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PAHO Press Release Responds To Reuters Article, Says Private Sector Not Involved In Decision-Making Processes

“The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) strongly disagrees with the allegations in the recent Reuters article that the food and beverage industry advises our policymaking” with respect to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the agency said in a press release on Saturday. “In line with PAHO Member States mandates and the Declaration of the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases held in New York in September 2011, PAHO adheres to a comprehensive approach to fight NCDs, which includes governments, civil society, academia, international organizations, and private sector,” the press release states, adding, “The goal is to work together to raise awareness, promote new and innovative initiatives, and share best practices on the prevention and control of NCDs, as well as in health promotion and behavioral changes.” The press release describes how PAHO works to “manage potential conflicts of interest and ensure transparency and independence in the Organization’s decision-making process,” and the release states, “Private companies are not involved in health policies formulation or in decision-making processes of the Organization” (10/20).

Reuters Special Report Examines PAHO's 'Partnership' With Food, Beverage Industry

To fight chronic “diseases in Mexico, the nation with the world’s highest rate of obese and overweight adults, a Reuters investigation found that WHO’s regional office has turned to the very companies whose sugary drinks and salty foods are linked to many of the maladies it’s trying to prevent,” the news service reports. “The office, the Pan American Health Organization, not only is relying on the food and beverage industry for advice on how to fight obesity,” but, “[f]or the first time in its 110-year history, it has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in money from the industry,” Reuters writes.

U.N. Official Calls Food Shortages In Southern Africa 'A Chronic Problem'

U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg on Saturday said food shortages are “a chronic problem” in southern Africa, “where more than 5.5 million people in eight countries need aid this year, a 40 percent increase compared to 2011,” according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Associated Press reports. Ending a five-day trip to the region, “Bragg … said worsening food shortages are the result of drought or floods and rising world food prices,” according to the AP (10/20). Bragg met with officials in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa to discuss increased cooperation and preparedness, the U.N. News Centre reports, noting Malawi, Lesotho, and Swaziland also are affected by chronic food shortages, according to OCHA (10/19).

ECOWAS, Germany, FAO Launch Hunger-Free Initiative For West Africa

“A new project with the objective of eliminating hunger in West Africa has been launched by West African countries, Germany, and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),” BusinessDay reports (10/20). The three-year Hunger-Free Initiative for West Africa will “support the 15 ECOWAS members to increase commitment and collaboration among key decision makers of all sectors,” which “is expected to translate into increased budgets allocations to food and nutrition security as well as private investment to combat poverty, the [FAO] said in a news release,” the U.N. News Centre writes (10/18). “Germany is providing $2.4 million to fund the project, while FAO is expected to provide technical support,” the Devex “Development Newswire” reports, adding, “ECOWAS also committed financial support and pledged to ensure active participation from its members.” According to the news service, “The project’s focus on increasing political commitment in West Africa echoes U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call for strong political will and new technologies to eradicate hunger around the world” (Mungcal, 10/19).

Romney, Ryan Would Support U.S. Cuts In International Family Planning Aid

“If [Republican presidential nominee Gov.] Mitt Romney and his vice-presidential running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, were to win next month’s election, the harm to women’s reproductive rights would extend far beyond the borders of the United States,” a New York Times editorial says. In the U.S., “they would support the recriminalization of abortion with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and they would limit access to contraception and other services,” according to the editorial, which adds “they have also promised to promote policies abroad that would affect millions of women in the world’s poorest countries, where lack of access to contraception, prenatal care and competent help at childbirth often results in serious illness and thousands of deaths yearly.”

