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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

U.N. Rapporteur On Right To Food Delivers Final Report To General Assembly

“In his final report [.pdf] to the general assembly, Olivier De Schutter, the [outgoing] U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, singled out [Latin America] for remarkable progress over the past decade,” The Guardian reports. He noted that, in Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico have created a right to food in their constitutions or in laws, and that, in Africa, Zambia and Uganda have made similar moves, according to the newspaper. In his report, “De Schutter identified where and how progress had been made and where further steps were needed,” The Guardian writes (Tran, 10/25). He “further pressed for the right to food to be upheld by the courts,” EurActiv.com reports (Hall, 10/25). He also called on national human rights institutions, civil society and parliamentarians to play roles in helping their nations ensure food security, according to a press release from De Schutter’s office (10/25).

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$450M Over 3 Years Needed To Close Funding Gap To Address Malaria, Drug Resistance, WHO Official Says

WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Shin Young-Soo on Thursday said in a statement at least $450 million over the next three years is needed to close a funding gap for efforts to prevent and treat malaria, particularly the emergence of drug-resistant forms of the parasite, Agence France-Presse reports. “Resistance to the anti-malaria drug artemisinin has now been detected in Myanmar and Vietnam, the WHO said, five years after it warned that the drug was no longer effective in treating the disease on the Cambodia-Thailand border,” the news agency writes, adding, “Resistance to the drug may have been caused by the parasite’s long exposure to artemisinin therapies, as well as ‘substandard or counterfeit’ drugs in circulation, the WHO said.” AFP notes, “The warning came as senior health officials from East Asia and the Western Pacific met in Manila this week to coordinate support for international efforts to contain malaria and other diseases” (10/24).

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ABC Radio Australia Interviews Global Fund Executive Director Dybul

ABC Radio Australia correspondent Sen Lam interviews Mark Dybul, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, about the country’s support of the fund, noting, “Since 2004, Australia has contributed $250 million to the Global Fund with a further $170 million committed by 2013.” According to the interview transcript, Dybul discusses the fund’s goal to raise “$15 billion by the replenishment deadline in December” and the contributions of various donor countries in Asia (10/25).

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IRIN Examines Projections Of Global Development Aid

“Aid from the top 15 global donors — all from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) — is estimated to reach $127 billion by the end of 2013, reversing the aid declines of the last two years, according to projections from the Australian National University’s Development Policy Centre,” IRIN reports. “This represents a less than one percent increase over 2012, and is mainly due to some donors pursuing the commitment to give 0.7 percent of national income to development aid by 2015, a promise made by 15 European governments in 2005,” according to the news service. “Researchers based their aid predictions on what the 15 largest DAC donors have pledged to spend this year, compared to their spending intentions at the same time last year,” the news service writes, adding, “These top donors account for around 95 percent of official development assistance” (10/24).

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Syria Reports 22 Suspected Polio Cases In Country's First Outbreak In 14 Years

“At least 22 people are suspected of having polio in Syria, the first outbreak of the crippling viral disease in 14 years, the [WHO] said on Thursday,” Reuters reports. “The WHO, a U.N. agency, said on Saturday that two suspected cases of polio had been detected, the first appearance of the disease in Syria since 1999,” the news service writes, adding, “Initial tests came back positive for polio in two of the 22 cases and final laboratory results due next week from a WHO reference laboratory in Tunisia are ‘very, very likely’ to confirm presence of the virus,” WHO spokesperson Oliver Rosenbauer said. “More than 100,000 children under the age of five are deemed at risk of polio in the eastern province,” Reuters notes, adding, “Vaccination campaigns are being planned across Syria from November but the logistics were still being discussed, [Rosenbauer] said” (Nebehay, 10/24).

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Potential For 'New Epidemic Wave' Of H7N9 Cases In China, Scientists Warn

“Fresh human cases in eastern China of [the H7N9] strain of bird flu signal the potential for ‘a new epidemic wave’ of the disease in coming winter months, scientists said on Thursday,” Reuters reports. “[A] new case in October in a 35-year-old man from China’s eastern Zhejiang province shows that the virus ‘has re-emerged in winter 2013’ and ‘indicates a possible risk of a larger outbreak of H7N9 this winter,’ according to Chinese researchers writing in the online journal Eurosurveillance,” the news service writes. “In a detailed analysis of the 35-year-old man’s case, scientists from the Zhejiang Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said it differed from previous ones in that it was a severe case in a younger patient ‘with no obvious underlying diseases and no obvious recent direct contact with live poultry,'” Reuters notes, adding “The researchers said that based on China’s experience in the spring, when there were 30 cases in March and 88 in April, the best approach now would be to maintain enhanced and expanded surveillance in human and animal populations to make sure any new cases of H7N9 are picked up and diagnosed swiftly” (10/24).

