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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

U.S., International Community Respond To Humanitarian Emergency In Typhoon-Hit Philippines

“The United States rushed assistance to the Philippines after a typhoon killed at least 10,000 people and will provide additional aid if it is needed, President Barack Obama said on Sunday,” Reuters reports (Mohammed/Stewart, 11/10). “The Obama administration made an initial $100,000 available Saturday [through USAID] to provide basic health care, clean water and sanitation following the Philippines government’s request for international assistance,” USA Today writes, noting, “That figure is likely to grow as damage and humanitarian needs are assessed” (Wolf, 11/10). “USAID said in a statement that it is sending a disaster assistance response team to assess the damage, determine the humanitarian needs and keep key players posted on what’s happening and what needs to happen next,” CNN adds (Botelho/Seaby, 11/9). “The U.S. Government is organizing emergency shipments of critically needed material to provide shelter to the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos driven from their homes by this unprecedented typhoon,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement, adding, “We are also organizing emergency shipments of food and hygiene supplies to thousands of families” (11/11).

“Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has dispatched close to 100 Marines and sailors to help with relief efforts,” The Hill’s “DEFCON Hill” blog states (Shabad, 11/11). “The first wave of U.S. force  — a team of 90 Marines and sailors — flew to Philippines on Sunday to assist with search and rescue operations and provide air support, the Marines said in a statement,” according to NBC News’ “World News” blog (Bruton et al., 11/10). “In a statement issued by his spokesperson, [U.N.] Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was extremely concerned by the impact of the typhoon” and “thanked Member States for their prompt response and urged the international community to continue to show their solidarity with the people of the Philippines,” the U.N. News Centre reports (11/10). The Associated Press provides a list of “[o]ther governments and charities working to provide relief in the Philippines” (11/11).

Additional coverage is available from the Associated Press/Washington Post, CRIEnglish.com, The Guardian, The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog, Reuters, and a UNICEF press release.

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WHO, UNICEF Launch Largest-Ever Polio Vaccination Campaign In Middle East

“The U.N. has launched the largest-ever polio vaccination campaign in the Middle East, aiming to immunize more than 20 million children in seven countries amid an outbreak of the crippling virus in war-torn Syria, officials said on Friday,” Agence France-Presse reports (11/8). “The mass vaccination against polio, which can spread rapidly among children, is already under way in the Middle East a week after the region declared a polio emergency, the [WHO] and [UNICEF] said,” Reuters adds (Nebehay/Kelland, 11/8). The outbreak “represents a public health threat to Europe, experts have warned for the first time,” the Independent reports (Cooper, 11/8). In related news, GlobalPost speaks with experts from the WHO and UNICEF about polio and the outbreak in Syria (Besant, 11/7).

Additional coverage is available from Al Jazeera America, Associated Press, Bloomberg Businessweek, CIDRAP News, Deutsche Welle, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, NBC News, NPR’s “Shots” blog, PANA/Afrique Jet, Press TV, RTT News, TIME, U.N. News Centre, United Press International, a WHO/UNICEF press release and Xinhua.

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WSJ Blog Examines Potential Candidates To Replace Ambassador Goosby As U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator

Noting Ambassador Eric Goosby, head of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Health Diplomacy and the U.S. global AIDS coordinator, last week stepped down from his post, the Wall Street Journal’s “Washington Wire” blog reflects on his time in office and PEPFAR’s evolution, and names four candidates “said to be under consideration” to serve as his replacement (McKay, 11/8).

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GHIT Fund Announces $5.7M In Grants To 6 Global Health Partnerships

“The Global Health Innovative Technology Fund (GHIT Fund), a new public health partnership that is bringing Japanese know-how and investment to the global fight against infectious diseases, on Friday announced the grants of $5.7 million to six global partnerships working on innovative drugs and vaccines against malaria, tuberculosis and Chagas disease,” Nigeria’s Leadership reports. In a press release from the fund, GHIT Executive Director BT Slingsby “stated that the agency’s six new investments in potential treatments for malaria, tuberculosis and Chagas disease, infections that afflict roughly one in seven of our world’s population, were a definitive step forward for, and a clear exemplification of, Japanese innovation and its application to global health,” the newspaper notes (Oluwarotimi, 11/11). In an interview with Scientific American, Slingsby examines “the need to address neglected diseases, antibiotic resistance and what Japan brings to the table” (Maron, 11/8).