UNDP Releases Report Examining Impact Of Laws Regarding Sex Work, Effectiveness Of HIV Response

The UNDP on Thursday released a report, titled “Sex Work and the Law,” which “examines 48 countries in Asia and the Pacific to assess laws, legal policies and law enforcement practices that affect the human rights of sex workers and impact on the effectiveness of HIV responses,” according to a UNDP press release. “Where sex work has been decriminalized, there is a greater chance for safer sex practices through occupational health and safety standards across the industry,” the press release states, noting, “The report describes countries that use punitive law enforcement practices, confiscate condoms as evidence of illegal conduct, require compulsory or coerced HIV testing, deny government services and certain rights to sex workers, and have compulsory detention centers”; “highlights current laws, policies and practices that are helpful to HIV responses”; and “highlights how significant advances in recognition of the rights of sex workers can occur even in contexts where the sex industry is illegal” (10/18).

U.N. SG Ban Says Hunger Fight Needs Political Will, Innovation At World Food Prize Ceremony

“Innovative approaches and technologies as well as a strong political will from countries are essential to combat hunger,” according to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who spoke Thursday night in Des Moines, Iowa, at an event to recognize the winner of the World Food Prize, the U.N. News Centre reports. This year’s winner, Israeli scientist Daniel Hillel, developed “a new mode of bringing water to crops i­­n arid and dry regions, known as ‘micro-irrigation,'” the news service notes. An end to hunger “calls for harnessing the creativity of scientists and economists,” Ban said, adding, “It requires developing new approaches and technologies to respond to climate change, water scarcity and desertification,” according to the news service (10/18). “There is enough food to feed seven billion people, but because of climatic conditions, because of supply, market price volatility, there are still 870 million people who are going to bed hungry every night,” Ban said, the Des Moines Register notes.

U.N. SG Ban Should Initiate Global Commission On TB Elimination

Noting the release of the WHO Global Tuberculosis Report 2012 this week, this Lancet editorial says the results show “good and bad news.” The editorial says, “The number of tuberculosis cases and deaths continues to fall … and overall, the world is on track to achieve the global target of a 50 percent reduction by 2015.” However, “with an estimated 8.7 million new cases (of which 13 percent represent co-infections with HIV) and 1.4 million deaths from tuberculosis in 2011,” the “global burden of tuberculosis remains huge,” the editorial states. The report also shows “alarming levels of multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) tuberculosis,” the editorial notes.

NPR Series On Polio Examines Efforts To Fight Disease In Pakistan

In its ongoing series examining efforts to eradicate polio, NPR’s “All Things Considered” aired a story on Wednesday looking at how health care workers in Pakistan are attempting to overcome challenges to immunizing the child population. “Last year, the government declared a national emergency, and with the help of international institutions, embarked on an aggressive vaccination campaign,” NPR’s “Shots” blog reports, adding, “So far, the results have been promising. The number of new polio cases is about a third of last year’s total of 198.” The blog continues, “But the new campaign, like previous efforts, hasn’t been able to overcome one critical problem: getting into parts of Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan to vaccinate the children there” (Northam, 10/17). On NPR’s “Morning Edition” on Thursday, the news service looks at UNICEF’s recruitment of “social mobilizers,” who are working to inoculate 34 million Pakistani children (Northam, 10/18).

Number Of New TB Infections Fall, But Drug Resistance, Lack Of Funding Could Slow Progress, WHO Reports

“New tuberculosis [TB] infections dropped 2.2 percent worldwide last year, but with nearly nine million new infections, the World Health Organization said TB remains a massive problem that could worsen if countries shortchange funding to fight it,” Reuters reports (Steenhuysen, 10/17). “In a new report issued Wednesday, the U.N. agency estimated there were about 8.7 million new cases of TB last year, down from about 8.8 million in 2010,” and “[t]he number of deaths was unchanged at about 1.4 million — making it the second-leading killer among infectious diseases after AIDS,” the Associated Press writes (Cheng, 10/17). “The number of people becoming ill with tuberculosis has been falling steadily for roughly a decade after a surge in the 1990s,” but “those numbers are still huge, and only 19 percent of those infected with forms of the disease that are resistant to multiple tuberculosis drugs are being diagnosed, the WHO estimated,” according to the Wall Street Journal (McKay, 10/18). BBC News notes the report “warned of ‘persistently slow progress’ in treating tuberculosis which is resistant to antibiotics” (Gallagher, 10/17).