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Reaching WHO PMTCT Goal In Zimbabwe

Researchers in this PLoS Medicine article examine the efforts necessary to reach the WHO goal of reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT) risk to less than five percent in Zimbabwe. They conclude, “Implementation of the WHO [prevention of MTCT (PMTCT)] guidelines must be accompanied by efforts to improve access to PMTCT services, retain women in care, and support medication adherence throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, to approach the ‘virtual elimination’ of pediatric HIV in Zimbabwe,” according to the study (Ciaranello et al., 1/10). A Massachusetts General Hospital press release states the research “should help with the planning of expanded programs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa and other areas with limited health resources” (1/10).

Haiti Faces ‘Largest’ Cholera Epidemic In Modern History, PAHO Says

“Almost two years after the devastating 7.0 earthquake destroyed much of Port-au-Prince, full recovery appears to be years away,” the Miami Herald reports, noting that “[t]housands of people continue to live in makeshift shelters and tents [and] rubble from dilapidated buildings still line some streets” (Lee, 1/7). In addition, “[t]he cholera outbreak in Haiti is ‘one of the largest epidemics of the disease in modern history to affect a single country,’ the U.N. World Health Organization’s Pan-American Health Organization [PAHO] said in a news release,” according to United Press International (1/7).

WHO Confirms Bird Flu Cases In Egypt, China

The WHO on Thursday “announced the deaths of two men from H5N1 avian influenza, one from Egypt and another from China whose death was reported earlier in the media,” CIDRAP News reports. Both men are suspected to have contracted the virus from avian sources, although an investigation into the man from China’s exposure to the virus is ongoing, according to news service. “The two infections and deaths push the WHO global H5N1 count to 576 cases and 339 deaths. According to WHO records, the number of H5N1 cases and deaths reported in 2011 so far are modestly higher than 2010 (60 cases versus 48, and 33 deaths versus 24),” CIDRAP writes (Schnirring, 1/5).

Moving FAO Forward With Sights On Hunger Eradication

Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, writes in a Huffington Post opinion piece, “My top priority for 2012 will be to make a renewed push towards [achieving the first millennium development goal of halving the proportion of people living in hunger and extreme poverty by 2015], but also to look beyond it, to the final, total eradication of hunger from this planet. Obviously, it is not something that FAO can do alone. It needs a new international mobilization, the support of decision-makers everywhere, and a concerted effort by the entire U.N. family and other development partners.”

Kenyan Government Adopts New HIV Testing Guidelines Following WHO Recall

“The Kenyan government has changed its HIV testing algorithm following the withdrawal of a widely used brand of HIV test [based] on warnings from” the WHO, PlusNews reports. “In November, WHO removed the Standard Diagnostics Bioline HIV 1/2 3.0 Rapid HIV Test Kit from its list of approved rapid test kits with immediate effect … after Bioline failed quality assurance tests,” the news service notes. There is “concern about the impact the recall will have on public confidence in HIV testing, especially as the country pushes for universal access to HIV counseling and testing,” according to the news service (1/5).

U.N. Receives Reports Of Malnutrition In Sudanese Border States

The U.N. “has received alarming reports of malnutrition in two Sudanese border states where the army is fighting insurgents,” according to Valerie Amos, U.N. under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Reuters reports. Since fighting broke out in June in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states near the border of the newly independent South Sudan, “U.N. agencies and aid groups have only been able to keep small teams of local staff on the ground and the government has stopped any aid workers visiting areas where there has been fighting,” the news service writes. Amos “urged Sudan to lift a ban on international U.N. staff traveling to both border states” so the agency could ensure it has staff with the correct skills on the ground, according to Reuters (Laessing, 1/4).

Aid Agencies Express Concern Over Child Malnutrition In Nepal, AFP Reports

In Nepal, “a child malnutrition epidemic described by humanitarian organizations as a ‘silent emergency’ is claiming the lives of thousands of infants each year,” Agence France-Presse reports. “According to government statistics 1.7 million children — nearly half of all under-fives — suffer from chronic malnutrition, a long-term condition also known as stunting,” the news service writes, adding, “Acute malnutrition, a condition known as ‘wasting’ blamed for half of Nepal’s infant deaths, is thought to affect 18 percent.”

UNICEF To Ramp Up Global Vaccination Program

“UNICEF is preparing ambitious plans to update, strengthen and vastly expand its global vaccination program,” and “is gearing up to triple its capacity over the next five years,” according to a UNICEF news story. “A more effective and wide-reaching vaccination program will also help UNICEF fulfill its commitment to reaching the most vulnerable,” the story reports (Niles, 1/3).

January Issue Of WHO Bulletin Available Online

The January issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on non-communicable diseases and post-conflict countries; a public health round-up; an article on Arab health professionals; a research paper on caesarean section rates in China; and a series of round table articles on the Global Fund and the interaction of public and private interests (January 2011).

New FAO Head Says Agency Will Increase Support To Countries Experiencing Prolonged Food Crises

The new head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Director-General José Graziano da Silva, began work on January 1, “pledging [on Tuesday] to increase the agency’s support to poor countries experiencing prolonged food crises,” the U.N. News Centre reports (1/3). He “said volatility in food markets was likely to continue due to economic instability and currency market fluctuations,” according to Reuters (Hornby, 1/3).