“The United Nations has urged the Philippines to pass a bill that will allow the government to provide free contraceptives,” BBC News reports (8/5). “UNFPA country coordinator Ugochi Florence Daniels said the [reproductive health (RH)] bill is important for the Philippines to achieve its health-related targets in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” including maternal health, HIV/AIDS and infant mortality, the Philippine Star writes (Crisostomo, 8/4). “The House of Representatives plans to decide Tuesday whether to end debate on the bill and put it to a vote,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times notes (Gomez, 8/5).
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday reported that nearly 170 people have died, 400 people are missing, and more than 84,000 people are homeless because of severe flooding in the country, the Guardian reports, noting that the World Food Programme (WFP) “announced on Friday the details of its first batch of emergency food aid to the country, although it did not state when it would arrive” (8/4). “WFP said it would send emergency assistance comprising ‘an initial ration of 400 grams of maize per day for 14 days,'” Reuters notes, adding the statement said a recent U.N. mission to North Korea found significant damage to crop fields.
In a series of “News Focus” articles in Science, the magazine examines the global effort to eradicate polio. One article examines the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) — a partnership of the WHO, Rotary International, UNICEF, the CDC, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — and recent reports on the program by an Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), “an oversight body” that provides feedback and guidance. A second and third article look at efforts to vaccinate children against polio in Pakistan, which “is the perfect case study for why it is so hard to eradicate poliovirus from its last few strongholds — and what it might take to pull it off.” The WHO’s Chris Maher “and others attribute the explosion of cases last year to a perfect storm of all the problems that are Pakistan: poverty and illiteracy; a health system in tatters; ethnic and sectarian violence; a government struggling to deal with corruption and dysfunction; huge population movements; and, especially since 9/11, rising extremism and anti-Western views — not to mention the natural attrition that accompanies any program that has dragged on for so long,” according to Science (Roberts, 8/3).
A report released Thursday by the U.N. resident coordinator’s office in Pyongyang, North Korea, said the country needs food aid following severe flooding that has killed at least 119 people and left tens of thousands of people homeless, the Associated Press reports (Kim/Pennington, 8/2). According to BBC News, “A U.N. spokesman in New York confirmed that the North Korean government has asked the U.N. to release emergency supplies such as food and fuel” (8/2).
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released two reports on issues related to global health. In “Ensuring Drug Quality in Global Health Programs,” the agency writes, “Concerns have been raised about the potential for substandard drugs to enter the supply chains of global health programs,” and notes that it concluded, “U.S.-funded global health programs have put regulatory and policy requirements in place to help prevent procurement of substandard drugs” (8/1). In another report looking at the WHO, titled “Reform Agenda Developed, but U.S. Actions to Monitor Progress Could be Enhanced,” GAO found, “The United States has provided input into WHO’s reform agenda, particularly in the areas of transparency and accountability, but the Department of State’s (State) tool for assessing progress in the area of management reform could be enhanced” (7/23).
The August issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on performance-based financing in low- and middle-income countries, a public health news roundup, and a systematic review of demographic and health survey data availability and utilization, among other articles (August 2012).
“North Koreans hit by recent deadly floods badly need drinking water, food and medical assistance, an aid group said Wednesday after official media had reported 88 dead and nearly 63,000 homeless,” Agence France-Presse reports. A spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said a team from the organization visited the provinces of South and North Pyongan in the west of the country to assess damage, the news agency notes (8/1). In another article, AFP notes that the U.N. also is sending a team to assess the damage and humanitarian needs of the worst affected areas (7/31). “Even before the latest flooding, a dysfunctional food distribution system, rapid inflation and international sanctions over Pyongyang’s weapons programs have created what is thought to be widespread hunger,” Reuters writes (Park/Blanchard, 7/30). “Following an inspection visit last autumn, U.N. agencies estimated that three million people would need food aid this year even before the deluge,” according to AFP.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday “announced the members of a High-level Panel to advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015, the target date for achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The eight MDGs, agreed on by world leaders at a U.N. summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development,'” the news service writes (7/31).
The number of confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in Uganda has risen to 36, according to a WHO spokesperson, who added the disease remains confined to the rural Kibaale district, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports. “A team, led by the CDC, WHO and Uganda’s Ministry of Health, are now on the scene to determine the scope of the outbreak and then control it,” according to the blog (Doucleff, 7/31). CNN’s “The Chart” blog reports that 14 people have died of the disease, which has a 25 to 90 percent fatality rate in African outbreaks, according to a WHO fact sheet (7/31).
Inter Press Service examines efforts Laos is taking to improve its maternal mortality ratio (MMR) of 470 deaths per 100,000 live births, especially among rural populations that do not have access to health care services. “A majority of the country’s 6.5 million people live in rural communities scattered across this mountainous Southeast Asian nation, and over 80 percent of the women give birth at home, according to studies by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA),” the news service writes. “June saw 80 midwives graduate from a special program shaped by the ministry of health, international donors and the UNFPA, … add[ing] to the initial group of 140 midwives who qualified last year,” IPS notes. The news service continues, “And as the community midwives program forges ahead, focus is shifting to more professional care in isolated communities in the mountainous areas and rural lowlands,” with the goal of reaching the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of reducing MMR by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015 (Macan-Markar, 7/31).