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House Appropriations Committee Approves FY13 State, Foreign Operations Spending Bill

The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved its FY 2013 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill (.pdf), which would provide $40.1 billion in regular discretionary funding and an additional $8.2 billion in funding for ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, The Hill’s “On the Money” blog reports (Wasson, 5/17). Taken together, the bill would provide about $5 billion, or nine percent, less than FY 2012 funding levels, a committee press release notes (5/17). “The bill contains tough new limitations on aid,” including cutting all funding for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) and reinstating the Mexico City policy, also known as the “global gag rule,” which prohibits foreign aid from going to any organization that performs abortions or provides information about or referral for the procedure as a method of family planning, according to The Hill.

Loss Of U.S. Funding For UNFPA 'Would Be Devastating' To Family Planning Services In Developing Countries

“By voting to ban any U.S. contribution to UNFPA” in the FY 2013 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday “made a judgment call that saving the lives of women and girls around the world is simply not a U.S. priority,” Valerie DeFillipo, president of Friends of UNFPA, writes in a Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece. She notes that “[c]ommittee members voted against amendments that would permit funding to UNFPA for preventing and treating obstetric fistula, ending female genital mutilation, and providing family planning services and contraceptive supplies in nine sub-Saharan African countries with high rates of poverty and maternal mortality where USAID does not provide family planning assistance.”

International Community Must Organize, Commit Financial Resources To Win War On Polio

In this editorial in the International Herald Tribune’s “Express Tribune,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon examines the global push to eradicate polio, highlighting progress in the “world’s war on polio” since it was declared nearly a quarter century ago but warning that “we are in danger of falling victim to our own success,” as “the world is now populated by a generation which has either never been exposed to polio or has been inadequately vaccinated.” However, “[w]ith a determined push, the international community can wipe out polio once and for all,” Ban continues, adding, “To do so, … it must organize and commit the required financial resources.” Ban highlights two upcoming meetings — the G8 summit at Camp David this week, and a meeting of World Health Assembly in Geneva the following week — as opportunities for world leaders to push for polio eradication on the international agenda.

More Research Needed Into How Transgender Persons In Asia, Pacific Affected By HIV, Stigma, Report Says

A report released Thursday in Bangkok by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN) says more research needs to be conducted to determine the extent to which transgender persons in Asia and the Pacific are affected by HIV, are socially ostracized, and lack fundamental rights, including access to basic health care, a UNDP press release reports. The report, released to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, is “a comprehensive review of material gathered from across the region over the past 12 years” and “emphasizes that inclusive research, designed and implemented in partnership with the transgender community, is critical to enable governments, community-based organizations and supporting organizations to enhance HIV and sexual health care services specific to the needs of transgender people, and foster action by governments to adopt more socially equitable policies and practices to protect their rights,” according to the press release (5/17).

WHO Faces Challenges In Setting Priorities

In this BMJ Groups Blog post, Amanda Glassman, director of Global Health Policy at the Center for Global Development, writes about the challenges the WHO faces in “[s]etting priorities and fully funding those priorities.” She defines the criteria by which the WHO could outline its priorities, including by identifying “global” and “shared” concerns and adequately funding and staffing priority areas. Glassman concludes, “There is tentative movement towards limiting the number of new resolutions based on ‘an assessment of their strategic value, financial and administrative implications, and reporting requirements and timelines.’ That sounds very good, and would inspire more confidence if the assessment were rigorous and transparent to member states and the public. Still, the reform seems to have punted on the WHO’s priority-setting problem” (5/17).

PLoS Blog Responds To U.N.'s Newly Released Maternal Mortality Estimates

Newly released “estimates of maternal mortality from the United Nations’ Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group (MMEIG) are good news — but not good enough,” Peter Byass, 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. He briefly discusses the pros and cons of using “estimates” for maternal mortality data, and he concludes, “There is a risk involved for every woman who gets pregnant. But the global community has the knowledge and resources to manage those risks and minimize adverse consequences. Why can’t we stop mothers dying?” (5/16).

Maternal Deaths Drop By Nearly Half Worldwide Over 20 Years; Greater Progress Still Needed, U.N. Reports

“The number of women dying of pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications has almost halved in 20 years, according to new estimates released [on Wednesday] by the United Nations, which stressed that greater progress is still needed in significantly reducing maternal deaths,” the U.N. News Centre reports (5/16). “The report, ‘Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010,’ shows that from 1990 to 2010, the annual number of maternal deaths dropped from more than 543,000 to 287,000 — a decline of 47 percent,” a UNFPA press release states (5/16). However, “[w]hile substantial progress has been achieved in almost all regions, many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, will fail to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing maternal death by 75 percent through 2015,” Inter Press Service writes (Deen, 5/16). “Countries in Eastern Asia have made [the] most progress on improving the health of expectant and new mothers, said the report,” Agence France-Presse adds (5/16).

Lawmakers Discuss UNFPA In China At Hearing On Activist Chen Guangcheng

At a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Human Rights hearing “on blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng and his campaign against Chinese human-rights abuses,” “Republican and Democratic lawmakers clashed Tuesday over the effects of” the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) on China’s so-called “one-child policy,” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports. “Chen’s escape from house arrest last month is drawing renewed attention to the [UNFPA], which a Republican-controlled House panel voted last week to defund in their annual spending bill for foreign aid,” the blog writes. “Democrats say the U.N. Population Fund enables millions of women around the world to have access to contraception, prenatal care and screenings,” the blog writes, adding, “The program, however, is controversial because it operates in China, whose single-child policy is seen as incompatible with U.S. notions of human rights” (Pecquet, 5/15).

WHO Releases World Health Statistics 2012 With First-Time Data On Blood Pressure, Diabetes

The WHO on Wednesday released its World Health Statistics 2012 report, which “for the first time includes a look at blood pressure and glucose levels, two of the risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” according to the Associated Press/Washington Post (5/16). The “data showed one in three adults worldwide has raised blood pressure — the cause of around half of all deaths from stroke and heart disease — and the condition affects almost half the adult population in some countries in Africa,” Reuters writes (Kelland, 5/16). “One in 10 people are estimated to have diabetes, rising to up to one third in Pacific Island countries,” Agence France-Presse notes (5/16). According to Reuters, “Obesity is another major issue, the WHO said, with data showing rates of obesity doubling in every region of the world between 1980 and 2008” (5/16). “This report is further evidence of the dramatic increase in the conditions that trigger heart disease and other chronic illnesses, particularly in low- and middle-income countries,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, the news agency reports (5/16).

U.N. Appeals For More Than $500M In Emergency Aid For South Sudan; WFP Says $360M Shortfall To Address Food Insecurity In Sahel

The U.N. is calling for $505 million in emergency aid for the people of South Sudan, with the bulk of the funding going “toward providing food to tens of thousands of South Sudanese, many of whom are returning home from Sudan,” VOA News reports (Doki, 5/15). “It is uncertain whether the appeal will be fully funded, given the status of last year’s humanitarian appeal,” Devex writes, noting that “[o]nly one-third of the nearly $800 million appeal in 2011 has been funded as of May 16” (Ravelo, 5/16). Lisa Grande, the U.N. humanitarian aid program coordinator in South Sudan, “said the amount of food needed for the region has doubled compared to last year,” according to VOA (5/15).