“Sahelian governments and local and international aid groups are struggling to cope with both the continual arrivals of people fleeing … northern Mali, and the mounting number of hungry people across the region as the lean season gets underway,” IRIN reports. According to UNHCR, nearly 300,000 people have been displaced within Mali or fled to surrounding countries, and IRIN reports “governments are already struggling to get aid to millions of their inhabitants, who are facing hunger due to drought.” The news service writes, “The U.N. estimates that 16 million people across the Sahel are facing hunger this year, and hunger levels are rising.” IRIN continues, “This complex mix of slow and fast-onset crises means the U.N. will be revising or launching new funding appeals from the current $1 billion to $1.5 billion in coming weeks, said Noel Tsekouras, deputy head of office at the West Africa bureau of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Dakar” (5/4).
The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) “has warned clashes along the border between Sudan and South Sudan threaten to plunge the region into widespread hunger” and “said it is scaling up its humanitarian operation in South Sudan to assist a growing number of refugees and displaced people,” VOA News reports. WFP “plans to assist 2.7 million people in South Sudan this year under an emergency operation covering the border region and other areas,” the news service writes. WFP spokesperson Elizabeth Byrs “said [the agency] is providing special supplementary, nutritional feeding to about one-half-million young children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers who are suffering from, or are vulnerable to, malnutrition,” according to VOA (Schlein, 5/2). UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, said in a press release it also is concerned about the rising number of malnourished refugees arriving in South Sudan and the threat of water shortages in several border areas, the South Sudan News Agency notes (5/2).
The March of Dimes Foundation, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Save the Children, and the WHO on Wednesday released a new report, titled “Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth,” showing that 15 million infants are born prematurely each year, 1.1 million of those infants die, but 75 percent of those deaths are preventable. The following blog posts addressed the report and its findings.
The Results for Development Institute’s Center for Global Health R&D Policy Assessment blog features an interview with Judit Rius Sanjuan, U.S. manager of the Access Campaign of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), who discusses the final report of the WHO Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination (CEWG). Sanjuan addresses “the origins, significance, and likely impact of the CEWG’s work,” according to the blog (Ghoshal, 5/2).
India “has to actively and aggressively address the issue of family planning” in order to improve human development indicators, including health, education and living standards, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin said Wednesday, Reuters reports. “India, Asia’s third-largest economy, is set to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030,” but, “despite its impressive economic growth over the last two decades, it has failed to substantially reduce hunger as well as child and maternal mortality rates,” the news service writes, noting that “[a]bout 60 percent of Indian women have no access to family planning services.”
“Calculating the number of hungry people around the world at any given moment, let alone predicting how that number is likely to change in the future, is no easy task,” Reuters reports in an article examining the numerous challenges of estimating the number of undernourished people worldwide and noting the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is expected to release new data and methodology in October “as part of [its] annual report on food insecurity.” According to the news service, “The question is not whether metrics are necessary, but how to collect, interpret and share the data to present a realistic and accurate picture of the food security situation.” While “[i]mproving the way hunger is calculated could have far-reaching consequences for the way governments and aid agencies respond more effectively to hunger crises, experts say,” “[u]ltimately … it is not data, but action, that makes a difference,” according to Reuters (Rowling, 5/2).
“A third of the world’s population is carrying tuberculosis [TB], and the disease could become incurable if governments fail to act, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned,” noting that a “[l]ack of funding for public health programs, the sale of inaccurate blood tests and the misuse of drugs, particularly in the private health sector, are hampering the fight against the disease and leading to drug resistance,” the Independent reports. “The rate of TB deaths had declined dramatically — by 40 percent between 1990 and 2000 — after a worldwide health campaign, which was particularly successful in China,” but “the emergence of drug-resistant strains threatens to halt progress and jeopardizes the WHO’s goal of eradicating the disease as a public health problem by 2050,” the newspaper writes, noting, “Two billion people are carriers of the TB bacillus” globally.
U.N., International Community Should Pledge To Improve Water, Sanitation In Haiti To Mitigate Cholera Epidemic
“The cholera epidemic in Haiti, which began in late 2010, is bad and getting worse, for reasons that are well understood and that the aid community has done far too little to resolve,” a New York Times editorial states, adding that the “Pan American Health Organization has said the disease could strike 200,000 to 250,000 people this year” and “has already killed more than 7,000.” The editorial says the U.N. “bears heavy responsibility for the outbreak,” as it is suspected that U.N. peacekeepers introduced the disease to the island nation, and it notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this month that “cholera in Haiti was evolving into two strains, suggesting the disease would become much harder to uproot and that people who had already gotten sick and recovered would be vulnerable again.”
“U.N. Development Goals for better drinking water have already been reached, but a closer look shows that the measures fail to truly account for the lack of access to safe water,” Scientific American reports in a feature story. “[J]ust because water is pouring out of a spigot does not mean that it is safe to drink,” the article states, adding, “In poorer areas, where infrastructure and sanitation are often much worse, even sources of water that have been ‘improved’ are frequently at risk for contamination by human and animal feces, according to recent analyses.” The magazine details a number of studies on the issue and concludes, “[W]hether there are 800 million or 1.8 billion people who lack safe water, the scourge of preventable deadly diarrheal and other waterborne diseases will continue to plague too many” (Harmon, 5/21).
IRIN examines the WHO’s regulatory approval process for making evidence-based recommendations, noting, “Governments will generally not implement an intervention without the WHO stamp of approval.” The news service writes, “No matter how compelling, medical research has historically not guaranteed swift regulatory approval, but researchers are finding ways to speed up translation of their conclusions into policy.” The news service cites the WHO’s recommendations regarding the use of insecticide-treated bednets in 2007 and the administration of seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) in children in sub-Saharan Africa in 2012 as examples. “Similarly, scientists working on a malaria vaccine are optimistic that they will receive a WHO recommendation soon after trial results are reported in 2014,” IRIN notes (5/23).