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.”
“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).
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).
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 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).
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).
The new head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Director-General JosÃ© 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).
“The United States said Thursday it will contribute an initial $125 million to the [U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR)] 2012 operations, including support for refugees returning to Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Agence France-Presse reports, noting, “The State Department said the funds â€¦ will also help care for refugees and internally displaced people in Iraq, Yemen, Nepal, Pakistan, Georgia, South Sudan, Chad and Kenya.” According to AFP, “In 2011, the United States contributed a total of more than $690 million dollars to UNHCR operations, including for emergencies” (12/30).
“The World Health Organization issued a stern warning on Friday to scientists who have engineered a highly pathogenic form of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus, saying their work carries significant risks and must be tightly controlled,” Reuters reports (Kelland, 12/30). The agency “warned … that while such studies were important, they could have deadly consequences,” the New York Times writes (McNeil/Grady, 1/2).
This Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) special report highlights the top 10 stories of 2011 regarding access to essential medicines, according to MSF. The list includes the findings of the HPTN 052 clinical trial, which “show that providing people with HIV treatment early not only saves their lives but can reduce the risk…