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.
“A constitutional debate is under way in Nigeria over whether the government can prosecute parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated against polio, or if it has the power to force parents to have their children vaccinated against any communicable disease,” VOA News reports. “The debate comes on the heels of a resolution by the government of Nigeria’s northern Kano state to prosecute any parent who refuses to have their children receive the oral vaccine against the highly contagious disease,” the news service notes.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday “launched a national polio vaccination campaign in Angola, where the crippling disease has returned despite being eradicated in 2001, and praised the government for its leadership on the issue,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “Angola provides a large majority of the funding needed to vaccinate the countryâ€™s children,” the news service writes. Ban said the return of polio to Angola within four years after it was eradicated in 2001 illustrated the importance of immunization against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases, as well as responding to any new polio cases, according to the news service (2/27).
“A Haiti aid group warns on the eve of the rainy season that the Caribbean nation will likely see a surge in cholera cases,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times reports. “Paul Farmer of the Boston-based group Partners in Health writes in an email Friday that Haiti could see a spike like the one that occurred last year,” when the “number of cholera cases nearly tripled from almost 19,000 last April to more than 50,000 two months later,” the news service writes. The AP notes, “Partners in Health will launch a vaccination campaign in the coming weeks to stem the spread of the waterborne disease” (2/24).
“India was taken off a list of polio endemic countries by the World Health Organization on Saturday, marking a massive victory for health workers battling the crippling disease” and “leav[ing] just three countries with endemic polio — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria,” Agence France-Presse reports (2/26). “Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the WHO removed India from the list after the country passed one year without registering any new cases,” the Associated Press/CBS News writes, adding, “India must pass another two years without new cases to be declared polio-free” (2/27).
The WHO “is calling on all Afghans to vaccinate their children after a recent measles outbreak that has been made worse by severe weather that hampers access to immediate treatment as well as low immunization coverage,” the U.N. News Centre reports. At least “20 children have died due to measles and pneumonia in the western provinces of Ghor and Baghdis,” the news service notes (2/22). “As the outbreak has grown more serious, Afghan authorities and the WHO set up five temporary clinics and vaccinated more than 3,600 children in the outbreak zone, while treating more than 6,000 patients, health officials said,” according to the Los Angeles Times’ “World Now” blog (2/21).
The PBS NewsHour examines polio eradication efforts in India, which has gone an entire year without reporting a polio case. “For India, the challenge is to remain vigilant and polio free for two more years to officially fall off the list of endemic countries,” according to the news service (De Sam Lazaro, 2/20). “The success in India has been achieved through a partnership between the Indian government, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary, UNICEF and with major contributions from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” BBC News reports in an analysis of India’s success. “The global effort to eradicate polio is the biggest public health initiative in history. It has cost billions and has already stopped a huge amount of disability and many deaths,” but the disease remains endemic in three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, the news service notes (Walsh, 2/19).