“Deaths of mothers giving birth in developing countries have dropped by nearly half since 1990, while deaths of children under five have fallen from 12 million to 7.6 million, according to a new report released Wednesday by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF),” the Los Angeles Times reports. “A few countries have made ‘spectacular progress’ toward lowering death rates, but some others have made virtually no progress at all, according to the report, ‘Building a Future for Women and Children,’ which was published under the auspices of the Countdown to 2015 Initiative,” the newspaper writes (Maugh, 6/13). “The report assesses the progress that the 75 highest-burden countries are making towards achieving U.N. Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 (MDGs),” a Countdown to 2015 press release states, noting, “These MDGs call for reducing maternal deaths by three-quarters and the deaths of children under five by two-thirds, both by 2015 compared to 1990 levels” (6/13).
“Seeking to address the devastating resurgence of measles, the GAVI Alliance will provide up to an additional $162 million to control and prevent outbreaks in developing countries,” a GAVI press release reports, noting, “This funding will help countries bridge critical gaps in their efforts to build sustainable systems to control this deadly disease.” According to the press release, GAVI will “make up to $107 million available for measles control and prevention in six high-risk countries: Afghanistan, Chad, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Pakistan,” and an additional “$55 million will be offered through the Measles & Rubella Initiative for rapid response vaccination campaigns in GAVI-eligible countries where outbreaks occur” (6/13).
“Global and local health authorities are not doing enough to fight a cholera outbreak that continues to claim lives in Haiti, Doctors Without Borders said Thursday,” Agence France-Presse reports (6/15). Despite a decline in the number of cholera cases in Haiti “as the Caribbean nation leaves the annual rainy season,” “the Haitian government and health organizations must continue focusing efforts on stemming the outbreak as the height of the hurricane season nears, said Thierry Goffeau, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders in Haiti,” the Associated Press/New England Cable News writes (6/15).
“A Pakistani militant group threatened action on Saturday against anyone conducting polio vaccinations in the region where it is based, saying the health care drive was a cover for U.S. spies,” Reuters reports, adding, “The group, based in North Waziristan and led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, said it had banned vaccinations for as long as U.S. drone aircraft continued to make missile strikes in Pakistan” (Mujtaba, 6/16). “The statement by Hafiz Gul Bahadur is an obstacle to efforts to beat polio in Pakistan, one of only three nations where the virus is endemic,” the Associated Press writes (6/17).
The XIX International AIDS Conference opened in Washington, D.C., on Sunday and “is expected to draw 25,000 people, including politicians, scientists and activists, as well as some of the estimated 34 million people living with HIV who will tell their stories,” Agence France-Presse reports (Sheridan, 7/22). “Researchers, doctors and patients attending the world’s largest AIDS conference are urging the world’s governments not to cut back on the fight against the epidemic when it is at a turning point,” the Associated Press writes, adding, “There is no cure or vaccine yet, but scientists say they have the tools to finally stem the spread of this intractable virus — largely by using treatment not just to save patients but to make them less infectious, too” (Neergaard, 7/22). “New breakthroughs in research will be announced, as will new efforts by governments and organizations to reduce the spread of HIV, to treat those who have it, and to work, eventually, toward a vaccine and a cure,” the Seattle Times writes (Tate, 7/22). According to the Washington Post’s “Blog Post,” three remaining challenges to be addressed at the conference include: “More research into treatment and prevention, and more ways to deliver treatments”; reaching marginalized populations, such as men who have sex with men and sex workers; and “[i]ncreasing funding for PEPFAR and other anti-AIDS programs” (Khazan, 7/20).
Ghana’s recent “rollout of the rotavirus vaccine and, to much acclaim, a new vaccine against pneumococcal infections, [makes it] the first country in sub-Saharan African to introduce two new vaccines at the same time,” the Guardian reports. The immunization campaign, organized by the Ghanaian government and the GAVI Alliance in partnership with other international agencies, philanthropies and the private sector, is “expected to save thousands of lives,” the newspaper notes. “That GAVI has deemed Ghana able to introduce rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines together is a vote of confidence in the country’s ability to establish a ‘cold chain,'” a refrigeration network necessary to keep the vaccines viable, according to the Guardian.
In this video report, Al Jazeera examines polio eradication efforts in Pakistan, writing, “[I]n an unusual effort to eliminate the disease, health workers are stopping vehicles at a busy toll booth outside Islamabad to administer free polio vaccination drops to children under the age of five.” The video recounts a “promise” made by Pakistan’s prime minister last month to eliminate new polio infections in the country by the end of the year and provides commentary by Shahnaz Wazir Ali, assistant to the prime minister on social affairs, and Dennis King of UNICEF Pakistan about the target, current infection rates, and ongoing eradication efforts (Tyab, 2/6).
Following an outbreak of the mosquito-borne yellow fever virus in Cameroon that has infected at least 23 people and killed at least seven people, U.N. and local officials are working to vaccinate “1.2 million people considered at high risk of contracting yellow fever, which has no cure,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the International Coordinating Group on Yellow Fever Provision (YF-ICG) — which includes WHO and the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) — and the public-private partnership known as the GAVI Alliance are funding the vaccination campaign,” the news service writes. In Ghana, YF-ICG is working with the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) to plan a vaccination campaign after at least three cases of yellow fever have been reported in the north of the country, the U.N. News Centre notes (2/3).
“The key to India’s success” in going a full year without recording a case of polio “was to take ownership of the problem and the solution, allowing for locals to learn from the expertise of the international community while not becoming dependent” on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international donors, William Thomson, a research assistant at the U.S. Naval War College, writes in The Diplomat’s “India Decade.”
“A huge vaccination campaign to protect 50 million people against meningitis has been launched in seven African countries aiming to stamp out the deadly virus, health officials said on Thursday,” Sapa/AFP/IOL News reports. “The so-called ‘Meningitis Belt’ countries — Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan — are to get the jabs to ensure ‘a dramatic impact across the continent,’ said Seth Berkley, managing director of the GAVI Alliance,” according to the news service (10/4). “The seven countries targeted are vulnerable to seasonal severe outbreaks of meningitis with up to 430 million people at risk from the illness, according to a news release issued by the GAVI Alliance,” the U.N. News Centre writes, noting, “The vaccination drive will ensure those at high risk, particularly children and young adults, are vaccinated by the end of December” (10/4).