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In The News

U.N. Officials Express Concern Over Food Security In Syria; Donor Conference To Be Held In Kuwait

News outlets report on the humanitarian crisis in Syria, including concerns over starvation, and an upcoming donor conference to be held this week in Kuwait.

BBC News: U.N. concerns mount over besieged Syrians
“The U.N. humanitarian affairs chief has expressed deep concern for communities cut off in Syria by months of fighting between government and rebel forces. Valerie Amos told the BBC she had heard accounts of near starvation, including in the capital, Damascus…” (1/12).

Devex: U.N. ‘optimistic’ on 2014 donor pledges for Syria
“…Syria took almost half or $6.5 billion of the United Nations’ total funding request of $12.9 billion for its 2014 humanitarian operations, the largest appeal the world body has asked to date for a single crisis. And donors are expected to fill this amount — or at least part of it — starting Wednesday in Kuwait…” (Ravelo, 1/13).

Reuters: Charities pledge $400 million to Syria aid: Kuwait agency
“Non-governmental organizations have promised to donate a combined $400 million for humanitarian aid for Syria ahead of an international donor conference to be held in Kuwait, the Gulf state’s official news agency KUNA said on Tuesday…” (Westall, 1/14).

Reuters: U.N. feeds record 3.8 million in Syria but concerned by malnutrition
“The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) delivered rations to a record 3.8 million people in Syria in December, but civilians in eastern provinces and besieged towns near the capital remain out of reach, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday…” (Nebehay, 1/14).

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Fighting In Syria Forces Halt To Polio Vaccination Campaign

News outlets report on the challenges of providing polio vaccinations to displaced persons in Syria, especially women and children, as violence continues to escalate.

Reuters: Fighting halts polio vaccination in northern Syria
“Heavy fighting has prevented health workers from getting polio vaccine to an estimated 100,000 Syrian children in the northeastern province of Raqqa, United Nations aid agencies said on Monday, appealing for access. … The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) condemned the halt of the immunization campaign in Raqqa province due to intense fighting in Syria’s civil war…” (1/13).

Agence France-Presse: ICRC urges Syria aid access as clashes halt polio immunization
“The situation in Syria is ‘catastrophic,’ the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross warned on Monday, urging ‘actions that translate into greater field access’ for aid. … UNICEF and the WHO said the fighting had not only interrupted immunization ‘but is also increasing the suffering of the Syrian people, not least women and children’…” (1/13).

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U.N. Expresses Concern Over Food Security In South Sudan; WFP Launches Food Aid Operation

News outlets outline U.N. concerns over food security in South Sudan and a World Food Programme three-month food aid operation in the country.

Alliance News: U.N. agency pledges USD57.8 Million In Food Aid To South Sudan
“The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) said Monday it is stepping up efforts to provide emergency food aid to conflict-stricken South Sudan. The Rome-based organization pledged 57.8 million dollars to fund a three-month operation aimed at providing food aid to as many as 400,000 people displaced within South Sudan…” (1/13).

U.N. News Centre: Hunger looms in South Sudan as fighting threatens to disrupt agriculture, U.N. warns
“United Nations food agencies are ramping up their relief efforts in South Sudan, warning that the fighting there threatens to increase hunger and unravel the modest gains made in food security in the two years since the country seceded from Sudan and became the world’s youngest nation…” (1/13).

World Food Programme: WFP Expands Assistance To South Sudanese, Condemns Looting Of Supplies
“The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a new emergency operation to expand assistance to people affected by the crisis in South Sudan and is working to overcome challenges preventing urgently needed relief from reaching those who need it. The US$57.8 million, three-month operation aims to provide emergency food assistance to up to 400,000 internally displaced people, including specialized nutritional support for new mothers and young children who are most at risk from a disruption in their food supply…” (1/13).

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Nigerian President Signs Ban On Same-Sex Relationships; Kerry Condemns Law, Says U.S. 'Deeply Concerned'

News outlets report on the Nigerian president’s signing of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which bans same-sex relationships and could impact HIV/AIDS prevention and education activities in the country.

New York Times: Nigerian President Signs Ban on Same-Sex Relationships
“A tough ban on same-sex relationships that threatens violators with 14-year prison terms has been quietly signed into law by the president of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, a step that rights advocates have long feared not only as a repression aimed at gays but as an affront to basic freedoms of speech and assembly. … Nigerian gay-rights advocates said the law also elevated the risk to people living with HIV and AIDS, because organizations that help them might also be deemed illegal…” (Gladstone, 1/13).

