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Gates Foundation Plans To Invest In Biotech Companies To Improve Global Access To Treatments, Vaccines For Infectious Diseases

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “plans to take equity stakes in up to a dozen biotech companies this year, signaling a shift towards a ‘venture capital’ approach at the world’s biggest philanthropic organization” and “mark[ing] a further move away from its traditional approach of grant-giving and towards a more business-oriented way to support the development of treatments and vaccines for infectious diseases affecting the world’s poor,” the Financial Times reports. Trevor Mundel, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, said the foundation will make a series of investments worth several million dollars each “and not ask for a return but for global access. … We will specify the countries and the diseases,” according to the newspaper. The Financial Times notes that “[t]he move points to growing interest in working directly with companies rather than primarily through co-operating via non-profit ‘product development partnerships’ or intermediaries such as the Medicines for Malaria Venture and the Tuberculosis Alliance” (Jack, 6/26).

Zimbabwe Launches Week-Long Immunization Campaign With Funding From Japan

“Zimbabwe embarked on a massive immunization campaign against measles and polio on Monday, targeting about two million children under the age of five,” VOA News reports. “Health and Child Welfare Minister Henry Madzorera launched the program in Harare, administering vaccines to a number of children and doses of vitamin A supplements,” the news service writes, noting, “Statistics show that at least 100 children die of largely preventable diseases in the country every day, and officials say the week-long vaccination program is meant to roll back the worrying mortality rate.”

Efforts To Eradicate Polio Need International Financial Support

Noting that polio is endemic in only Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria, and the WHO recently declared the disease a “programmatic emergency” to “galvanize work” in those three countries, a Washington Post editorial states, “A renewed campaign [against the disease] will be costly.” The editorial notes, “The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, set up in 1988 by the WHO, UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Rotary International, says that it needs an additional $945 million for a total budget of $2.19 billion this year and next.”

Opinion Pieces Address Child Survival Call to Action

The governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia, in collaboration with UNICEF, on Thursday launched the Child Survival Call to Action in Washington, D.C., during a two-day event that brings together world leaders, public health experts, child health advocates and others in an effort to reduce child mortality to 20 per 1,000 by 2035 worldwide, with the ultimate goal of ending preventable child deaths. The following summarizes several opinion pieces addressing the effort.

Opinion Pieces, Blog Posts Address Child Survival Call to Action

The governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia, in collaboration with UNICEF, today are scheduled to launch the Child Survival Call to Action in Washington, D.C., a two-day event that brings together world leaders, public health experts, child health advocates and others in an effort to reduce child mortality to 20 per 1,000 by 2035 worldwide, with the ultimate goal of ending preventable child deaths. The following summarizes several opinion pieces and blog posts addressing the effort.

Fewer Mothers, Children Dying Globally, But Progress Varies Greatly Among Countries, Report Says

“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).

GAVI Alliance Pledges Up To $162M To Control, Prevent Measles Outbreaks In Developing Countries

“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).

Despite Decline In Cholera Cases In Haiti, Health Authorities Not Doing Enough, Aid Group Says

“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).

Militants Ban Polio Vaccination In Northwest Pakistan In Response To U.S. Drone Strikes In Region

“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).

India Emerging As Model For Improvement In Developing Countries

In this NDTV opinion piece, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reflects on his recent trip to India, writing, “During my recent visit, I had a chance to see the latest progress on things that matter a lot to us: on eradicating polio and curtailing the spread of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, for example.” He continues, “And I saw how India is emerging as a model and increasingly a catalyst for improvement in other developing countries,” adding, “The current situation in India is quite hopeful.”