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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

U.K. PM Cameron Works To Include 'Zero' Goals In U.N. Post-2015 Development Report, Meets With President Obama

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron “is fighting plans to place a commitment to reducing income inequality in the developing world into a major U.N. report that will set out a series of targets to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” instead urging “the U.N. [to] focus on ‘measurable, concrete’ goals,” such as “ending extreme poverty and hunger by 2030,” The Guardian reports. Cameron believes a focus on a goal to “reduce income equality” “is a mistaken approach and says the focus should instead be on agreeing 10 goals, to be achieved by 2030, which it regards as the ‘building blocks’ to tackle poverty in the developing world,” the newspaper writes, noting, “The goals are: ending extreme poverty, ending hunger, ensuring the provision of safe and sustainable water supplies, stopping preventable deaths, ensuring a school place for every girl and boy, empowering girls and women, delivering infrastructure and energy, boosting jobs, ensuring access to justice and ensuring effective and open government.”

In related news, “Cameron’s talks at the White House this week focused in part on the G8 summit he is to host in Northern Ireland next month,” The Guardian reports. Cameron was expected on Tuesday to “announce that Britain is to use its G8 presidency to agree a new international approach on dementia, which affects 35.6 million people in the world,” the newspaper notes (Watt, 5/14). However, “[t]he ongoing crisis in Syria dominated the talks on Monday (May 13) between U.S. President Barack Obama” and Cameron, Devex reports. “To boost the response to the crisis, Cameron pledged an additional 30 million pounds ($46 million) in humanitarian aid,” the news service writes, noting, “The new funding is expected to provide 224,000 people with access to necessary health care services and 172,000 people with access to food, as well as vouchers to 100,000 people for essential items such as food, clothing, clean water and sanitation facilities.” In addition, “Obama said the G8 summit presents ‘another opportunity to make progress on nutrition and food security,’” and “[h]e also noted that both countries ‘are encouraged by the ambitious reforms’ being implemented at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, ‘where both our nations are stepping up efforts,’” according to Devex (Villarino, 5/14).

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WHO World Health Statistics Report Shows Gap Narrowing Between Countries With Best, Worst Health Status

In its World Health Statistics 2013 report, which “compares progress made by countries with the best health status and the worst status over two decades, from 1990,” the WHO “says the health gap between countries is narrowing, but there are continuing inequalities in health care,” BBC News reports. “Many people in low- and middle-income countries have insufficient access to medicines in the public sector, meaning they rely on the private sector, where prices can be up to 16 times higher, says the WHO,” the news service writes. The “annual statistics show progress is being made around the world in cutting child mortality — but it will miss its [Millennium Development Goal (MDG)] target of a two-thirds reduction by 2015,” the news service states, noting, “The number of under-fives dying fell from 12 million in 1990 to less than seven million in 2011, the data show.” According to the news service, “The statistics are compiled from many sources, including government birth and death registrations, hospital records, household surveys and research projects” (5/15).

A WHO press release states, “[T]his year’s World Health Statistics shows the considerable progress made in reducing child and maternal deaths, improving nutrition and reducing deaths and illness from HIV infection, tuberculosis and malaria.” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in the press release, “Intensive efforts to achieve the MDGs have clearly improved health for people all over the world. … But with less than 1,000 days to go to reach the MDG deadline, it is timely to ask if these efforts have made a difference in reducing the unacceptable inequities between the richest and poorest countries” (5/15).

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Canada To Contribute Additional $20M To Global Fund

“Canada’s Minister of International Co-operation Julian Fantino on Monday provided another $20 million to the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] … to support affordable medicines facilities for malaria,” The Star reports. “Global Fund Executive Director Mark Dybul met with Fantino on Monday in Ottawa to press Canada to increase its commitment as the fund tries to raise another $15 billion to fight the three infections over the next three years,” the newspaper writes, noting, “Since 2002, Canada has given $1.5 billion to the fund, which has more than 1,000 programs running in 151 countries and has provided AIDS treatment for 4.2 million people” (5/14). According to a press release from the Canadian International Development Agency, Fantino said, “Canada plays a leadership role on the world stage in the fight against deadly diseases such as malaria, and this will continue. … By supporting the Global Fund, we are helping to save the lives of mothers, newborns, and young children who are particularly vulnerable to tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS” (5/13).