Reuters: Nigerian leader signs anti-gay law, drawing U.S. fire
“…The bill, which contains penalties of up to 14 years in prison and bans gay marriage, same-sex ‘amorous relationships’ and membership of gay rights groups, was passed by the national assembly last May but [Nigerian President Goodluck] Jonathan had delayed signing it into law…” (Onuah, 1/13).

Politico: John Kerry hits Nigeria gay marriage law
“Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday condemned a new law in Nigeria prohibiting same-sex marriages, calling it a ‘dangerous’ restriction on freedom. ‘The United States is deeply concerned by Nigeria’s enactment of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act,’ Kerry said in a statement released by the State Department. ‘Beyond even prohibiting same sex marriage, this law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians’…” (DelReal, 1/13).

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PEPFAR Vision To Broaden In Program's Second Decade, Acting Global AIDS Coordinator Says

Devex: Will a new decade bring new priorities for PEPFAR?
“The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is entering a new decade. And as the fight against AIDS is expanding to a broader and more comprehensive battle for increased access to health care, prevention and more inclusive treatment, we’ll be seeing more programs that ‘don’t look like PEPFAR,’ according to the fund’s current manager. Deborah von Zinkernagel, acting U.S. global AIDS coordinator, elaborated on the need for a vision that goes beyond drug delivery and treatment…” (Stephens, 1/13).

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Devex Interviews USAID Official About Agency's Maternal, Child Health Programming

Devex: Successful maternal health partnership seeking scale
“A year after former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched ‘Saving Mothers, Giving Life,’ U.S. and African health leaders believe the inter-agency public-private partnership has proven that surgical and other interventions once thought to be too difficult and expensive can dramatically reduce maternal and infant death in high-mortality settings. … Devex spoke with Robert Clay, deputy assistant administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Global Health, to learn how ‘Saving Mothers, Giving Life’ overcame skepticism to save lives and what the future looks like for maternal and child health programming at the agency…” (Igoe, 1/13).

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Bloomberg Businessweek Examines Russia's AIDS Epidemic

Bloomberg Businessweek: Russian HIV Surge Shows Scourge Sochi Swagger Can’t Mask
“…Hidden from the outside world and abetted by policies that critics say promote infections rather than curbing them, the HIV scourge plaguing Russia is one that even the poorest countries have begun to subdue. As Putin puts the final touches on preparations for the $48 billion Winter Olympics in Sochi and strives to expand Russian influence in international affairs, 1.3 million of his countrymen have the life-threatening virus that causes AIDS, according to the Russian Federal AIDS Center…” (Bennett/Kravchenko, 1/13).

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Haiti Still Struggles To Rebuild Four Years After Earthquake

News outlets examine the difficulties in providing humanitarian and food aid to Haiti four years after the country’s devastating earthquake.

PBS NewsHour: Haitians blame U.N. soldiers for cholera crisis in wake of earthquake disaster
“…Efforts to rebuild the poverty-stricken island were led by the United Nations. But in a cruel twist, U.N. soldiers sent there to help are thought to have inadvertently started a cholera epidemic one year later. Now a lawsuit is being brought by more than 5,000 Haitians…” (1/13).

GlobalPost: In Haiti, all eyes on U.S. to reform ‘unjustifiable’ food aid program
“…Farmers in Haiti and many of their counterparts in the United States are joining foreign aid organizations calling on the United States to stop sending American crops to Haiti through what many critics say is the deeply flawed and wasteful strategy of the current, multi-billion-dollar U.S. Department of Agriculture Food for Peace program…” (Kushner, 1/13).

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WHO Should Update Guidelines For Children In Shock, Researchers Say

Two news outlets report on the WHO’s guidance on rapid fluid resuscitation of children in shock, saying scientists warn that thousands could be harmed if the guidelines are not changed.

The Guardian: WHO guidance ‘risks killing children’
In her Global Health Blog for The Guardian, Sarah Boseley writes that “[t]housands of children in Africa may die if the World Health Organization does not change its guidance on the treatment of children arriving in hospital with shock as a result of conditions such as acute malaria or septicemia, according to a group of highly respected researchers…” (1/13).

