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).
UNICEF Official Calls For Increased Investment In Child Mortality To Achieve MDGs; New U.N. Estimates Due Next Month
Mickey Chopra, chief health officer at UNICEF, has called for increased investment in reducing child mortality, the Guardian reports, writing Chopra “said investment now would lead to massive strides in meeting the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] of reducing maternal deaths by three-quarters (MDG4) and the deaths of children under five by two-thirds (MDG5), both by 2015.” The newspaper adds, “Since 1990, annual maternal deaths have declined by almost half and the deaths of young children have fallen from 12 million to 7.6 million in 2010,” but “many countries — especially in Africa and south Asia — are not making progress” (Tran, 8/28) “Given current trends, the child mortality goal set out by U.N. officials won’t be reached until 2038,” according to U.N. researchers, LiveScience notes.
At the opening ceremony of World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “launched a framework that will help combat food insecurity by providing methods to better manage water resources in agriculture and reduce waste,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The initiative, entitled ‘Coping with water scarcity: An action framework for agriculture and food security’ [.pdf], seeks to encourage practices that will improve water management, such as modernizing irrigation schemes, recycling and re-using wastewater, implementing mechanisms to reduce water pollution, and storing rainwater at farms to reduce drought-related risks, among others,” the news service notes.
Highlighting a recent report by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine about the use of the drug misoprostol to prevent postpartum hemorrhage and the WHO’s inclusion of the drug on its Essential Medicine List, Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in this post in her “Global Health Blog,” “Seldom has there been a drug that has excited as much controversy as misoprostol.” She continues, “Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, which is why it can stop postpartum hemorrhage, the cause of around a quarter of maternal deaths,” but “there has been a huge fight over whether and how well it works, which in some quarters has been ideologically motivated, because misoprostol can also bring about an abortion.”
“In today’s world, the majority of deaths go unregistered,” but “the information that comes from accurate and complete records of deaths — who died, and why — constitutes a huge resource for evidence-based health planning and development,” Peter Byass, a professor of global health at Umea University in Sweden and director of the Umea Centre for Global Health Research, writes in this post in the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog. “This week sees the release by the World Health Organization of the 2012 WHO Verbal Autopsy Instrument, a major new global resource for systematically recording the details of deaths,” he notes, adding, “This new verbal autopsy (VA) instrument brings together the best aspects of many previous VA questionnaires, and also incorporates the accumulated experience of the team who have worked on developing it” (8/22).
In this Forbes opinion piece, John Lechleiter, president and chief executive officer of Eli Lilly and Company, examines the business of counterfeit medicines, writing, “With global sales last year estimated as high as $200 billion, counterfeit medicine is big business, and it’s growing.” “In a recent Forbes column, Henry I. Miller cited an estimate by Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute that more than 100,000 people die every year from counterfeit drugs,” he continues, adding, “That’s why fighting counterfeits is essential to safeguarding health. We need action — national and international — to better secure the pharmaceutical supply chain.”