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IPS, AlertNet Report On Health Issues Resulting From Climate Change

Inter Press Service examines the relationship between climate change and family planning in least-developed countries (LDCs), writing the “double challenge of mitigating climate change and combating crushing poverty makes improving reproductive rights and promoting gender equality imperatives that can no longer be delayed, according to several recent reports and agreements.” IPS highlights several reports and agreements, including an agreement between U.N. Women and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) that “aims at tackling gender inequality in the 75 OIF member states, most of which are also LDCs”; an agreement between U.N. Women and the European Union “to strengthen cooperation between the two organizations in their work on gender equality”; and the Royal Society of London’s People and the Planet report, “which focuses on reproductive rights and social justice as cornerstones of global economic sustainability” (Godoy, 5/30).

U.N. Releases Annual Central Emergency Response Fund Report

The United Nations humanitarian office on Tuesday released its 2011 Annual Report of the Central Emergency Response Fund, which highlights the contributions of the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to humanitarian partners in 45 countries in 2011, the U.N. News Center reports. “Financed by voluntary contributions from Member States, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local governments, the private sector and individual donors, the CERF is a humanitarian fund established by the United Nations to enable more timely and reliable humanitarian assistance to those affected by natural disasters and armed conflicts, helping agencies to pre-position funding for humanitarian action,” the news service notes (5/29).

Aid Agencies Warn April's Steep Increases In Grain Prices Will Affect Sahel Nations During Lean Season

“Unexpectedly sharp price rises in April for local cereals like millet, rice, and maize in parts of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad mean many vulnerable people in the drought-hit Sahel could find it even harder to get enough to eat,” IRIN reports. “Prices are expected to keep rising until the end of August — during the lean season — but the size of recent hikes has surprised food price analysts and humanitarian aid personnel,” the news service writes (5/25). In an article detailing the situation in Senegal, the Associated Press notes, “More than one million children under five in this wide, arid swath of Africa below the Sahara are now at risk of a food shortage so severe that it threatens their lives, UNICEF estimates” (Larson, 5/27).

Widespread Cholera Vaccination Needed In Haiti While Improvements Made To Water, Sanitation Systems

“As the world’s worst outbreak of cholera continues to ravage Haiti, international donors have averted their gaze,” a Washington Post editorial writes. The editorial notes that a “pilot project to vaccinate Haitians against the disease … reached only one percent of the population, with no immediate prospect of expansion,” and “[o]f the 100 or so cholera treatment centers that sprang up around the country after the disease was detected 19 months ago, fewer than a third remain.” The solution to the epidemic is “equally well known and costly,” the editorial states, adding, “Haiti needs modern water and sanitation infrastructure, an undertaking that might cost $1 billion. But while donors tend to respond generously to emergencies, such as the earthquake that devastated Haiti in early 2010, they lose interest in long-term fixes of the sort that would deal decisively with cholera.”

Officials At 65th World Health Assembly Adopt Resolutions On Broad Range Of Health Issues

“The 65th World Health Assembly concluded Saturday after adopting 21 resolutions and three decisions on a broad range of health issues,” a WHO press release reports (5/26). “Several resolutions were adopted, … including on non-communicable diseases, counterfeit health supplies, and the World Health Organization’s role during emergencies,” Devex writes (Ravelo, 5/28). “It is the first time that countries will set a concrete global goal for reducing premature deaths from cardiovascular and lung diseases, diabetes, and cancer,” the Associated Press/Washington Post notes, adding that the member states agreed to cut deaths from the four diseases by one-quarter by 2025 (5/25). “In the WHO text, its 194 member states voice ‘strong support for additional work aimed at reaching consensus on targets relating to the four main risk factors, namely tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity,'” Reuters writes (Nebehay, 5/25).

IPS Reports On Population And Development Conference Draft Declaration

Inter Press Service reports on the Fifth International Parliamentarians’ Conference on the Implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) program of action, taking place in Istanbul, Turkey. “According to a preliminary draft Istanbul Declaration issued by conference participants, the world’s parliamentarians are determined to play their role in mobilizing the necessary resources for the ICPD agenda, as well as strengthening parliamentary oversight in ensuring its implementation,” IPS writes, adding, “In the draft declaration, to be finalized and adopted Friday, parliamentarians committed to looking ahead to ensure that future priorities are included in the goals and targets being developed through the post-2015 development agenda processes.” The news service also notes that “one of the outcomes of this meeting will be a call for governments to allocate 10 percent of their national budgets to ICPD programs” (Atarah, 5/25).

U.N. Official Calls For More Leadership, Funding, Comprehensive Plan To Address Potential Humanitarian Crisis In Sahel

U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos on Thursday “called for strong leadership and a comprehensive response plan, as well as donor support, for the food crisis in West Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region, warning that hunger could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe,” the U.N. News Centre reports (5/24). Amos “met with President Macky Sall in Senegal and Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso on a four-day trip to west Africa to examine the impact of the food crisis,” Agence France-Presse writes. “We can do more to avoid the crisis from becoming a catastrophe in the region but to save more lives we need strong leadership … and continued generosity from the regional and humanitarian community,” she said, the news agency notes (5/24). The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which Amos heads, said that in addition to food aid, “priorities for those in need of assistance include health care and water and sanitation services,” according to the U.N. News Centre (5/24).

Editorial, Opinion Piece Examine Future Of World Health Organization

As the World Health Assembly draws to a close in Geneva this week, and Margaret Chan accepts her appointment to a second five-year term as director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), an editorial and an opinion piece examine the future of the U.N. health agency. Summaries of these pieces appear below.

Ministers Meet To Discuss Global Plan To Eliminate New HIV Infections Among Children

UNAIDS and PEPFAR recently brought together the ministers of health and representatives of the 22 countries with the most new HIV cases among children to discuss progress on the Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping Their Mothers Alive agreed to at the 2011 U.N. High-Level Meeting on AIDS, according to a UNAIDS press release. Though “great strides have been made in reducing HIV infections among women of reproductive age and expanding access to antiretroviral therapy for pregnant women living with HIV, … progress is not being scaled up as quickly on meeting the family planning needs of women living with HIV, preventing maternal mortality and ensuring that all children living with HIV have access to antiretroviral therapy,” according to UNAIDS. “The meeting was the first annual face-to-face gathering of representatives from the 22 focus countries since the launch of the Global Plan,” the press release notes (5/23).

WHO Can Survive With Reform, Flexibility

“As the nations of the world attend the World Health Assembly in Geneva this week, the World Health Organization is in a budget crisis and continuing to struggle for relevancy among better-funded, more agile philanthropic foundations and disease-specific initiatives,” Thomas Bollyky, senior fellow for global health, economics, and development at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), writes in this CFR expert brief. “Survival for the institution is possible, but only if WHO reinvents itself as a twenty-first century international institution that can adapt to changing global health needs and thrive in austere times,” he writes (5/23).