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WHO Confirms 5 New MERS Cases In Saudi Arabia

The WHO on Thursday “confirmed five more Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) cases in Saudi Arabia, including two deaths, with three of them dating back to September 18,” CIDRAP News reports. “The WHO confirmations raise the agency’s MERS-CoV tally to 144 cases with 62 deaths,” according to the news service (Roos, 10/24). “Based on the current situation and available information, WHO urged all member states to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and carefully review any unusual patterns,” RTT News writes (10/24).

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Officials Report Cholera Outbreaks Throughout Nigeria

“At least three persons were confirmed dead, while few others were said to have been discharged after treatment in Lagos, following an outbreak of cholera in at least five local government areas,” Nigeria’s Vanguard reports (Akoni, 10/24). “Officials say an outbreak of cholera in Nigeria’s northwest Zamfara state has infected 536 people and killed 50 in the past week,” the Seattle Times writes. “Medical director of the state hospital, Dr. Labaran Anka, blamed contaminated water in rural areas that have no clean running water,” the news service notes, adding, “Medical authorities also have reported a cholera outbreak … in a village of central Plateau state overcrowded with refugees from communal violence” (10/23). “Cholera has killed nine people and infected 100 others this month in Namu village in Nigeria’s central Plateau state, [state epidemiologist Raymond Yuryit] said Wednesday,” according to Agence France-Presse, which adds, “Eight people died and 10 others were hospitalized from cholera infections in southwest Oyo state last month.” The news service notes, “Cholera has claimed thousands of lives across the west African country since 2010” (10/23).

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NPR Examines Guinea Worm Eradication Efforts

“[A] report Thursday puts a parasitic worm ahead of polio in the race to extinction,” NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. “The world recorded just 89 cases of Guinea worm in the first six months of 2013, the [CDC] said in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. That’s a 77 percent reduction in cases over the same period last year,” the blog writes, examining efforts to eradicate the parasite. “[I]n 1986, more than 3.5 million people got infected with Guinea worm each year,” but “[a] campaign led by the Carter Center has slashed the number of cases in the past decade” to about 1,000 cases worldwide in 2011, and 542 cases in 2012, according to the blog. “If 2013 follows the trend, then the prevalence of the disease will reach an all-time low,” the blog notes, adding, “The worm is now endemic in just four countries: Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and South Sudan” (Doucleff, 10/24).

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IRIN Examines Impact Of Government Corruption On Malawi's Health Sector

“Extensive looting of public funds by government officials in Malawi has dangerously undermined the country’s public health sector, with hundreds of public health workers striking in recent weeks to protest late payments of their September salaries,” IRIN reports. “The delays were the result of a financial scandal involving government officials who exploited loopholes in a government payment system to make fraudulent deposits into the accounts of companies that did not have government contracts,” the news service notes, adding, “The health worker strike, which started in early October, crippled operations at public hospitals, which are also experiencing depleted budgets for essential medical equipment and drugs.” According to the news service, “The impacts of the high-level fraud, which local media are calling ‘Cashgate,’ are likely to be felt for months to come as international donors, who make up 40 percent of Malawi’s national budget and are particularly important to the health sector, threaten to pull out of the country” (10/24).

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Guardian Profiles Filmmakers, Documentary On FGM In Iraqi Kurdistan

The Guardian profiles a film on female genital mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan made by two Kurdish filmmakers, who made history when their decade-long project culminated in the Kurdish parliament outlawing the practice. The newspaper describes the original film and writes, “[T]he story of the 10-year fight against female genital mutilation by two filmmakers has been made into an hour-long documentary by The Guardian and BBC Arabic and will go out across the Arab world from Friday, reaching a combined global audience of 30 million viewers.” The article is accompanied by a short version of the documentary (O’Kane/Farrelly, 10/23).

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Research Shows Eradicating Active HIV In Patients More Difficult Than Previously Thought

A new report by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and published Thursday in the journal Cell “found that the amount of potentially active HIV that lurks in infected immune-system cells could be up to 60 times as large as previously observed,” a result that “poses a major hurdle for a promising strategy researchers have hoped might one day eradicate the virus and enable HIV patients to go off therapy,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The new report suggests ‘it’s going to be quite a bit harder than we thought to get rid of all the virus that could rekindle the infection if a patient stops treatment,’ said Robert Siliciano, an AIDS researcher at Johns Hopkins and the study’s senior author,” the newspaper writes (Winslow/McKay, 10/24).

