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WHO Warns Battle Against Leprosy Not Over In Western Pacific Region

“The World Health Organization warned Monday that the battle against the age-old scourge of leprosy is not yet over, with more than 5,000 new cases reported yearly in the Western Pacific, where the disease was declared eliminated in 1991,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (2/13). “‘Leprosy is still much alive in the Western Pacific,’ said Shin Young-Soo, WHO regional director,” at a meeting of national leprosy control program managers from the Western Pacific, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C writes, adding, “Policymakers, health workers and the public should not be misled that the disease is totally gone and must continue to fight it, he said.”

Pakistan, Afghanistan Form Joint Action Plan Against Polio

Pakistan and Afghanistan, “the world’s two worst polio-affected countries,” have “decided to form a joint block under the World Health Organization to eradicate the infectious disease — which causes motor paralysis and the atrophy of skeletal muscles, often resulting in permanent physical disability or deformity — by December 2012,” Inter Press Service reports. “The decision was made last year by the Technical Advisory Board (TAG), which is responsible for developing new strategies to wipe out the disease globally,” the news service notes.

Benin’s Government Fighting Malaria With Free Treatment, Cadre Of Community Health Workers

The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” examines how the government of Benin “is making headway in attempts to reduce deaths from malaria” by cracking down on counterfeit treatments, offering malaria treatment free-of-charge in public clinics and hospitals, and creating “an army of ordinary citizens in the battle against preventable diseases like malaria.” The article describes a UNICEF-supported program that trains and employs local residents as community health extension workers, who often serve as the front line in providing treatment for malaria or maternal and child health care (Smith, 2/10).

WHO Convening Meeting In One Week To Explore Opinions Surrounding H5N1 Bird Flu Research

NPR’s health blog “Shots” previews an upcoming WHO-convened meeting to discuss the recent news that two research teams have created H5N1 bird flu strains that are easily transmissible among ferrets, which are used as lab models for humans. Fears that terrorists possibly could use the information prompted the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity in December to request the scientists redact some information prior to publishing their study results and investigators in January to institute a 60-day moratorium on bird flu research, the blog notes.

WFP, FAO Warn Food Security Worsening For Millions In South Sudan, Call For Action

The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “warned [Wednesday] that millions of people in South Sudan are facing worsening hunger and called for urgent action to improve food security through adequate food aid and projects to boost agricultural production,” the U.N. News Centre reports (2/8). “[C]onflict, population displacement and high food prices” are threatening food security for 4.7 million in the new nation this year, up from 3.3 million in 2011, according to a report (.pdf) from the agencies, Reuters notes. “Of those, about one million people are severely food insecure, and that number could double if fighting continues and prices keep rising, the report said,” the news agency writes (2/8).

U.N. Says Asia Pacific Region Making Strides Against HIV/AIDS, Must Address Social And Legal Barriers To Treatment, Prevention

The U.N. Economic and Social Commission for the Asia Pacific (ESCAP) on Monday in Bangkok “opened a three-day meeting lauding impressive gains in recent years in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” but the body cautioned “there are still legal and social barriers that significantly set back eradication efforts,” VOA News reports. U.N. ESCAP Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer “note[d] the gains are uneven and there are still gaps in the goal of universal access to HIV treatment,” the news service writes.

World Recognizes 9th Annual International Day Of Zero Tolerance To FGM/C

As the international community on Monday marked the ninth annual International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), the U.N. and international and human rights organizations called for an end to FGM/C and are appealing for tougher legislation to halt the practice that has affected up to 140 million girls and women worldwide, according to WHO statistics, VOA News reports (Schlein, 2/6). “The United States stands in consensus with women, governments, and donors around the world in a commitment to provide the energy and resources necessary to end this harmful traditional practice that violates girls’ right to bodily integrity, harms their health, and reduces their status in society,” USAID writes on its website (2/6).

U.N. Supporting Yellow Fever Vaccination Campaigns In Cameroon, Ghana

Following an outbreak of the mosquito-borne yellow fever virus in Cameroon that has infected at least 23 people and killed at least seven people, U.N. and local officials are working to vaccinate “1.2 million people considered at high risk of contracting yellow fever, which has no cure,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the International Coordinating Group on Yellow Fever Provision (YF-ICG) — which includes WHO and the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) — and the public-private partnership known as the GAVI Alliance are funding the vaccination campaign,” the news service writes. In Ghana, YF-ICG is working with the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) to plan a vaccination campaign after at least three cases of yellow fever have been reported in the north of the country, the U.N. News Centre notes (2/3).

World Cancer Day Highlights Importance Of Detection, Prevention

“Early diagnosis is the key to reducing the nearly eight million deaths caused by cancer across the globe annually, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said” on Saturday to mark World Cancer Day, “stressing the importance of screening programs for healthy people to detect the disease promptly for easier treatment,” the U.N. News Centre reports (2/3). The theme of this year’s day, which is recognized annually on February 4, was “Together It Is Possible,” “reinforcing that it is only by every person, organization, and government individually doing their part that the world will be able to reduce premature deaths from cancer and other non-communicable diseases,” according to a press release from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (2/4). The WHO “reminded the world that cancer is responsible for close to 13 percent of deaths globally, accounting for 7.6 million deaths in 2008,” according to the U.N. News Centre (2/3).

Dispute Over Malaria Figures Highlights Lack Of Certainty In Data In Age Of ‘Information Overload’

In this post in TIME World’s “Global Spin” blog, TIME’s Africa bureau chief Alex Perry examines questions surrounding an Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) study published in the Lancet on Friday that suggests “malaria kills almost twice as many people a year as previously believed,” writing, “If correct, at a stroke that overturns medical consensus, makes a nonsense of decades of World Health Organization (WHO) statistics — the official malaria numbers — and plunges the current multibillion-dollars anti-malaria campaign, and the push to reach a 2015 deadline for achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals, into grave doubt.”