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Also In Global Health News: Boosting Banana Production; Measles Vaccines In Bangladesh; NTDs; Burkina Faso Maternal Care; Health Care, HIV In South Africa

Moderate Fertilizer Use Could Double Banana Production In East Africa, Improve Food Security

A study of almost 200 farms in Uganda, funded by USAID and carried out by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), found that moderate use of mineral fertilizers could double banana production in East Africa and improve the lives of more than 70 million people dependent on the crop for food and income, the East African/allAfrica.com reports (Mande, 2/15). A majority of banana growers in the region make no use of fertilizers, the study found, afrol News writes (2/12). In related news, Pana/Afrique en ligne reports that new maize varieties, developed by IITA and partners, could boost food security in West and Central Africa. The varieties “aim to overcome the major constraints to maize production in the sub-region, including drought, low soil fertility, pest, diseases and parasitic plants” (2/15).

Bangladesh Launches Nationwide Campaign Against Measles

IRIN reports on a two-week measles vaccination campaign targeting more than 20 million children living in Bangladesh. “More than 50,000 health staff, 600,000 volunteers and NGOs are taking part in the campaign, working at 120,000 vaccinations sites across the country,” the news service writes (2/15). The two-week campaign hopes to ensure all children ages 9 months to 5 years receive the measles vaccine; children under 5 years will also be administered two drops of polio vaccine, according to All Headline News (Islam, 2/13). The effort marks “the first major nationwide campaign against measles in Bangladesh since 2005-06, when about 35 million children were vaccinated,” the U.N. News Centre writes (2/15).

San Francisco Chronicle Examines UCSF Non-Profit’s Approach To Drug Development For NTDs

The San Francisco Chronicle examines the collaborative effort underway at the University of California San Francisco’s Sandler Center “to do the seemingly impossible – discover and develop drugs for neglected diseases without a major for-profit partner.” The piece examines how recent work at the center has helped yield what scientists believe could be the first new treatment to reach human testing for Chagas – a deadly disease which destroys heart and gastrointestinal tissue – in 35 years. The article describes an Argentine woman living with Chagas and examines the high costs often associated with moving a drug through the FDA-approval process (Lloyd, 2/14). The article was supported by a Kaiser Family Foundation Mini Fellowship.

Burkina Faso Commits To Free Emergency Obstetric Care

“Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore has pledged to fight maternal mortality by lifting financial barriers to proper care during childbirth, rights group Amnesty International said Friday,” Agence France-Presse reports. Compaore met with some Amnesty representatives after the group published a report about maternal mortality in the country (2/13). “Amnesty’s interim secretary-general, Claudio Cordone, said the government’s commitment to free emergency obstetric care is a step in the right direction. Not only will it make care more accessible, he said, it will also simplify the process,” according to VOA News. Cordone said, “If there is absolute clarity that women are not supposed to pay for anything from ambulances to treatment to caesareans or any of the other care that they need, then there is no possibility of misunderstanding” (Look, 2/12).

President Zuma Reiterates Commitment To Health Care In South Africa

During his second State of the Nation address last week, South African President Jacob Zuma “reiterated his administration’s ambitions,” including the goal of improving the country’s health care. Zuma “said his government was acutely aware life expectancy had dropped by 10 years since the advent of democracy and would implement all measures to fight HIV announced in December,” the Herald reports (2/12). In his speech, which coincided with the 20th anniversary of former South African President Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, Zuma also addressed the government’s plans to upgrade and build hospitals and clinics, reduce maternal and child mortality, improve conditions for health workers and establish a national health insurance (NHI) system, BuaNews/allAfrica.com reports (2/11).