“In the last 20 years, the world has saved more than 50 million children’s lives and reduced maternal mortality by one-third,” “accomplishments [that] have been the result of good science, good management, bipartisan political support, the engagement of USAID and many other U.S. Government agencies, and the participation of faith-based organizations, civil society, and the private sector,” according to a summary of USAID’s “Global Health and Child Survival: Progress Report to Congress 2010-2011.” The summary states, “With prospects for ending preventable child and maternal deaths, creating an AIDS-free generation, and laying the foundations for universal health coverage, future generations will look back at this period as a turning point in the history of global health” (5/10).
US Global Health Policy
International AIDS Conference To Highlight International, Domestic U.S. AIDS Policies, Politico Reports
When the International AIDS Conference convenes in Washington in July, the first time the U.S. will host the conference in more than 20 years, “it will signal that the U.S. has brought its HIV policies into better alignment with the principles it advocates abroad,” Politico reports, referencing the lifting of the “Helms rule” — which denied U.S. visas to people who are HIV positive — in 2009. “The policy was especially painful to advocates because U.S. scientific and financial investments are largely responsible for stemming the tide of the epidemic around the world,” the news service writes. “But the meeting will also highlight other ways that the U.S. has fallen short, advocates say,” the news service writes, noting that the U.S. epidemic is not slowing. Politico discusses the successes and criticisms of several domestic HIV/AIDS initiatives under the Obama administration (Feder, 5/13).
In this USAID “IMPACTblog” post, Abiy Shewarega of the USAID | Deliver Project, Ethiopia, describes the Ethiopian Ministry of Health’s commitment to improving family planning through programs that, in the past six years, have “seen a rapid increase in contraceptive use and a decline in the average number of births per woman.” He discusses the importance of supply chain and logistics activities, concluding, “Availability of family planning commodities does more than simply support better health for women and their children. As a result of the continued commitment of the Ethiopian government and collaboration with USAID, women … are not only able to maintain good health for themselves and their families, but can also secure the family income, send their children to school, and improve the family’s potential for the future” (5/22).
“Counterfeit, falsified, and substandard drugs are a dangerous threat to people around the world, including Americans,” therefore “we have a vital interest in ensuring the safety of an ever more complex global drug supply chain,” Jennifer White, a foreign service officer in the Office of International Health and Biodefense in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, writes in a post in the State Department’s “DipNote” blog. She notes that the “Department of State engages in the fight against counterfeit medicines using a multi-faceted approach,” including training foreign drug regulators; funding consumer outreach to raise awareness of the problem; being active in international bodies that address counterfeiting, such as the WHO; and “work[ing] in partnership with other U.S. government agencies, the health care community, patients, civil society, and the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that patients receive safe medicines and that those who put patients’ lives at risk can be prosecuted” (5/22).
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs on Tuesday approved a $52.1 billion FY 2013 spending bill for state and foreign operations, The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports (Pecquet, 5/22). The subcommittee also released a bill summary (5/22). “The bill includes funding for U.S. global health programs at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department comprising a significant portion of funding for the Global Health Initiative (GHI),” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s “Policy Tracker.”
Officials At WHA Fail To Agree On Convention To Encourage R&D Into Health Issues In Developing Countries
Health officials attending last week’s World Health Assembly “failed to come to an agreement on a binding convention on stimulating research and development [R&D] focusing on the health problems of developing countries,” BMJ reports. The negotiations focused on an April report by the WHO Consultative Expert Working Group (CEWG) on R&D, which included a recommendation “that all countries — developing and developed — should commit around 0.01 percent of their gross domestic product to research into and development of treatments for the health problems of developing countries,” the news service notes. However, “[t]he United States (despite the fact that it already meets this target), the European Union, and Japan blocked this recommendation, and instead member states agreed on the final day of the assembly that the report would be discussed at regional committee meetings in the next few months,” BMJ writes, noting that “WHO will hold a global meeting later in the year that will report back to WHO’s executive board meeting in January” and that “[n]ew proposals will be put on the agenda for next year’s assembly” (Gulland, 5/28).
In a two-part series in his Slate blog “The Reckoning,” author Michael Moran examines the “silo” effect of Western aid to improve health in Africa, writing in the first part, “Charities know that raising money for exotic disease eradication in the West is a good deal easier than, say, funding upgrades to substandard cardiac facilities. Yet the later is the real win in the long run.” He references an article published recently in Foreign Affairs by Thomas Bollyky, which Moran summarizes by saying, “Bollyky argues coordinated action to confront communicable crises like HIV/AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis must be part of the world’s approach to global health. But by ignoring far greater, non-communicable problems, he says, we doom Africans to low life expectancies and fail to create the impetus for reform and behavioral changes that could be transformational” (5/28).
“This G8 summit was, yet again, a missed opportunity for international leaders to make a real commitment to long-term food security and support for African and developing world farmers,” Eva Clayton (D-N.C.), a former Congresswoman and former assistant director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “The World” blog. “In the realm of food security, the G8 had an ideal opportunity to provide a clear solution that embraces trade and opportunity, a new paradigm if you will, in international development and food security,” she continues, adding, “Unfortunately, G8 leaders emerging from Camp David still spoke of the same old aid commitments without any backbone, all the while ignoring the impact that trade barriers and U.S. and European multi-billion dollar subsidies have on food production in those countries most in need of development.”
Following President Barack Obama’s announcement of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition at a food security summit last week, “USAID launched a Food Security Open Data Challenge that invites technologists, agriculture stakeholders, entrepreneurs, academics, and others to determine the most creative and wide-reaching use of open data for food security solutions and better, cheaper, and faster results,” Maura O’Neill, chief innovation officer at USAID, and Kat Townsend, special assistant for engagement at USAID, write in a post in the agency’s “DipNote” blog (5/27). “Over the next few months, the Food Security Open Data Challenge will have three key components,” including “an Ideation Jam where technologists and agriculture stakeholders will identify key innovation opportunities by focusing on the overlap of food security priorities and the potential of available data”; “a Codeathon to create and finalize solutions that are available for investment”; and “a Datapalooza, hosted by USAID Administrator Raj Shah, to announce challenge winners and showcase some of the best ideas for data-based solutions to food security,” Hillary Chen, a senior adviser to the deputy director of global development at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, writes in this post in the White House Blog (5/25).
Aid Agencies Warn April's Steep Increases In Grain Prices Will Affect Sahel Nations During Lean Season
“Unexpectedly sharp price rises in April for local cereals like millet, rice, and maize in parts of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad mean many vulnerable people in the drought-hit Sahel could find it even harder to get enough to eat,” IRIN reports. “Prices are expected to keep rising until the end of August — during the lean season — but the size of recent hikes has surprised food price analysts and humanitarian aid personnel,” the news service writes (5/25). In an article detailing the situation in Senegal, the Associated Press notes, “More than one million children under five in this wide, arid swath of Africa below the Sahara are now at risk of a food shortage so severe that it threatens their lives, UNICEF estimates” (Larson, 5/27).