CNN reports on how “[t]he issue of forced abortions — and in some cases, forced sterilizations — in China has seized the spotlight in recent days with news of escaped activist Chen Guangcheng,” who “rose to fame in the late 1990s because of his advocacy for what he calls victims of abusive practices, such as forced abortions, by Chinese family planning officials.” China’s so-called “one-child policy has been blamed for abuses,” the news service reports. The news service writes, “In some cases, advocates say, fetuses identified as female are aborted, … abandoned, left to die or raised as orphans,” as “Chinese traditionally prefer boys over girls.” CNN describes several reports from women’s health advocates working in China of women undergoing forced abortion and sterilization; a report from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, “created by Congress to monitor human rights and the rule of law in China”; and the State Department’s 2009 Human Rights Report, the news service notes.
US Global Health Policy
“Each year, nearly 400,000 children are born with HIV globally, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) is a particular challenge in sub-Saharan Africa, an area characterized by weak health systems,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby writes in the State Department “DipNote” blog. “Last year PEPFAR and UNAIDS joined with other partners to launch the Global Plan, an initiative to eliminate new HIV infections among children and keep their mothers alive,” Goosby writes and reflects on a two-day mission to Nigeria with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe last week. He concludes, “Preventing new HIV infections in children is a smart investment that saves lives, and the United States is proud to partner with Nigeria and other countries in this cause” (4/30).
In this post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Chris Thomas, a health and development officer at USAID, reports on an event held on Capitol Hill on Tuesday during which “the U.S. Government celebrated remarkable country-level success in saving the lives of women during pregnancy and childbirth.” “Health ministers from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, and the head of maternal and child health from Rwanda took center stage on Capitol Hill,” where “each told a unique and personal story,” he writes, noting, “USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah keyed in on drivers of successful maternal health programs and how such efforts can be accelerated and sustained throughout the developing world” (4/27).
In a post on USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Amanda Makulec of John Snow Inc. describes the Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) initiative, which was developed “to equip birth attendants in developing countries with the skills they need to successfully resuscitate babies born without the ability to breathe on their own.” She continues, “[I]t was the power of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) model — public-private partnership on a global scale — that dramatically expanded access to newborn resuscitation in remote health facilities and communities in 34 countries within 18 months of the launch of the partnership … by leveraging the commitment, resources, and support of a diverse group of program implementers, NGOs, private sector organizations, government institutions, U.N. agencies, professional associations to enable the rapid roll out of the intervention globally” (4/30).
“The Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday theme for this week is prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT),” an e-mail alert from USAID reports, noting, “PMTCT provides HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services for the whole family and is the most effective way to create an HIV-free generation.” According to USAID, “when a mother receives antiretroviral therapy, the risk of mother-to-child transmission drops from about 40 percent to near zero.” The e-mail states, “USAID and the global community are committed to accelerating progress and scale-up of PMTCT, with the goal of eliminating new pediatric HIV infections by 2015 and improving maternal, newborn, and child survival and health in the context of HIV” (5/29).
Trade officials met last week at the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization “to make progress on a proposal that would allow poor countries to provide inexpensive generic versions of lifesaving medications, rather than rely a single version of the same drugs under expensive patent monopolies,” but the U.S. “remained steadfast in rejecting proposals aimed at lowering the prices of existing medicines in poor countries,” the Huffington Post reports (Carter, 5/29). At the 18th session of the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP), delegates considered two proposals, according to Intellectual Property Watch. The news service notes that a South African proposal (.pdf), submitted on behalf of the African Group and the Development Agenda Group (DAG), would have assisted developing nations adapt their patent schemes “to make full use of the flexibilities available in the international patent system in the interest of public health,” and a U.S. proposal (.pdf) “warned against any weakening of patent protection as a solution to the lack of availability of medicine in developing countries” because, “the delegate said, less patent rights would be detrimental to innovation” (Saez, 5/25).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog notes that PEPFAR recently released its 8th annual report (.pdf) to Congress. “The five-page document outlines the program’s progress as of the end of fiscal year 2011 in various areas,” including the provision of antiretroviral treatment, care, and support; HIV testing and counseling for pregnant women; and prevention of mother-to-child transmission services, the blog notes. The report includes sections on “leading with science,” “smart investments,” “country ownership,” and “shared responsibility,” according to the blog (Mazzotta, 5/4).
Several humanitarian groups say that despite the G8’s pledge made at the 2009 L’Aquila Summit to provide $22 billion over three years to improve agriculture and food security, “the commitment is about to expire” and “much more needs to be done to end hunger,” VOA News reports. Neil Watkins, director of policy and campaigns at ActionAid, said he expects G8 leaders at their upcoming summit at Camp David later this month will promote a new food security initiative with greater private sector involvement, according to VOA. “Gawain Kripke of Oxfam America praised President Obama’s food security efforts since 2009,” the news service writes, adding that Kripke said, “[W]e’ve been calling for President Obama to keep that momentum up — to keep pushing for bigger and better and more ambitious goals and more ambitious resource commitments.”
“In a long-awaited study that helped prompt a contentious debate over the wisdom of conducting research that has the potential to help as well as harm, scientists reported Wednesday that they had engineered a mutant strain of [H5N1] bird flu that can spread easily between ferrets — a laboratory animal that responds to flu viruses much as people do,” the Los Angeles Times (Brown, 5/3). Published in the journal Nature, the study is “the first of two controversial papers about laboratory-enhanced versions of the deadly bird flu virus that initially sparked fears among U.S. biosecurity experts that it could be used as a recipe for a bioterrorism weapon,” Reuters writes (Steenhuysen, 5/2). The U.S. National Security Advisory Board on Biosecurity “had asked journals to hold off publishing” the studies, but “[t]he panel later dropped its objections after it became clear the engineered viruses were less virulent than had been feared,” according to the Washington Post (Brown, 5/2).
“[A] new and complementary agreement between Liberia and USAID, called the Fixed Amount Reimbursement Agreement (FARA),” is “quite revolutionary,” Amanda Glassman, director of global health policy and a research fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and Jacob Hughes, write in CGD’s “Global Health Policy” blog. They note a recent working paper they authored with Walter Gwenigale in which they “describe Liberia’s unique experience in pooling donor funds for health in a post-conflict setting, with good results.” They ask why USAID did not make payments directly into the Health Sector Pool Fund mechanism, stating, “The FARA contribution to the pool could have created complementary, virtuous incentives to achieve the pool fund results as efficiently as possible, which would be a credit to the government and all the participating donors, and would set a precedent for USAID to participate in pooling in other countries” (5/11).