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The Guardian Interviews Former U.K. International Development Secretary

In an interview with Guardian reporter Liz Ford, Andrew Mitchell, Britain’s former international development secretary, “talks candidly about some of the key issues affecting the Department for International Development,” the newspaper reports. “Although no longer development secretary — he was reshuffled out of DfID last year to become chief whip, and resigned from that job in October — he’s still bullish and very much on message when it comes to aid spending,” The Guardian writes, noting, “Asked how to ensure the big sums of money promised at last year’s family planning summit benefit those who need it most, he says DfID is fully capable of tracking progress.” In the interview, Mitchell “wholeheartedly defends the coalition government’s failure to enshrine into law the target to spend 0.7 percent of GNI on aid,” but he says he is “proud” to have been a part of the government when the U.K. became the first country to honor the commitment, the newspaper continues, adding that he also “defends Britain’s support for countries such as Rwanda and Ethiopia, which are considered development successes but have dubious human rights records.” The Guardian includes a link to a video of the conversation (5/14).

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Saudi Arabia Confirms 6 New Cases Of Coronavirus

“Saudi Arabia has confirmed six new cases of the SARS-like novel coronavirus in its Eastern Province, state media reported on Monday and Tuesday, citing the health ministry,” Reuters reports. “On Sunday, Saudi Arabia said it had had a total of 24 confirmed cases since the disease was identified last year, of whom 15 had died,” the news service notes (McDowall, 5/14). However, according to Agence France-Presse/GlobalPost, the four cases detected this week “[bring] the number of cases there to 28 out of a global 38 cases.” The news service adds, “The [WHO] on Tuesday revised up the death toll from the SARS-like coronavirus from 18 to 20 worldwide, but said the two additional fatalities in Saudi Arabia were old cases” (5/14). “The Saudi Arabian government is conducting ongoing investigation into the outbreak, it said,” according to Xinhua, which notes, “Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encouraged all member states to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns” (5/14). “[H]ealth officials said vaccines were unlikely to play a role in controlling the outbreak,” ABC News writes, adding, “Instead, they’ve focused on detecting the novel coronavirus, dubbed nCoV, and have quickly isolated patients” (Moisse, 3/14).

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Indian Government Announces Development Of Less-Expensive Rotavirus Vaccine

“The Indian government announced Tuesday the development of a new low-cost vaccine proven effective against a diarrhea-causing virus that is one of the leading causes of childhood deaths across the developing world,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “The Indian manufacturer of the new rotavirus vaccine pledged to sell it for $1 a dose, a significant discount from the cost of the current vaccines on the market,” the news agency writes (Nessman, 5/14). “While international pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline and Merck produce similar vaccines, each dose costs around 1,000 rupees ($18), said Sushmita Malaviya of PATH, an international health care organization,” Agence France-Presse notes, adding, “Rotavirus causes up to 884,000 hospitalizations in India a year, at a cost to the country of 3.4 billion rupees ($72 million), and kills around 100,000 small children annually in the country, the government says” (5/14). “The vaccine, named Rotavac, will be manufactured by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech pharmaceutical firm, which has said it has the capacity to mass produce 60 million doses after clearance is given,” the News International reports, noting, “Each vaccination consists of three doses” (5/14).

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Decline In AIDS-Related Deaths In S. Africa Attributed To Expanded Treatment Program

“One in 10 South Africans is HIV-positive but AIDS-related deaths are falling as ramped-up treatment begins to have an impact, the country’s official statistics agency said Tuesday,” Agence France-Presse reports. According to data from Statistics South Africa’s mid-year report, HIV/AIDS “will be responsible for 32 percent of all deaths this year,” compared with 48 percent in 2005, the news agency notes, adding, “Average life expectancy has also increased to 59.6 years, from just 51.6 in 2005.” Statistician-General Pali Lehohla told AFP, “Medicine has advanced and people are living with HIV and AIDS,” the news agency writes, noting the country “had 1.9 million people on treatment in April this year,” with 5.3 million of its nearly 53 million residents living with HIV (5/14).