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Scandinavian Study Shows HPV Vaccination Safe

“In a large study of nearly a million girls in Denmark and Sweden, the human papillomavirus [HPV] vaccine was not linked to short- or long-term health problems,” Reuters reports. “Previously, isolated incidents of blood clots or other problems had been pegged to the vaccine, but this large new study did not find any negative health consequences, researchers said,” the news agency writes, noting the report is published in BMJ. “More than 100 million doses have been administered worldwide since the first HPV vaccine was approved in 2006,” Reuters adds (Doyle, 10/23).

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Editorials and Opinions

Citizens Must Hold Leaders Accountable For Childhood Immunization Funding Through GAVI

“In its Mid-Term Review report released October 14, GAVI announced it is on pace to avert four million future deaths by 2015,” Joan Awunyo-Akaba, the civil society representative on the GAVI Alliance Board, writes in a Thomson Reuters Foundation opinion piece, adding, “This progress hinges on the continued efforts of donors to fulfill their pledges and continue signaling their support for GAVI.” In addition, “[r]ecipient countries must take the extra leap and make a concerted effort to develop viable plans for how they will sustainably finance immunizations in the long-term, so that gains made through GAVI can be sustained and built once countries ‘graduate’ from GAVI support,” Awunyo-Akaba continues. “Amidst shaky global economics, citizens around the world must vocalize to their leaders that continuing to fund the global fight against preventable child deaths is high on their own priority lists,” she writes, concluding, “Ultimately, we are all accountable to the children we have promised to save” (10/24).

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Political Will Needed To Fight Malaria In Developing Countries

In a Foreign Affairs “Snapshots” feature, investigative journalist and author Sonia Shah examines why malaria persists in Africa, noting, “despite a $2 billion-a-year global campaign, the mosquito-borne disease still infects some 300 million people a year in [the impoverished tropics] and causes over half a million deaths, most of them among children and pregnant women.” She discusses the relationship between poverty and malaria, and highlights a lack of political will as a major challenge to fighting the disease. “Despite its tremendous burden on affected societies, malaria, in the most heavily infected places, is considered a ‘relatively minor malady,’ in the words of a 2003 [WHO] report,” she writes, noting that because some level of immunity is acquired through continuous exposure, a child who has suffered repeated episodes of the illness is less likely to die from it.

“Much of the world’s malaria, therefore, occurs in individuals with a degree of acquired immunity and is never diagnosed or treated — or, for that matter, formally counted,” Shah continues, likening infection to that of a common cold in the West. “What that means politically is that people who suffer the highest burden of malaria, such as those in countries in sub-Saharan Africa, tend to be the least motivated to do much of anything about it,” she states, adding, “As a result, in the absence of economic development, there is little political will within malaria-infected countries to take on the disease.” Shah continues, “Because of the lack of domestic political will, most concerted attempts to address malaria have been financed by external donors from unaffected countries, as part of foreign aid and charitable programs.” She concludes, “The donor-driven campaign against malaria gained momentum by arguing that attacking the disease would spur development. Now, it seems advocates are saying that the opposite may be true: development is required to attack malaria” (10/24).

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Editorial, Opinion Piece Address Global Hunger

The following editorial and opinion piece address issues surrounding global hunger.

  • The Lancet: The 2013 Global Hunger Index “argues that the central reason that people are unable to escape poverty and hunger is their vulnerability to shocks and stressors such as floods, price hikes, and civil unrest,” and it “focuses on the concept of resilience as the solution” to food insecurity, the editorial states. “However, the report acknowledges that the concept and science of resilience is still in its infancy — there is no consensus on the best interventions to promote resilience or even its definition,” the editorial continues. “Ultimately, however, hunger is a complex condition affected by social inequality, low nutrition, education, and social status of women, climate change, poverty, food systems as well as the resilience of populations to unexpected and unpredictable events,” The Lancet states, adding, “How well all these concepts are articulated and addressed in the post-2015 development goals is therefore likely to have the biggest effect on global progress against hunger” (10/26).
  • John Lechleiter, Forbes: “If we’re going to improve human health, we must defeat a scourge that kills more people each year than AIDS, malaria, and TB combined”: hunger, Lechleiter, chair, president and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company and chair of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), writes. He adds, “Lilly is pursuing research to make food safer and more abundant — by protecting animals against disease and improving productivity — through our animal health business, Elanco.” Noting the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “estimates that global food demand in 2050 will require a 60 percent increase in agricultural production,” he writes, “Innovation is the key to meeting this demand; according to the FAO, 70 percent of the additional food needed to feed the world’s mid-century population must come from innovation.” Lechleiter outlines several examples of how innovation can improve production, adding, “Working together, we can meet the challenge of sustainably feeding a growing world population — and thus improving global health — but it’s going to take innovation” (10/24).

