“I’m encouraged by the focus on children’s health alongside other pressing global issues” at the U.N. General Assembly meeting last week, Dagfinn Hoybraten, vice president of the Norwegian Parliament and chair of the GAVI Alliance Board, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, adding, “These discussions come in the wake of UNICEF’s latest report on declines in child mortality around the world.” He provides some statistics from the report and notes, “In June, the governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia, along with UNICEF, launched a renewed global commitment to child survival at a meeting in Washington.”
The October issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on the stockpiling oral cholera vaccine, a public health news roundup, a research article on rotavirus mortality in India, and an article examining a “new entity for the negotiation of public procurement prices for patented medicines in Mexico,” among others (October 2012).
“Nearly half of Yemenis go to bed hungry every night as political instability compounds a global food and fuel price surge, giving the Arabian Peninsula state the world’s third-highest rate of child malnutrition, the World Food Programme [WFP] said on Sunday,” Reuters reports. The country “has been in turmoil since last year’s revolt against 33 years of rule by Ali Abdullah Saleh,” the news service notes, adding, “The number of people receiving daily WFP food rations has risen from 1.2 million in January to over 3.8 million, but poor infrastructure and fear of kidnappings by tribes have complicated the logistics of providing food aid.” According to Reuters, “[i]nternational donors pledged $1.46 billion in aid to the country of 24 million at a meeting in New York on Thursday attended by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who said the pledge would help Yemen avoid a civil war” (Hammond, 9/30).
“Two U.N. agencies on Monday presented a new tool to map health risks linked to climate change and extreme weather conditions, enabling authorities to give advance warnings and act to prevent ‘climate-sensitive’ diseases from spreading,” Agence France-Presse reports (10/30). “As the world’s climate continues to change, hazards to human health are increasing,” according to the “Atlas of health and climate,” published jointly by WHO and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a press release from the agencies states (10/29). “Climate variability and extreme conditions such as floods can trigger epidemics of diseases, such as diarrhea, malaria, dengue, and meningitis-diseases, which cause death and suffering for millions of people,” VOA News writes (Schlein, 10/29).
“Wednesday (October 10th) is World Mental Health Day,” VOA News reports, noting, “The World Health Organization is using the occasion to call for an end to stigma against those who suffer from depression and other mental disorders” (DeCapua, 10/9). Depression affects 350 million people worldwide, with nearly five percent of the world’s population suffering from depression annually, according to Medical Daily (Tucker, 10/9). More than three-quarters of people living with mental health disorders reside in developing countries, BBC News notes, adding, “According to the World Health Organization (WHO), eight in every 10 of those living in developing nations receive no treatment at all” (Roberts, 10/10). The WHO “warns stigma is a huge problem that prevents many people from seeking help,” VOA writes (10/9).
Noting the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly begins on September 25, Charles Kenny, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and a Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation, writes in his Bloomberg Businessweek blog, “Small World,” “Accompanying the usual podium speeches will be the start of backroom discussions as to what will replace the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs], a set of targets for global progress agreed to at the 2000 General Assembly meetings.” He continues, “The original Millennium Goals committed the world to halve poverty between 1990 and 2015, alongside ambitious targets to reduce childhood deaths, ensure that every child worldwide completes primary school, safeguard equal access to education for girls, improve access to sanitation, and reduce deaths from maternal mortality, AIDS, and malaria,” and he adds, “The planet has actually done pretty well in meeting these initial targets.”
UNICEF has released its 2012 partnership profiles, “short case studies which highlight specific partnership initiatives at global, regional and country levels” and “illustrate how partnerships have contributed to results, either the creation of innovation, policy advocacy, evidence generation, or provision of essential services,” according to UNICEF’s Partnerships webpage. Some of the organizations highlighted include the GAVI Alliance (.pdf), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (.pdf), and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (.pdf) (9/17).
An ongoing cholera outbreak continues to affect Sierra Leone, and the WHO said on Tuesday it is increasing efforts to fight the disease, “as fatalities from the water and food-borne disease continue to increase,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “In a press statement, the [WHO] confirmed that the total number of reported cases had reached 18,508, including 271 deaths, since the beginning of 2012, with the highest cluster of infections occurring in the western area of the country where the capital, Freetown, is located,” the news service writes, noting the agency is working with the government and other partners “to step up their response” (9/18).
The WHO on Tuesday “said it is continuing to work with authorities from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to stop an Ebola outbreak from spreading, with the number of detected cases having reached 46 in the past week,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Of the detected cases, 19 have been fatal, and 26 other cases have been identified and are being investigated, according to the WHO, the news service notes. “In a news release, WHO said it is working with the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network to provide support by deploying experts to the field to work with partners,” and “the country’s ministry of health is working on an epidemiological investigation to identify all possible chains of transmission of the illness and ensure that appropriate measures are taken to interrupt the transmission, and stop the outbreak,” the news service writes (9/18).
In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Victoria Fan, a CGD research fellow, and Rachel Silverman, a research assistant for the global health team at the center, examine the future of UNITAID. “Perhaps due to its relative obscurity and late entry to a crowded global health field, UNITAID has proactively worked to differentiate itself through a focus on commodities, market shaping, novel funding sources, and innovation,” but, “as UNITAID celebrates its sixth birthday …, it stands at a potential crossroads,” they write. Fan and Silverman note that a five-year evaluation report on the future of UNITAID, commissioned by its Executive Board, is forthcoming, and they highlight a paper (.pdf) in which they “outline some contradictions and limitations of UNITAID’s current approach.” They write, “We hope that the imminent evaluation provides the impetus for UNITAID to turn inward and do something truly innovative: buck institutional inertia, change course as necessary, and reinvent itself as the solution to 2012’s biggest global health challenges” (9/17).