“The nearly two-year conflict in Syria has taken tens of thousands of lives, destroyed entire neighborhoods and sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing. But more quietly, it has also eaten away at the country’s health care system,” IRIN reports. Many pharmaceutical factories, “which used to produce more than 90 percent of the country’s drug needs,” have shut down or cut production, the news service writes, adding, “Those medicines that are available have also risen in price, and amid skyrocketing unemployment and rising food prices, many Syrians — especially those displaced from their homes by the violence — are struggling to afford their usual medication.”
As part of its ongoing series, titled “The State of AIDS,” GlobalPost published two articles examining the epidemic in different regions. In Eastern Europe, rates of HIV/AIDS diagnoses have risen in several countries, including Ukraine and Russia, according to the first article, which discusses some of the potential reasons for the increases. Also, “with the economic crisis affecting much of Western Europe, there is concern that declining health spending and cuts to research budgets could hurt AIDS treatment across the continent, even in nations that are leading the way in HIV/AIDS prevention and care like the United Kingdom,” the news service writes (Ames, 12/7).
“There is currently a $3.6 billion funding gap on malaria in Africa, according to the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, whose board concluded its 23rd meeting in Dakar, Senegal, on December 7,” Devex’s “Development Newswire” blog reports. Of the total, eight African countries — Nigeria, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Niger, and Sierra Leone — need $2.4 billion to maintain their malaria prevention and treatment efforts over the next two years, “with Nigeria alone requiring nearly half that amount,” according to the blog (Ravelo, 12/10).
“Excessive corruption, poor infrastructure and scarce government resources were deterring investment in agriculture and contributing to high levels of malnourishment around the world,” Xinhua writes, noting the release on Thursday of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) annual report. “A new investment strategy is needed that puts agricultural producers at its center,” FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, Xinhua notes. According to the report, farmers in low- and middle-income countries invest more than $170 billion annually in their farms, which is “three times as much as all other sources of investment combined, four times more than contributions by the public sector, and over 50 times more than official development assistance to these countries,” Xinhua reports (12/7).
In this PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog post, Julien Potet and Katy Athersuch of Medecins Sans Frontieres’ (MSF) Access Campaign say that the WHO’s decision last week to “simply continue monitoring” the medical research and development (R&D) industry’s ability to address the needs of people living in developing countries “by creating a global R&D ‘observatory'” is “a deeply disappointing outcome that will not help re-shape priorities, increase funding or catalyze development of urgently needed new medical tools; at best it will only underscore further how badly these actions are needed.” They discuss how access to new tools, technologies, and treatments “can save lives” and some of the progress made in expanding R&D. Advocates’ “pressure will be critical for engaging governments and mobilizing the public leadership needed to support the research for cures that millions of neglected patients await,” they conclude (12/6).
UNFPA and mobile phone company Nokia announced this week that the “company will donate the equivalent of 3,000 clean delivery kits to the fund,” according to an UNFPA press release. “The kits, designed and distributed by UNFPA, help ensure safe delivery of babies in humanitarian settings,” and are being provided as a result of the fund’s social media campaign “Safe Birth. Even Here.,” the press release states, adding, “The campaign, which reports on and tracks safe deliveries in refugee camps and emergencies around the globe, is active on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, and aims to raise awareness about maternal health and the challenges faced by expectant mothers in crisis settings” (12/4).
In its continuing series titled “The State of AIDS,” GlobalPost examines the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean, where “[m]ajor gains have been made in the fight against the spread of HIV” over the past decade, particularly in stopping mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). However, some countries in the region have some of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates outside of sub-Saharan Africa; “the disease continues to spread among certain at-risk populations,” such as men who have sex with men; and “nearly one-third of those infected in Latin America are still not getting treated,” the news service reports.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) established a global monitoring framework for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at a Geneva meeting on November 9, 2012 — a little over a year after the U.N. General Assembly adopted a political declaration on NCDs,” Management Sciences for Health’s “Global Health Impact” blog reports, noting Ambassador Betty King, permanent representative of the U.S. to the U.N. and other international organizations in Geneva, announced the framework in November. “MSH commends Ambassador Betty King, WHO member states, along with civil society and industry partnerships, for their leadership on this framework for tackling NCDs,” the blog writes (Sangiwa, 12/4).
Climate Change Conference Postpones Discussion Of Agriculture; U.N. Warns Food Prices, Child Malnutrition Will Rise If Issue Not Addressed
“Discussions about much-needed support for agriculture — which is seen both as a victim and a cause of climate change — at the U.N.’s climate change conference in Doha have been postponed until next year,” IRIN reports. Agriculture affects climate change, with the production of greenhouse gas emissions, “[b]ut climate change also threatens agriculture, which most developing countries’ populations rely on for income,” the news service writes, adding, “The impact of climate change also threatens global food security; projections show that yields from food crops could decline by five percent for each degree Celsius increase in global warming” (12/5).
Though “Pakistan has made a lot of progress this year in wiping out polio,” a “recent outbreak of polio there has health officials concerned about the overall effectiveness of the effort to eliminate polio in that country,” NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. According to the WHO, “10 cases of so-called vaccine-derived polio were reported in Pakistan between the end of August and the end of October,” the blog notes, adding this is the first time vaccine-derived polio has been detected in the country and it is a sign of gaps in immunization coverage. “WHO officials say the outbreak, involving a variety of the virus called type 2 polio, illustrates that vaccination campaigns in the area are failing to reach sufficient numbers of people,” the blog writes. “The government of Pakistan launched an aggressive campaign this year, in partnership with international health organizations, to vaccinate children and carefully monitor the virus’s spread,” according to “Shots” (Beaubien, 12/4).