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Editorial, Opinion Pieces Address Efforts To Eradicate Polio

The following editorial and opinion pieces address efforts to eradicate polio. World Polio Day was recognized on October 24.

  • The Lancet: Noting newly confirmed cases of polio in Syria, challenges to polio vaccination campaigns in Pakistan, and continued outbreaks in the Horn of Africa, the editorial states these “are pertinent reminders that the most difficult challenges for global polio eradication are the political determinants of health such as weak health systems, public mistrust, political instability, and conflict — rather than medical barriers.” Technical “global eradication efforts led by WHO, UNICEF, and the Rotary Foundation have made remarkable progress,” the editorial writes, continuing, “Technical improvements are insufficient, however, unless the political context, which has been paid little attention, is tackled more seriously.” The Lancet concludes, “To end poliomyelitis at this stage, strong political will from international partners and governments to address the political determinants of disease eradication more vigorously and urgently is key” (10/26).
  • Misbahu Lawan Didi, CNN: “While polio has not stopped me, I am determined to stop polio,” Didi, the national chair of the Association of Polio Survivors of Nigeria, writes. “Empowering people affected by polio will strengthen our campaign against the disease and help spread the message that vaccinating our children is the only way to prevent them from similar fates,” Didi, who “found[ed] para-soccer, a nationally recognized soccer-style game for people with disabilities in Nigeria,” writes. “Challenges still exist in Nigeria, especially in reaching children in some communities where security is an issue, like Kano, Borno and Yobe. We are helping to fix this by ensuring local ownership by the government and communities themselves,” he continues, adding, “I look forward to the day Nigeria overcomes the devastation of polio and joins the list of polio-free countries” (10/24).
  • John Lange, Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog: “Since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched in 1988, the number of polio cases has decreased by more than 99 percent,” Lange, senior fellow for global health diplomacy at the United Nations Foundation, writes, noting support for eradication efforts from the U.S. government and Rotary Foundation. “U.S. leadership will continue to be essential during the final stretches of polio eradication, which will require eliminating the disease from some of the most difficult environments in the world,” he states, adding that strong political will and routine immunization systems, as well as support for health care workers will be critical. Lange concludes, “Polio eradication must continue to be a priority. We must seize this moment to end this crippling disease and show the world that we can achieve big global health victories” (10/24).

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Recent Releases

LAC Countries 'Must Recommit Themselves' To Eliminating NTDs

Writing in the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog, Ambassador Donald Planty discusses the “devastating consequences of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that are felt every day in the lives of more than 200 million people in [Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)].” He continues, “In order to control and eliminate NTDs in LAC by 2015, countries must recommit themselves to launching effective national programs. This recommitment must include 1) preparing and enacting national plans for the elimination of NTDs, 2) defining the distribution networks to be used for delivering medications, and 3) monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the treatments.” Planty continues, “The final step is for presidents, prime ministers and ministers of health to avail themselves of the moral and material resources available to support the planning and implementation of national action plans” (10/24).

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USAID Publishes New Issue Of 'Frontlines,' With Focus On Open Development

USAID’s “IMPACTblog” highlights a new edition of the agency’s “Frontlines” publication. According to the blog, the issue focuses on “how the agency is embracing open development to further its work” and highlights “some of the places where USAID’s interests intersect with those of the U.S. military” (10/24).

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Gates Foundation Blog Highlights 5 Priority Actions In Global TB Response

Noting the WHO on Wednesday released its annual Global Tuberculosis Report, Peter Small, deputy director with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s TB program, highlights in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog five priorities in the TB response identified in the report. These include “[r]eaching the three million people worldwide who aren’t getting adequate TB treatment,” addressing drug resistance, “[e]nsuring that everyone living with TB/HIV co-infection has access to HIV treatment,” “[i]ncreasing domestic and international financing for TB,” and “[a]ccelerating the rapid uptake of new tools” for detecting the disease (10/23).

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Aeras Releases 2012 Annual Report

Aeras, a non-profit biotech company working to develop an affordable tuberculosis (TB) vaccine, on Thursday released its 2012 annual report. The report includes a letter from CEO Thomas Evans and looks at the company’s work over the last year (10/24).

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