BBC News: Child shock guidelines ‘are deadly’
“Thousands of children could be dying each year because the World Health Organization has not updated guidelines for treating those going into shock, U.K. researchers warn. … The WHO said it had to be ‘very vigilant’ when changing guidelines. And that it aimed to publish a new set of interim guidelines by early 2015…” (Gallagher, 1/13).

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Indonesia Launches Universal Health Coverage Amid Public Enthusiasm, Caution From Experts

IRIN: Hopes and fears as Indonesia rolls out universal health care
“The rollout of universal health coverage in Indonesia has been greeted with public enthusiasm, but health experts warn that inadequate funding could undermine the quality of care. The government aims to have every Indonesian covered by health insurance by 2019 under a new scheme called Jaminan Kesehatan Nasional (JKN), with nearly 20 trillion rupiah (US$1.6 billion) allocated to cover premiums for the poor in 2014…” (1/14).

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Stigma Remains Barrier To HIV Treatment For Sex Workers In Myanmar

IRIN: Push to decriminalize sex work, but stigma remains
In Myanmar, “[d]espite a decreasing prevalence of HIV/AIDS among commercial sex workers, health workers say the stigma associated with prostitution and the harsh laws against it are undermining sex workers’ access to HIV-related services…” (1/14).

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Washington Post, Pulizter Center Feature Examines Traffic Accidents

Washington Post: Roads kill: The toll of traffic accidents is rising in poor countries
“…It has a global death toll of 1.24 million per year and is on course to triple to 3.6 million per year by 2030. In the developing world, it will become the fifth leading cause of death, leapfrogging past HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other familiar killers, according to the most recent Global Burden of Disease study. … This global killer is our most necessary accessory, the essential thing that gets us from here to there: the motorized vehicle. … In ‘Roads Kill,’ The Washington Post joins with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to bring stories from around the world about this neglected but easily curable public-health crisis…” (Hundley/McCarey, 1/13).

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MSF Takes Open Approach To Humanitarian Data

SciDev.Net: MSF pioneers opening up access to humanitarian data
“Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is pioneering an open-access approach within the humanitarian sector in the hope that other medical aid organizations will follow suit. MSF decided to make the data its clinical and research staff collect freely available online, says a report published in PLOS Medicine last month (10 December). This is the first time a medical humanitarian organization has fashioned a policy to openly share its data, MSF says…” (Kennedy, 1/13).

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Editorials and Opinions

Celebrating $12B Pledge, Global Fund Looks Ahead With 'Collective Resolution'

Huffington Post: Reason to Celebrate in the New Year: $12 Billion to Fight AIDS, TB & Malaria
Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

The Global Fund’s replenishment conference in December raised $12 billion, “the largest amount ever committed to fight the three diseases.  … In the years ahead, the Global Fund will deepen its work with donor governments; encourage increased private sector and high-net-worth individual investments, as well as domestic co-financing; and work to ensure treatment, prevention and care continue to reach those most in need. But this current moment is certainly one to celebrate — the beginning of a New Year in which our collective resolution is to control these three diseases once and for all. And, with replenishment efforts already well underway and increasing levels of support for the Global Fund worldwide, this is one resolution that we can hope to keep” (1/13).

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Sexual, Reproductive Rights Should Be Included In Post-2015 Development Agenda Discussions

Huffington Post: Another New Year — And One More Chance to Choose the World We Want
Mariela Castro Espín, Cuban member of parliament, president of CENESEX, and a member of the U.N. High-Level Task Force for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)

“…Throughout 2014, in a series of global and regional deliberations, representatives from all member states of the United Nations will begin negotiating the basis for a new development framework to be adopted in 2015 that will affect the lives of billions of people from all countries, rich or poor, developed and developing, from north and south, for decades to come. … I wish us to promote a global development agenda that enhances the freedoms and full capacities of women and young people by protecting all their human rights, especially those related to their dignity and their sexual and reproductive lives…” (1/13).

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Recent Releases

Group Advocates To Improve Maternal Health

In the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, public health worker Debra Bingham discusses the activities of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). “AWHONN believes that all women should have access to efficacious treatments from trained and supported health workers when they are needed regardless of where they call home. It is for these reasons that AWHONN is committed to educating American policymakers about their role in women’s health in the U.S. and abroad,” she writes (1/13).

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