“Famine conditions have ended in war-torn Somalia six months after they were declared, but the situation remains dire with a third of the population needing emergency aid, the U.N. said on Friday,” Agence France-Presse reports (Vincenot, 2/3). “‘Long-awaited rains, coupled with substantial agricultural inputs and the humanitarian response deployed in the last six months, are the main reasons for this improvement,’ the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Director-General JosÃ© Graziano da Silva told journalists in Nairobi after visiting southern Somalia,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C writes (2/3). “‘We have three months, let’s say, to work to avoid another possible famine from a drought. We cannot avoid the drought â€¦ but we can avoid famine from drought,’ Graziano da Silva said, stressing the need for long-term measures to strengthen agricultural capacity,” the Guardian reports (Chonghaile, 2/3).
“[T]he highest levels ever of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) have been found in Russia and Moldova,” the WHO reports in research published in the February edition of the WHO Bulletin, but “the agency didn’t have data from most of Africa and India, where tuberculosis rates are much higher,” the Associated Press/USA Today’s “Your Life” reports. According to the AP, the “experts reported that about 29 percent of new TB patients in parts of Russia were drug-resistant” and that “65 percent of previously treated patients in Moldova had resistance problems.” The news service notes, “Normally, less than five percent of TB cases are drug-resistant” (2/2).
“India was taken off a list of polio endemic countries by the World Health Organization on Saturday, marking a massive victory for health workers battling the crippling disease” and “leav[ing] just three countries with endemic polio — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria,” Agence France-Presse reports (2/26). “Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the WHO removed India from the list after the country passed one year without registering any new cases,” the Associated Press/CBS News writes, adding, “India must pass another two years without new cases to be declared polio-free” (2/27).
“The leaders of United Nations aid agencies, humanitarian organizations and donor governments will meet on Wednesday in Rome to discuss how to urgently scale up assistance in Africa’s Sahel region, where drought and food shortages are threatening millions of lives,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “This gathering comes at a critical moment as humanitarian agencies are gearing up their response in an effort to prevent a crisis becoming a disaster,” U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director Josette Sheeran said, according to the news service. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization last year warned that irregular rains during 2011 “would lead to a significant drop in production and increased food insecurity,” the news service writes (2/13).
The WHO “is calling on all Afghans to vaccinate their children after a recent measles outbreak that has been made worse by severe weather that hampers access to immediate treatment as well as low immunization coverage,” the U.N. News Centre reports. At least “20 children have died due to measles and pneumonia in the western provinces of Ghor and Baghdis,” the news service notes (2/22). “As the outbreak has grown more serious, Afghan authorities and the WHO set up five temporary clinics and vaccinated more than 3,600 children in the outbreak zone, while treating more than 6,000 patients, health officials said,” according to the Los Angeles Times’ “World Now” blog (2/21).
Bird flu experts are scheduled to begin a two-day meeting at the WHO in Geneva on Thursday “to try to settle an unprecedented row over a call to [censor] publication of two scientific studies which detail how to mutate H5N1 bird flu viruses into a form that could cause a deadly human pandemic,” Reuters reports in an article describing the debate in detail. “But experts say whatever the outcome, no amount of censorship, global regulation or shutting down of research projects could stop rogue scientists getting the tools to create and release a pandemic H5N1 virus if they were intent on evil,” the news service adds.
Cash transfer programs involving small amounts of money paid to schoolgirls and their families who live in low-income settings can help the young women “resist the attentions of older men and avoid HIV infection, according to a new study” published online Wednesday in the Lancet, the Guardian reports (Boseley, 2/14). The study, conducted by researchers from the World Bank, the University of California at San Diego, and George Washington University, found that the weighted prevalence of HIV among girls who had received money was 1.2 percent (seven out of 490) compared with three percent in the control group (17 out of 799) after 18 months (Baird et al., 2/15).
“Seven out of the eight governments in [Africa’s] Sahel … have taken the unprecedented step of declaring emergencies as 12 million people in the region are threatened by hunger,” Inter Press Service reports. “Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria have all called for international assistance to prevent yet another hunger crisis on the continent,” the news service writes, noting that Senegal “has refrained from announcing an emergency, largely for political reasons,” as it is holding presidential elections later this year (Palitza, 4/15).
U.N. Meeting Delegates Urge International Community To Respond Thoroughly, Rapidly To Drought-Stricken Sahel
“Delegates at a meeting convened by the United Nations to draw up strategies to respond to the humanitarian crisis in West Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region [on Wednesday] called for comprehensive and rapid assistance to the millions of people affected, especially children and women,” the U.N. News Centre reports (2/15). “Heads of U.N. agencies and representatives from governments, the African Union and the Economic Community Of West African States met in Rome to discuss a joint response to the situation in the region,” the Guardian notes (Ford, 2/15). “U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization director Jose Graziano da Silva warned there is ‘little time to act,'” according to VOA’s “Breaking News” blog (2/15).
The “WHO should regulate alcohol at the global level, enforcing such regulations as a minimum drinking age, zero-tolerance drunken driving, and bans on unlimited drink specials,” Devi Sridhar, a lecturer in global health politics at the University of Oxford, argues in a commentary published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, Scientific American reports. “[A]lcohol kills more than 2.5 million people annually, more than AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis,” and it is a leading health concern for middle-income populations, “greater than obesity, inactivity and even tobacco,” according to the news service (Wanjek, 2/15).