Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says the spread of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) — “a form of tuberculosis that does not respond to standard treatment and can kill in a matter of months” — “is much greater than previously thought,” VOA News reports. “‘Wherever we’re looking for drug-resistant TB we’re finding it in very alarming numbers. And that suggests to us that the current statistics that are being published about the prevalence of MDR-TB are really just scratching the surface of the problem,’ said Dr. Leslie Shanks, medical director for the group,” the news service writes (DeCapua, 3/21).
“Some 111.1 million children below the age of five are to be vaccinated against polio in a synchronized campaign covering 20 countries in West and Central Africa starting on Friday,” the WHO and UNICEF said in a joint statement on Wednesday, PANA reports (3/21). The campaign, which will last for four days, “is intended to serve as a massive boost in efforts to eradicate the disease, and will involve national health ministries and U.N. agencies, as well as tens of thousands of volunteers who will go from door-to-door immunizing children,” the U.N. News Centre writes (3/21).
VOA News examines polio vaccination efforts in Pakistan, where “authorities say national pride is now at stake for polio eradication and they are hoping to overcome years of setbacks from natural disasters, misinformation and war.” Though health workers hold eight nationwide vaccine campaigns each year, reaching each child is challenging because of fighting in some regions; migration; public mistrust of the vaccine; and inadequate clean water and sanitation, which allows the polio virus to thrive, according to VOA (Padden, 3/20).
“On Tuesday, a global alliance of researchers and scientists — led by the Stop TB Partnership, an umbrella group of health groups — unveiled a ‘blueprint’ to develop a new vaccine [against tuberculosis (TB)] that aims to disrupt transmission in hard-hit countries and communities,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The blueprint calls for the groups to work together to test new vaccine candidates, and to coordinate fundraising for expansive and expensive human trials, representing the first comprehensive plan of the sort,” the news service writes (Wonacott, 3/20).
A joint fact sheet on the U.S.-U.K. Partnership for Global Development is available on the White House website. “Through the Partnership, we are working together to achieve better results by advancing economic growth; preventing conflict in fragile states; improving global health, particularly for girls and women; strengthening mutual accountability, transparency, and measurement of results; and mitigating the effects of climate change,” the fact sheet states, elaborating on joint efforts in each of these areas (3/14).
“A long-planned project to find out whether vaccination is feasible in the midst of an ongoing cholera outbreak in Haiti has been stymied — temporarily, its proponents insist –” after “a Port-au-Prince radio station reported that the impending vaccination effort was actually a ‘medical experiment on the Haitian people’ — a potentially incendiary charge,” NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports.
PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog presents global health-related excerpts of USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah’s annual letter that was published on March 9. Shah touches on programs to improve infant and child health; water, sanitation and hygiene; malaria prevention; HIV/AIDS care; and health care in several countries, including Afghanistan, Ghana and Ethiopia, according to the blog (3/9).
“Global health programs now teeter on the edge of disaster,” Foreign Affairs writes in this feature article, adding, “The world economic crisis and the politics of debt reduction are threatening everything from malaria control and AIDS treatment to well-baby programs and health care worker training efforts.” The article provides a historical overview of global health programming and funding. “Like it or not, the burden of reducing suffering and increasing the health of the world’s poor now falls largely on the backs of the two Washingtons,” Foreign Affairs writes, referring to politicians in Washington and the Washington state-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The article concludes, “It would be a catastrophe were the ‘age of generosity’ to end so soon after it began, leaving millions without life-sparing medicines and tools they have come to rely upon” (Garrett, 5/6).
“Measles has killed 126 children in Yemen since mid-2011, a consequence of the breakdown of basic health services during the year-long political crisis,” and “[i]n response … , the Yemeni government has appealed for international assistance and an outbreak-response vaccination campaign will begin in the hardest-hit regions on 10 March,” IRIN reports. Since mid-2011, “3,767 cases of measles have been confirmed, resulting in 126 deaths,” according to the Ministry of Health, whereas “in the three years from the beginning of 2007 until the end of 2009, the ministry reported a total of 211 cases and no deaths due to measles,” the news service notes.
InterAction Sends Letter To CIA Head Protesting Use Of Vaccination Plot To Find Bin Laden In Pakistan
“An alliance of 200 U.S. aid groups has written to the head of the CIA to protest against its use of a doctor to help track Osama bin Laden, linking the agency’s ploy to the polio crisis in Pakistan,” the Guardian reports, noting Pakistan recorded the highest number of polio cases in the world last year. The CIA used a “fake vaccination scheme in the town of Abbottabad … in order to gain entry to the house where it was suspected that the al-Qaida chief was living, and extract DNA samples from his family members,” the newspaper writes. But the plan “provided seeming proof for a widely held belief in Pakistan, fuelled by religious extremists, that polio drops are a western conspiracy to sterilize the population,” according to the Guardian.