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U.S. Suspends $13M In Aid To Mali Following Coup; U.N. Security Council Expresses Concern Over Humanitarian Crisis In Mali, Sahel Region

“The United States is suspending at least $13 million of its roughly $140 million in annual aid to Mali following last month’s coup in the West African nation, the State Department said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports, noting the “suspension affects U.S. assistance for Mali’s ministry of health, public school construction and the government’s efforts to boost agricultural production.” According to the news agency, “U.S. law bars aid ‘to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.’” State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said, “These are worthwhile programs that are now suspended because that aid goes directly to the government of Mali,” Reuters notes (4/5). France and the European Union also immediately suspended all but essential humanitarian aid to the country, according to the Associated Press/USA Today.

WHO Drafts Treaty To Fight Illicit Tobacco Trade; WTO Demands Obama Administration Drop Ban On Flavored Cigarettes

“Nations have crafted a draft treaty to fight a booming trade in illicit tobacco products that’s costing governments as much as $50 billion a year in lost tax revenue, officials said Wednesday,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “But there are notable holdouts to the negotiations — the United States, Indonesia and more than a dozen other nations — where the treaty would have no effect,” the news agency writes (4/4). According to the WHO, tobacco-related diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes, and other illnesses, kill almost six million people annually, Reuters notes. “Formally a protocol to the 2005 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the world’s first public health pact, the new agreement was reached after nearly five years of negotiations, including a fifth and final round this past week,” the news agency writes (Nebehay, 4/4).

U.N. Reports Increase In Cholera Cases In Haiti As Rains Begin

In a monthly bulletin (.pdf) on the humanitarian response in Haiti, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that an increase of new cholera cases has been recorded in the western and northern parts of the country and “that Haitian health officials recorded 77 new cases a day for the whole country in early March, when the rains began,” the Associated Press/USA Today reports. “The new cholera cases come after a steady decline since June of last year when aid workers saw peaks of more than 1,000 cases on certain days,” the news agency writes.

Humanitarian Agencies Suspend Aid Programs In Northern Mali After Armed Groups Ransack, Loot Offices, Warehouses

After armed groups in the north of Mali “ransacked government offices, hospitals, hotels, private property as well as the offices and warehouses of aid groups” over the weekend, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) “suspended some activities in the northern and central regions of Mali,” according to a WFP spokesperson, AlertNet reports. “Tuareg-led rebels seeking to carve out an independent state in the north of Mali, and local Islamists, seized the garrison town of Gao, the ancient trading post of Timbuktu and the town of Kidal over the weekend,” the news service writes.

Poor Countries Must Adapt Health Systems To Meet Chronic Care Needs Of Aging Population, WHO Says

“Health systems, particularly in poorer countries, need to adapt to meet the chronic care needs of older people as the shift to aging populations gathers pace in low- and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said” Wednesday in a briefing paper to mark World Health Day, observed on Saturday, the Guardian reports. The agency “points out that developing countries will have less time than wealthy nations to adapt to the challenges of an aging population — generally defined as people over 60,” the news service writes, adding, “By 2050, 80 percent of older people will live in low- and middle-income countries.”

UNICEF Launches Social Media Campaign To Raise Awareness Of Malnutrition Among Children In Sahel Region

UNICEF on Tuesday launched a social media campaign “to raise awareness about children in the Sahel region in northern Africa who are in urgent need of food aid,” CNN reports. UNICEF estimates that one million children in the region are at risk of starvation, and the U.N. says more than 10 million people risk severe acute malnutrition, the news agency notes. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, “the main causes of the humanitarian crisis in the region are ‘drought, chronic poverty, high food prices, displacement and conflict,’” CNN writes. The campaign also aims to raise funds for the crisis, as UNICEF reports having only $30 million of a $120 million appeal in its coffers, according to the news agency (4/3).

New Initiative Aims To Strengthen Regulatory Capacity, Systems For Delivery Of Medicines In Africa

“The need to ensure that people in Africa have access to essential, high quality, safe and affordable medicines has just received a major boost with the launch of the East African Community (EAC) Medicines Registration Harmonization Project in Arusha, Tanzania, on 30 March 2011,” UNAIDS reports in a feature story on its website. An alliance “bringing together the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, the U.K. Department for International Development (DfID), and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI),” “hope[s] to strengthen regulatory capacity and systems for medicines in Africa, including antiretroviral drugs, so that fewer lives are lost due to drugs which are unsafe and of poor quality or which are largely unavailable or delivered inefficiently,” according to the article (4/2).

South Sudan Hoping To Mark Three Years Without Recording Polio Case

“South Sudan officials are hopeful the country will soon be declared polio-free,” if the nation can go another four months without recording a polio case, VOA News reports. “Before 2008, the area that is now South Sudan had been considered free of polio,” but “[t]hat year the country was re-infected through an imported strain that originated in Nigeria,” the news service writes. The country has not recorded a new case in more than 32 months, Abdi Aden Mohamed, head of the WHO in South Sudan, said, adding, “We are very cautious in the sense of there are a number of countries surrounding South Sudan that cases might be here and there,” according to VOA. Volunteers working to vaccinate every child under the age of six recently concluded the country’s 24th immunization campaign since polio reappeared in the nation, the news service notes (Green, 3/30).

April Issue Of WHO Bulletin Available Online

The April issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on the WHO research agenda for influenza; a public health round-up; an article on influenza in Ghana; a research paper on population-based burden of influenza-associated hospitalization in rural western Kenya; and a policy paper on the integration of pneumonia prevention and treatment interventions with immunization services in resource-poor countries (April 2012).

Somaliland Officials Appeal For Food Aid, Water For Thousands Of Families Affected By Drought

“Officials in the self-declared republic of Somaliland, [in] northwestern Somalia, are appealing for food aid and potable water for thousands of families who have lost their livelihoods in the current drought,” IRIN reports. “In February, [the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP)] provided food assistance to nearly 150,000 people in Somaliland, according to Challiss McDonough, WFP’s senior spokesperson for East, Central and Southern Africa,” according to the news service. Food insecurity in some areas is classified at “crisis level,” with children, expectant and nursing mothers, and the elderly most affected, IRIN notes. “WFP is shifting its focus from emergency assistance towards targeted programs, including building reservoirs, wells and roads which support communities’ resilience to seasonal shocks, according to spokesperson McDonough, who said that in the past year WFP had doubled the number of nutrition programs in Somalia,” the news service writes (3/30).