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Uganda's President, First Lady Take HIV Test As Part Of HIV Prevention Campaign

“[Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and First Lady Janet Museveni] tested for HIV in public on Friday to encourage millions of untested people to check their status,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (11/8). At the event, Museveni called “upon parents, teachers, all political, religious, cultural, and community leaders as well as the media, to urge Ugandans to test for HIV and seek advice and care from a health facility,” Xinhua adds (11/8). The President “stated that anyone living with HIV would receive a package of care, treatment and support,” according to a UNAIDS press release, which notes, “The new campaign aims to reach 15 million people by the end of 2014” (11/8).

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Editorials and Opinions

Editorial, Opinion Pieces Respond To Global Spread Of Polio

The following is a summary of an editorial and two opinion pieces addressing the spread of polio, focusing on Syria, where the WHO last month confirmed 10 of 22 suspected cases of the disease.

  • Boston Globe: “The U.S. State Department, along with several humanitarian agencies, is calling on all parties to the Syrian conflict to allow vaccination and treatment teams into the hardest-hit provinces — which, not coincidentally, are also the ones most contested by government forces and rebels,” the newspaper writes. “To thwart what could become a regional outbreak of a crippling disease, both sides must cooperate to ensure the safety of medical personnel and renew vaccination efforts,” the editorial states, adding, “Health officials are racing to immunize [children in neighboring Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories], but a better first step would be a concerted international humanitarian effort to ensure Syria’s youngest citizens are again properly vaccinated” (11/10).
  • Bill Gates, Wall Street Journal: Reflecting on lessons learned from India’s successful campaign to eradicate polio, Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes, “The fight to end polio is not over, not even in India, and new polio cases in the Horn of Africa and Syria underscore the importance of eradicating polio everywhere.” He continues, “Still, if the world maintains its funding and commitment, we can eradicate the disease globally within six years” (11/10).
  • Tom Squitieri, U.S. News & World Report’s “World Report” blog: “As winter approaches in Syria … [i]nfectious diseases are ravaging the war-torn nation, including a new outbreak of polio, which has not been seen in Syria since the late 1990s,” Squitieri, a college professor and award-winning foreign correspondent, writes. “Along with Syria, a polio outbreak in the Horn of Africa has ballooned into more than 190 cases,” he notes, adding, “This is a humanitarian catastrophe, and it will just get worse” (11/8).

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Syrian Government Must Allow Humanitarian Organizations Access To All Syrians

Noting issues of security and access for humanitarian organizations working in Syria, Magne Barth, who heads the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Syria, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece, “If allowed, we could do much more to reduce the suffering of civilians, but it is increasingly difficult for us to enter contested areas and assist Syrians, let alone to protect them.” He states, “The Syrian government and other parties to the conflict must permit us to enter the many areas directly affected by fighting. They must then take concrete measures to ensure the safety of ICRC workers and the people we assist while respecting our right to bring help first to those in greatest need.” He continues, “Today, the ICRC and the [Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC)] can work in many parts of Syria, thanks to the understanding and support of Syrian authorities, armed groups and, most important, the Syrian people,” adding, “We seek to assist and protect all people affected by the conflict, regardless of their origin, religion or political affiliation.” He concludes, “Humanitarian workers must be allowed to relieve the plight of ordinary Syrians. They are bearing the brunt of this conflict” (11/8).

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U.S., Iran Should Consider Employing Vaccine Diplomacy

“September’s historic dialogue between President Obama and Iran’s President Rouhani together with calls to seek constructive engagement opens the door to a little known but powerful foreign policy instrument, which could simultaneously create new life-saving vaccines,” Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and Mohammad Rokni, a professor of medical parasitology and mycology in the School of Public Health at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences, write in a Pacific Standard opinion piece. They define the concept of vaccine diplomacy, when “two or more countries [put] aside their ideological differences to engage in an intense and focused scientific collaboration and produce an urgently needed technology that serves humanity.”

