The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “on Friday appealed for an extra $69.8 million to aid 790,000 vulnerable households in the drought-hit Sahel region in West Africa,” Agence France-Presse/Vanguard reports (3/10). “In a news release, the [FAO] said that at least 15 million people are estimated to be at risk of food insecurity in countries in the Sahel, including 5.4 million people in Niger, three million in Mali, 1.7 million in Burkina Faso and 3.6 million in Chad, as well as hundreds of thousands in Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania,” the U.N. News Centre writes (3/9). FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, “We need to act to prevent further deterioration of the food security situation and to avoid a full-scale food and nutrition crisis,” according to AFP (3/10).
“The Syrian government will allow the United Nations to assess the basic medical needs of Syrians in four areas where opposition forces have clashed with government troops and to also carry out a preliminary humanitarian needs assessment, officials said Friday,” the Associated Press/Huffington Post reports. WHO spokesperson “Tarik Jasarevic says a ‘very preliminary and basic survey’ overseen by his agency and the U.N. Population Fund will be carried out next week with the cooperation of Syria’s health ministry,” the news service writes.
A new report (.pdf), “jointly published by the Korekata AIDS Law Center in Beijing and the U.S.-based non-governmental organization Asia Catalyst,” calls for the Chinese government to conduct “a full and independent investigation into the number of people affected” by illegal blood selling in central China in the 1990s that helped to spread HIV, “an official apology to the people affected, as well as compensation,” BMJ reports.
In a plenary presentation at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle on Wednesday, Dorothy Mbori-Ngacha of UNICEF examined the challenges to reaching the goal of an AIDS-free generation, by “eliminat[ing] 90 percent of HIV infections among children by 2015,” and “outlined the four pillars of achieving that goal,” including preventing HIV among women, preventing unintended pregnancies, preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), and supporting HIV-positive women and their families, the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” reports. She called for strengthening family planning programs in the context of PMTCT, prioritizing “pregnant women for access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or microbicides,” implementing strategies to initiate and care for women in treatment programs, and intervening early in pregnancy, according to the blog (Lubinski, 3/7).
A report (.pdf) published on Wednesday by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) — titled “U.S. Global Health Policy in Palestinian Hands?” and written by J. Stephen Morrison, senior vice president and director of the Global Health Policy Center at CSIS, and Haim Malka, senior fellow and deputy director of the CSIS Middle East Program — examines the relationship between Palestine’s bid for statehood and potential membership in U.N. bodies — including the WHO — and U.S. global health policy, according to the report summary. CSIS writes on its website, “Under current U.S. laws, such a decision by the Palestinians would trigger an automatic disruption to the United States’ assessed and voluntary contributions to WHO, with no waiver provisions” (3/7).
In the first part of a two-part series in the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) “Smart Global Health” blog, Alisha Kramer, an intern with the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, and Matt Fisher, project coordinator of the CSIS Project on Global Water Policy and a research assistant at the Global Health Policy Center, provide a brief history of Haiti’s cholera outbreak, noting, “Ultimately, by the end of 2011, the outbreak had resulted in over 500,000 infections and 7,000 deaths” (3/6). In the second part, the authors recap the international response to the outbreak, writing, “Despite its physical devastation, the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population — aided by PAHO, the CDC, USAID, and other non-governmental organizations — responded relatively well to the cholera outbreak; the low case-fatality ratio supports this view” (3/7).
UNICEF’s West and Central Africa Regional Office “on Tuesday appealed to western African governments to prevent a new cholera outbreak, after the disease claimed nearly 3,000 lives there last year,” Agence France-Presse reports. The “bureau said that ‘at least 105,248 cases of cholera were registered in 17 countries in 2011, and 2,898 people died’ in what was one of the most severe outbreaks of the disease in years,” the news agency writes. Though the number of cases is close to zero in most countries now, “governments should be prepared ‘to minimize risks for the next season which, in West and Central Africa, is projected to start in April 2012,'” the agency said, and noted it was concerned the disease could spread to the Sahel region, where people already are weakened by malnutrition, according to AFP (3/6).
Delegates from humanitarian aid groups from the Arab and Muslim world at a conference in Cairo on Sunday urged international aid agencies to utilize Syrian civil society and private sector groups to deliver medical and food aid inside the country, where anti-government protests have displaced hundreds of thousands and pushed many below the poverty line, IRIN reports. “Access was among the main points of discussion at the meeting, hosted by the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and The Humanitarian Forum, which called for better coordination in the delivery of aid both inside Syria and to refugees in neighboring countries, especially in the area of access to health care,” the news service writes.
“Measles has killed 126 children in Yemen since mid-2011, a consequence of the breakdown of basic health services during the year-long political crisis,” and “[i]n response … , the Yemeni government has appealed for international assistance and an outbreak-response vaccination campaign will begin in the hardest-hit regions on 10 March,” IRIN reports. Since mid-2011, “3,767 cases of measles have been confirmed, resulting in 126 deaths,” according to the Ministry of Health, whereas “in the three years from the beginning of 2007 until the end of 2009, the ministry reported a total of 211 cases and no deaths due to measles,” the news service notes.
The achievement of meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for safe drinking water “shows that where there is a will, it is possible to truly transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people for the better,” Sanjay Wijesekera, chief of water, sanitation and hygiene for UNICEF, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” “Even in sub-Saharan Africa, where progress towards achieving the target is off-track, 273 million additional people gained access to drinking water since 1990,” he writes, adding, “So, we should raise our hats to the governments, organizations, communities and individuals who put great effort and resources into making this happen.”