at least $6.7 billion between 2012 and 2015,” the Economist writes.

Blog Posts Examine How Family Planning Money Will Be Spent, Who Will Oversee Program

The Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog on Thursday published two posts addressing family planning funding. In one, Amanda Glassman, director of global health policy and a research fellow at CGD, examines “what organization will actually allocate and spend these additional resources” pledged at the recent London Summit on Family Planning. After examining alternatives, she proposes a “combination” approach that includes USAID, UNFPA, the World Bank, and other international non-governmental organizations playing roles (7/12). In another post, Glassman and Rachel Silverman, a research assistant at CGD, examine what the money will go toward. They write, “A greater supply of contraception may help, but empirical studies show that conditional cash transfers or scholarships to encourage school continuation or return may be even more effective, both at lowering fertility rates and increasing women’s empowerment” (7/12).

Officials Identify Causes Of 'Mystery Illness' Responsible For More Than 60 Child Deaths In Cambodia, CNN Reports

According to physicians familiar with the investigation, the causes of the “mystery illness” that has killed more than 60 children in Cambodia have been identified, CNN reports. “A combination of pathogens … is to blame for the illness, the World Health Organization, in conjunction with the Cambodian Ministry of Health, has concluded, the doctors said,” according to the news service. “The pathogens include enterovirus 71, which is known to cause neurological disease; streptococcus suis, which can cause infections like bacterial meningitis in people who have close contact with pigs or with pork products; and dengue, which is transmitted by mosquitoes,” CNN notes. In addition, the administration of steroids, which can suppress the immune system, worsened the condition of some patients, and the WHO is recommending physicians avoid using steroids in patients presenting with fever, encephalitis, and respiratory issues, the news service writes (Gupta/Dellorto, 7/11).

Opinion Pieces Address Family Planning Issues On World Population Day

The London Summit on Family Planning took place Wednesday, also recognized as World Population Day. The goal of the summit was to raise money to improve access to family planning services to prevent maternal and child mortality. The following summaries describe opinion pieces that address these issues.

Sahel Region Experiencing Increase In Cholera Cases, UNICEF, WHO Warn

UNICEF and the WHO “are warning of an alarming upsurge in cholera across West Africa’s Sahel region, the area at the southern fringe of the Sahara Desert running from Mauritania to Chad,” VOA News reports (Schlein, 7/10). “So far in 2012, cholera has killed nearly 700 people in West and Central Africa and more than 29,000 cases were reported,” according to a UNICEF press release (7/10). “Both UNICEF and WHO say they are critically short of funds to do what is needed to contain the outbreak,” but “[t]hey say action must be taken now before the number of cholera cases explodes,” VOA writes (7/10). IRIN examines efforts to curb the spread of cholera in Guinea, with the administration of a vaccine, and Sierra Leone (7/10).

WHO Working On Consolidated HIV Treatment Guidelines

The WHO “says comprehensive HIV treatment strategies are needed in developing countries to overcome stigma and discrimination,” because “often those in need of HIV treatment and prevention are unable to receive [the services] because of their social status,” VOA News reports. Certain populations, such as sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), and people who inject drugs, sometimes face “barriers … to access services,” Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO HIV/AIDS Department, said, adding, “And we obviously see that as a consequence in many places these groups have higher infection rates. They have higher mortality, etcetera,” according to the news service.

Former UNAIDS Executive Director Discusses Progress In AIDS Fight Ahead Of AIDS 2012 Conference

The 2012 International AIDS Conference, which will take place in Washington, D.C., from July 22-27, “will highlight a sense of optimism among top HIV researchers about stemming the spread of the virus around the globe,” according to PRI’s “The World.” In an audio report, anchor Lisa Mullins “talks to Peter Piot, former executive director of UNAIDS, about the new optimism and his career as a virus hunter.”

Enterovirus Blamed For Some Deaths Of Cambodian Children; Officials Continue To Investigate Mysterious Respiratory Illness

“Lab tests have confirmed that a virulent strain of hand, foot and mouth disease known as [enterovirus-71 (EV-71)] is to blame for some of the 59 cases [of mysterious illness among children in Cambodia] reviewed since April, including 52 deaths, according to a joint statement from the World Health Organization and Cambodian Health Ministry,” the Associated Press reports, noting that “[t]he numbers were lowered from the initial report of 62 cases” (Mason/Cheang, 7/9). “EV-71 is common in Asia, but Nima Asgari, a public health specialist for the WHO in Cambodia, told AFP he believed it had not been seen in this country before,” according to Agence France-Presse. “Asgari said identification of the strain was an important first step but stressed more tests were needed to learn if the deceased children also suffered from other viruses,” and Cambodian Health Minister Mam Bunheng “said an investigation into the illness was ongoing,” the news service notes (7/9).