“Today, both the U.S. and Iran are under serious threat from several neglected tropical diseases that have emerged in our countries because of a variety of factors, including extreme poverty, urbanization, population growth, and possibly climate change,” Hotez and Rokni continue, adding, “Both the U.S. and Iran would benefit enormously from research leading to the development and joint testing of vaccines against these neglected tropical diseases.” They note “high-level discussions need to first take place between the U.S. Department of State and its Iranian counterpart to actively encourage and support joint vaccine development, and then implement steps to effectively shape policy and launch the first stages of vaccine product development” (11/6).

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Examining Arguments For Increased U.S. Foreign Aid Spending

Writing in the Washington Post’s “Wonk Blog,” Dylan Matthews highlights a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey on Americans’ views on global health that “finds that the average American thinks the United States spends 28 percent of the federal budget on aid to foreign governments,” when “[i]n reality, we spend only one percent on foreign aid.” He writes, “This gap between perception and reality is ridiculously large,” adding, “That’s depressing, but it also presents an opportunity.” Matthews examines arguments for increased spending that he calls “the simple case,” “the equality case,” and “the nationalist case” (11/8).

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Recent Releases

Blogs Address Global Spread Of Polio

The following is a summary of two blog posts examining the global spread of polio.

  • John Campbell, Council on Foreign Relations’ “Africa In Transition” blog: Blog contributor Campbell examines polio in Nigeria and Somalia, noting both countries “are venues of a deep distrust of the West, and particularly the United States.” He states, “In Africa, polio appears to be a companion of jihadist insurrection, terrorism, and refugee movements,” and concludes, “So long as they persist, the international community’s polio eradication campaign will be challenged” (11/8).
  • Christy Carnegie Fujio, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) blog: “The health crisis in Syria has reached alarming proportions, threatening not only the Syrian population, but also its neighbors, and requires an immediate international response,” Fujio, who oversees all activities for PHR in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, writes, and examines how “the collapse of medical services inside Syria” has led to the resurgence of the disease. “At the same time, large segments of the Syrian population are starving to death as humanitarian aid, including bread and other food staples, is blocked from reaching the people who need it most,” she states, adding, “Barring a cessation of hostilities, the deteriorating public health situation inside Syria can only be properly addressed by allowing much-needed aid to reach those forced to live in deplorable and dangerous conditions” (11/8).

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USAID Blog Reflects On ICFP 2013 Conference In Ethiopia

“[This] week more than 3,000 political leaders, scientists, health care professionals, advocates and young leaders from around the globe will gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the third International Conference on Family Planning or ICFP2013,” Ellen Starbird, director of the USAID Office of Population and Reproductive Health, writes in USAID’s “IMPACTblog.” She states, “Organized around the theme ‘Full Access, Full Choice,’ ICFP 2013 will call attention to the wide range of health, social, and economic benefits of helping couples plan and space their pregnancies,” adding, “Women know what they want and when they demand it, we must listen: the ability to make important decisions about childbearing is one of the most basic human rights” (11/8).

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USGLC Blog Highlights Kaiser Family Foundation Survey On U.S. Role In Global Health

Writing in the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s “Global Impact Blog,” Digital Media Associate Jonathan Ewing highlights a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey on Americans’ views on global health,” noting, “This year’s survey goes deeper into Americans’ perceptions of our engagement with the world.” Ewing also examines what he calls the “top five takeaways” of the survey (11/8).

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New Issue Of ‘Global Fund News Flash’ Available Online

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has published Issue 21 of its newsletter, the “Global Fund News Flash.” The issue focuses on health issues in Ethiopia, highlighting St. Peter’s Hospital in Addis Ababa, “the country’s premier [tuberculosis] treatment center” where “[m]ore and more [patients] arrive with drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis.” The newsletter states, “As scary new strains of tuberculosis emerge, resisting multiple drugs, Ethiopian health workers like Dr. Amha [Fantayeare] are alert to identify all new cases and to aggressively treat existing ones.” The newsletter continues, “‘There could be no place better than St. Peter’s to show how the Global Fund contributes to saving lives,’ Dr. Amha says” (7/11).

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