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Niger Offering Cash Rewards For Anyone Reporting Cases Of Guinea Worm

“Niger is offering cash rewards to anyone reporting a case of Guinea worm as part of efforts to permanently eradicate the parasitic disease in the impoverished West African nation, the health ministry said,” Reuters reports. “Though it once afflicted around 3.5 million people annually across Asia and Africa, according to the U.S.-based Carter Center, Guinea worm disease is now on the verge of being eradicated worldwide,” the news service writes. “Niger had been due to join the list of countries free from the disease last year before an influx of some 60,000 refugees fleeing fighting in neighboring Mali where the parasite is present,” Reuters notes, adding, “Anyone reporting a case of Guinea worm, confirmed as such by health authorities, would be offered a reward of 20,000 CFA francs ($39.58)” (5/14).

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Editorials and Opinions

Proposed Food Aid Reforms Make Sense But 'Iron Triangle' Politics Will Make Implementation Difficult

In a Foreign Policy opinion piece, Gordon Adams, a professor of international relations at the School of International Service at American University and a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center, examines the debate surrounding reforms to the U.S. food aid program as proposed in President Obama’s FY 2014 budget request. “The suggested reforms are technical, but they make sense,” he writes, and details the proposed changes. “Bottom line: The proposed reforms would streamline the program and better provide food to those who need it. Instead of subsidies for U.S. farmers, subsidies for U.S. shippers, and subsidies for nonprofit organizations, which consume 30-40 percent of the food aid budget, the food and some economic stimulus might actually get to the intended recipients,” he states.

But “[a]gribusiness, American shippers, some of the nonprofit world — not to speak of the agriculture appropriators and the Agriculture Department — don’t appear warm to the idea,” Adams continues. He describes what he calls the “food aid Iron Triangle” — with the private sector in one corner, the federal government in another, and Congress in the third — and discusses their respective views on the proposed reforms. “Change is really hard in Washington, even when it makes good common sense,” he writes, concluding, “If ‘normal’ congressional politics prevail, I can see who will win this fight. USAID’s authorizers don’t have the domestic clout the Ag committees have. Their appropriators don’t get campaign contributions from the countries overseas that receive the food — that would be illegal. So stay tuned for an outcome that doesn’t change the current program very much at all” (5/14).

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Recent Releases

USAID Working With Partners To Improve Maternal HIV Care, Treatment Worldwide

“USAID, through [PEPFAR], is working closely with the [WHO], the [CDC], and other international partners” to implement “more progressive policies that help ensure that all pregnant mothers get access to lifelong HIV therapy, [and] countries throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America are increasing mothers’ access to once-daily, lifelong antiretroviral drugs that will protect their babies from infection,” B. Ryan Phelps, a medical officer for prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and pediatric HIV in the USAID’s Office of HIV/AIDS, writes in USAID’s “IMPACTblog” as part of a series on the agency’s activities in global health. “Over a dozen countries are in the process of developing and rolling out universal treatment strategies for pregnant women, and USAID continues to work side-by-side with ministries of health toward the goal of an AIDS-free generation,” he writes, adding, “To further bolster this technical support, USAID recently helped in the creation of an Interagency Task Team implementation toolkit to assist countries as they scale up these strategies” (5/14).

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Post-2015 Development 'Zero' Goals Should Include '2030 Targets'

In the Center for Global Development blog, Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the center, writes about the prospect of including “zero” goals in the post-2015 development agenda, saying, “In short, the proposed zero goals fall somewhere messily in between targets (which should be realistic) and ideals (which should be idealistic).” He continues, “Given that 2030 appears to be a widely agreed end-point, the ‘zero’ goals all have to be shoe-horned to fit that time frame. So even if (perhaps) getting to three percent $1.25/day poverty by 2030 is plausible and (maybe) two percent under-five mortality might be considered an acceptable floor, $1.25 is too low an ambition for any income floor and 2030 is implausibly soon for every country to reach two percent under five mortality.” Kenny adds, “Perhaps these [goals] could be presented alongside 2030 targets (three percent under $1.25 a day by 2030). That way, one goal doesn’t have to do the work of two very different concepts” (5/14).

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New Issue Of GHD-NET's Health & Foreign Policy Bulletin Available Online

The April 2013 issue of the Global Health Diplomacy Network’s (GHD-NET) Health & Foreign Policy Bulletin is now available online. Among other topics, the issue includes articles examining the emerging avian influenza A H7N9 virus, ethical considerations for vaccination programs in acute humanitarian emergencies, governance challenges in global health, and U.S. trade agreements and access to medicines (April 2013).

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