“Famine conditions have ended in war-torn Somalia six months after they were declared, but the situation remains dire with a third of the population needing emergency aid, the U.N. said on Friday,” Agence France-Presse reports (Vincenot, 2/3). “‘Long-awaited rains, coupled with substantial agricultural inputs and the humanitarian response deployed in the last six months, are the main reasons for this improvement,’ the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Director-General JosÃ© Graziano da Silva told journalists in Nairobi after visiting southern Somalia,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C writes (2/3). “‘We have three months, let’s say, to work to avoid another possible famine from a drought. We cannot avoid the drought â€¦ but we can avoid famine from drought,’ Graziano da Silva said, stressing the need for long-term measures to strengthen agricultural capacity,” the Guardian reports (Chonghaile, 2/3).
“[T]he highest levels ever of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) have been found in Russia and Moldova,” the WHO reports in research published in the February edition of the WHO Bulletin, but “the agency didn’t have data from most of Africa and India, where tuberculosis rates are much higher,” the Associated Press/USA Today’s “Your Life” reports. According to the AP, the “experts reported that about 29 percent of new TB patients in parts of Russia were drug-resistant” and that “65 percent of previously treated patients in Moldova had resistance problems.” The news service notes, “Normally, less than five percent of TB cases are drug-resistant” (2/2).
An Indian girl between the ages of one and five years old is 75 percent more likely to die than an Indian boy, giving the country the worst gender differential in child mortality in the world, according to new data released by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Times of India reports. The “data for 150 countries over 40 years show that India and China are the only two countries in the world where female infant mortality is higher than male infant mortality in the 2000s,” the newspaper writes (Shrinivasan, 2/1). In India, for every 100 deaths among females one to five years old, 56 males of the same age group die, whereas the global average is 111 male child deaths to every 100 female children, India Today notes. “Higher mortality among girls is a powerful warning that differential treatment or access to resources is putting girls at a disadvantage,” the report said, according to the news service (2/1).
The February issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on multidrug-resistant tuberculosis; a public health round-up; an article on the health care challenges posed by population aging; a research paper on the systems approach to improving maternal health in the Philippines; and a policy paper on reducing death rates from cyclones in Bangladesh (February 2012).
In her “Global Health Blog,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley speaks with GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty about the year-long efforts to bring together the heads of more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies in a large public-private initiative to control or eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). “In terms of what should this industry be doing preferentially, it should be making available the drugs which nobody else has for people in these countries who suffer from these diseases … and we should be committing ourselves to discover more, better drugs for the future, and we’re doing that today and we’re collaborating with others to make it happen quicker,” Witty said (1/31).
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last week “received $9.1 million … from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to fight off cholera, which has affected more than 22,000 people and killed 500 over the past year in the central African country,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “In a news release, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that there has been a spike in cases in recent weeks, with the majority of them occurring in eastern provinces where cholera is endemic,” according to the news service (1/27). UNICEF will receive $4.4 million and the WHO will receive $4.7 million to help fight the spread of the disease, which “has ravaged eight of the country’s 11 provinces since January 2011,” Agence France-Presse writes (1/28).
The Malaria Policy Advisory Committee, convened by the WHO Global Malaria Programme and composed of 15 malaria experts, will hold its first meeting January 31 through February 2 in Geneva, according to this article in Malaria Journal, which is a prelude to a series on the group’s policy recommendations and supporting evidence that will be published following each biannual meeting. The article also “provides the global malaria community with the background and overview of the Committee and its terms of reference,” the article summary states (D’Souza/Newman, 1/27).
Speaking on Saturday at the African Union Summit, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said huge advances in HIV treatment and prevention have been made over the past decade in Africa, “[b]ut these gains ‘are not sustainable,’ … because they are heavily dependent on foreign aid,” the Zimbabwean reports (1/30). “An estimated two-thirds of AIDS expenditures in Africa come from international funding sources, according to a new UNAIDS issues brief titled “AIDS dependency crisis: sourcing African solutions” (.pdf), Xinhua writes (1/29).
UNICEF on Friday “appealed … for $1.28 billion to provide humanitarian assistance to children in over 25 countries this year, with nearly one-third of the total amount earmarked for the crisis in the Horn of Africa,” the U.N. News Centre reports (1/27). The agency also released its annual “Humanitarian Action for Children 2012” report, which “decried the rising levels of starvation and malnutrition among children under the age of five in many of the world’s troubled regions,” GlobalPost writes (1/27). UNICEF “said it was seeking nine percent less than in 2011, linked to lower needs in Pakistan and Haiti, but that its needs for fighting hunger had jumped by nearly 50 percent,” according to Agence France-Presse (1/28). The agency said more than one million children in Africa’s Sahel region are at risk of severe malnutrition, Reuters reports (1/27).
Thirteen pharmaceutical companies; the governments of the U.S., U.K. and United Arab Emirates; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the WHO; the World Bank; the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi); and other global health organizations “announced a new, coordinated push to accelerate progress toward eliminating or controlling 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by the end of the decade,” according to a press release (.pdf) from Global Health Strategies. “In the largest coordinated effort to date to combat NTDs,” the partners will provide 14 billion doses of medications by the end of the decade and share expertise and products to speed research and development of new drugs, the press release notes.