WHO Director-General Margaret Chan on Tuesday at the opening session of the agency’s Executive Board special session on reform in Geneva “stressed that planned reforms are intended to make the agency more efficient as it strives to improve global health amid multiple challenges that have an impact on human well-being,” the U.N. News Centre reports (11/1). Chan said “proposed reforms would see the agency become more streamlined and deliver ‘measurable results’ at country level” and “acknowledged … that parts of the WHO had become rigid and unresponsive,” the Associated Press/CTV News writes. She “urged WHO’s 34 board members to safeguard the agency’s role as global health guardian despite growing competition and budget constraints,” according to the news agency (11/1).
“Countries around the world marked the world’s population reaching seven billion Monday with lavish ceremonies for newborn infants symbolizing the milestone and warnings that there may be too many humans for the planet’s resources,” the Associated Press/MSNBC.com reports (10/31). “With the world’s population more than doubling over the last half century, basics like food and water are under more strain than ever, say experts, and providing for an additional two to three billion people in the next 50 years is a serious worry,” AlertNet/Reuters writes, adding that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says food production will have to increase by 70 percent to keep pace. “But climate change may be the greatest impediment to meeting this target, say experts,” the news agency notes (Kumar/Bhalla, 10/31).
Though demographers do not know exactly when the world’s population will hit seven billion, the U.N. symbolically marked the day on Monday with celebrations and warnings about safety, health and sustainability. The following is a summary of several opinion pieces published in recognition of the day.
“A $430 million fund which will give Zimbabwean children and pregnant women free medical care at public hospitals was launched Monday with the help of the E.U. and UNICEF,” Agence France-Press reports. “The Zimbabwe health care system which has collapsed from years of economic crisis requires $436 million over the next five years to improve capacity, particularly in the delivery of maternal care, according to UNICEF,” AFP notes.
Several countries in West Africa, including Niger, Mauritania and Chad, are facing food insecurity crises “unless the international community acts now, the United Nations warned on Friday,” AlertNet reports. “Communities in the Sahel, which faces increasingly frequent droughts, have not had time to recover from the last food crisis,” which hit the region last year, the news service reports.
“Despite a massive increase in humanitarian operations and international funding since famine was formally declared 100 days ago, the relief effort in Somalia is expected to miss almost all its key targets for 2011, a draft United Nations report reveals,” the Guardian reports, adding, “[m]alnutrition rates have more than doubled, less than 60 percent of the 3.7 million people targeted have received monthly food assistance, and only 58 percent of a targeted 1.2 million people received critical non-food aid items.”
U.N. Calls For Concerted Efforts On Food Security Issues; Australia Drives Food Security As Commonwealth Meeting Theme
“United Nations officials [on Thursday] called for concerted efforts to ensure the world’s fast-growing population has enough food, stressing that global food production will have to double by 2050 when the planet is expected to host one billion inhabitants,” according to the U.N. News Centre. “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that guaranteeing sustainable food and nutrition security for all will require the full engagement of governments and the private sector” and “said he was encouraged by the renewed political interest in food security, including the prominence that is being given to the issue by the Group of 20 of the world’s largest economies,” the news service adds (10/27).
“Thousands of vaccination teams have traversed the vast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on foot, by motorbike, boat and car, in a campaign to immunize at least 14 million children against polio, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said,” IRIN reports. The campaign, which was run over three days beginning October 20 by the government with support from UNICEF, also provided vitamin A supplements and deworming, IRIN notes.
“Seasonal rains cause massive damage and disease throughout Nigeria each year, and this year’s onslaught comes as international experts warn West Africa is suffering from its worst cholera outbreaks in years,” the Associated Press/ABC News reports. According to UNICEF, Nigeria “had recorded more than 21,000 cholera cases this year by the end of September” and “[a]t least 694 people have died from the disease,” the news agency writes. Twenty-five of Nigeria’s 36 states have reported cholera cases, with most coinciding with local flooding, the AP notes, adding that “almost half of Nigeria’s 150 million people lack access to clean water and proper sanitation, according to the World Health Organization” (Gambrell, 10/26).
The WHO has released an updated version (.pdf) of its first report on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which was released last year. In the introduction of the new report, Lorenzo Savioli, director of the WHO Department of Control of NTDs, writes, “Despite a difficult economic outlook, we believe that immense opportunities exist…