Approximately one-third of children under the age of five in southern Afghanistan, about one million, have acute malnutrition, “with a level of deprivation similar to that found in famine zones, a government survey has found, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid that has been poured into the region,” the Guardian reports. The U.N.-supported “Afghanistan Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) found 29.5 percent of children are suffering from acute malnutrition there,” the newspaper states, noting that a level of more than 30 percent is one indicator of famine, as are death rates and families’ access to food.
“Saying dengue virus infections and deaths have mushroomed in recent years, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a strategy report that sets a goal of cutting deaths in half and reducing cases by 25 percent over the next eight years,” CIDRAP reports. “The report, titled ‘Global Strategy for Dengue Prevention and Control,’ also sets a goal of estimating the true burden of dengue disease by 2015 — signaling how little is known about the global impact of the mosquito-borne illness,” the news service writes. “In general, the report says that the tools already exist to make a big dent in the dengue problem, but that better tools, particularly in the diagnostic realm, are urgently needed,” CIDRAP notes, adding, “Currently there is no licensed vaccine or specific treatment for dengue fever or its more serious complication, dengue hemorrhagic fever” (Roos, 9/4).
“Despite pledges from governments across Eastern Europe and Central Asia to fight HIV/AIDS — one of the eight Millennium Development Goals — the region has the world’s fastest-growing HIV epidemic,” Inter Press Service reports in an article examining challenges to stemming the spread of the disease, particularly among injection drug users. “Punitive drug policies, discrimination and problems with access to medicines and important therapy are all driving an epidemic which is unlikely to be contained, world experts say, until governments in countries with the worst problems change key policies and approaches to the disease,” the news service writes. According to experts and activists, a lack of opiate-substitution therapy (OST) and needle-exchange programs, as well as discrimination against and “active persecution” of drug users who try to access therapy programs, contributes to the spread of HIV, IPS notes (Stracansky, 9/3).
“World leaders must take swift, coordinated action to ensure that food price shocks do not turn into a catastrophe that could hurt tens of millions of people in coming months, the United Nations’ food agencies said in a statement on Tuesday,” Reuters reports. “It said leaders must tackle both the immediate issue of high food prices, as well as the long-term issue of how food is produced and consumed at a time of rising population, demand and climate change,” the news agency writes (9/4).
“More than 4,000 delegates — including government officials, health experts, community leaders, scientists, indigenous populations, youth and people living with HIV — convened from 28-31 August in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for the 6th Latin American and Caribbean Forum on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs),” UNAIDS reports in a feature story. “[T]he forum provided an opportunity to take stock of progress, challenges and lessons learned in HIV responses across the region,” according to UNAIDS, which adds, “Participants engaged on a range of issues, from AIDS financing and new HIV prevention technologies to strategies for closing treatment access gaps.” The article expands on several of these issues (8/31).
The September issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on expanding HIV testing in Europe, a public health news roundup, a research article on male circumcision programs in Kenya, and a systematic review of strategies for delivering insecticide-treated nets at scale for malaria control, among other articles (September 2012).
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “warned on Friday that Haiti was struggling to cope with a cholera epidemic that has killed thousands and deteriorating conditions in tent camps as aid groups withdraw from the impoverished country due to a lack of funding,” Reuters reports. “In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban said there had been an increase in the number of cholera cases since the rainy season began in early March and the World Health Organization had projected there could be up to 112,000 cases during 2012,” the news service writes.
“The top United Nations relief official said [.pdf] today that humanitarian efforts to alleviate the devastating food crisis affecting Mali have begun to yield results, but warned that much still remains to be done and the situation could worsen without continued donor support,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/30). Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos “on Thursday called for more resources in Mali to save children from severe malnutrition,” Agence France-Presse reports. The widespread food crisis in the Sahel region is compounded in Mali by a militant insurgency in the north of the country, according to the news agency. “The food crisis, which follows a drought in 2011, has affected 4.6 million people in Mali alone,” and “[a]lmost 150,000 children across Mali have been treated for acute malnutrition … this year,” the news agency writes (8/30).
“The World Health Organization reports Guinea worm disease, which has plagued people for thousands of years, is on the verge of eradication,” VOA News reports. “The U.N. agency says fewer than 400 cases of the infectious parasitic disease exist in four African countries, and that it will soon become only the second, after smallpox, to be wiped off the face of the earth,” the news service writes (Schlein, 8/28). “The number of Guinea worm disease cases has dropped from 3,190 in 2009 to just under 396 cases during the first six months of 2012, according to the [WHO],” the U.N. News Centre notes, adding, “Gautam Biswas of WHO’s Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases told a news conference in Geneva … that aggressive public health and hygiene awareness among the communities where the disease is still endemic is vital to eradicating it” (8/28).
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice on Tuesday spoke at a reception at the U.S. Embassy in India meant “to highlight the Call to Action initiative against child mortality,” Zee News reports (8/29). Rice “[l]aud[ed] India’s role for taking on the challenge as a co-convener of the ‘Child Survival Call to Action,’ a global initiative launched jointly by the governments of United States, India and Ethiopia in collaboration with UNICEF,” the Business Standard writes (8/28). According to her remarks, Rice said, “Thanks to advances in technology, knowledge and expansion of health programs, as well as the leadership of countries such as India, today it is possible to eliminate preventable child death. India’s success in nearly stopping the transmission of polio shows what can be achieved with a program of focused and well-coordinated international cooperation” (8/28).