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Also In Global Health News: Church On Contraceptives In Philippines; Russia’s HIV Epidemic; Floods In Nigeria; Niger Cash Payment Program; Aid To China

Catholic Church Critical Of Filipino President’s Stance On Contraception

Catholic Church representatives have criticized Filipino President Benigno Aquino’s support for contraception, the Associated Press reports. The Reverend Deogracias Yniguez of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines told AP, “The whole church is against it,” and Reverend Melvin Castro “said church officials had hoped the president would follow his late mother, pro-democracy icon Corazon Aquino, who supported the church’s stance.” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda “said Aquino is willing to sit down with church officials to explain his position, which promotes ‘responsible parenthood,'” AP writes (9/28).

Ria Novosti Examines Reactions To Russian Government’s Strategy To Reduce HIV/AIDS

Ria Novosti examines how the government in Russia is responding to the rising number of cases of HIV/AIDS in the country, driven mostly by injecting drug users. “After being virtually silent on the issue for many years, the Russian government recently announced a major HIV/AIDS initiative including a dramatic increase in funding. The country is expected to invest more than $430 million in global healthcare before 2012,” the news service reports. “But not everyone is convinced of its commitment to dealing with the problem’s root causes.” The article includes comments by Anya Sarang, president of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, who describes the government’s failure to invest in HIV prevention among the “country’s most vulnerable groups,” and it examines discrepancies between Russian government and U.N. estimates of injecting drug users and people living with HIV (Markosian, 9/27).

Two Million Displaced In Nigeria After Heavy Rain, Open Flood Gates

“More than 2 million people have been displaced in northern Nigeria after flood gates on two dams were opened to release rising waters along the Niger River, a state official said Friday,” CNN reports (Purefoy, 9/24). The water from the dams flowed into stream and creek beds “already saturated” by recent heavy rain, according to the Associated Press. The loss of crops due to the floods is “the latest strain on food in a region where other nearby countries face serious shortages” and, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, it is too late in the season to replant grains (Gambrell, 9/27). Adamu Babale, head of the Nigerian Red Cross, called the situation “catastrophic” and estimated at least 350,000 houses were affected, Agence France-Presse reports (9/25).

UNICEF Program Gives Cash Payments For Food To Mothers In Niger

VOA News reports on a cash payment program in Niger to help families buy food and avoid hunger (Shyrock, 9/27). UNICEF is set to begin the second round of the program, according to the U.N. News Centre. “The pilot programme was carried out together with the Government [of Niger] and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) CARE and Save the Children in two regions – Tahoua and Tessaoua – offering $40 a month to 30,000 families. The money was distributed to women who had at least one child under the age of two, together with child-specific nutritional supplies,” the news service writes. “It is the first time that UNICEF is using cash as a way to help families caught in a nutrition crisis,” said UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado (9/24).

China Still Large Aid Recipient Despite Economic Prosperity

Despite China’s recent economic prosperity, “it gets more than $2.5 billion a year in foreign government aid – and taxpayers and lawmakers in donor countries are increasingly asking why,” the Associated Press reports. “China is effectively robbing the poor by competing for grants, said Dr. Jack C. Chow, who was the lead U.S. negotiator in talks that set up the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a major funder of health programs. The $1 billion China has been awarded in grants from the fund could have paid for 67 million anti-malarial bed nets, 4.5 million tuberculosis treatments, or nearly 2 million courses of AIDS therapy in poorer countries, Chow said.” The article also includes quotes on the issue by several other development experts (Wong, 9/26).