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Also In Global Health News: Ebola Drug Study; Niger Hunger Crisis; WHO’s Breastfeeding Guidelines For HIV-Positive Mothers; Slowing India’s Birth Rate; Food Aid In Somalia; Transaction Tax

Treatment Administered To Monkeys Within Hour Of Ebola Infection Found To Be 60% Effective, Study Finds 

“A treatment administered to rhesus monkeys within an hour of being infected by the deadliest strain of Ebola was 60 percent effective, and a companion drug was 100-percent effective in shielding cynomolgus monkeys against Ebola’s cousin, the Marburg virus,” a team of researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) reported in the journal Nature Medicine on Sunday, Agence France-Presse reports (8/22). “Ebola causes a very serious hemorrhagic fever that has caused dozens of frightening and deadly outbreaks across Africa,” Reuters writes. For the project, USAMRIID teamed up with AVI BioPharma, a group that “already has a contract worth up to $291 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop Ebola treatments” (8/22).

“The agents, called morpholino oligomers, are the first drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration to go into clinical trials against the viruses – although those trials will, at least initially, be conducted in primates, not humans,” the Los Angeles Times adds. “The results are ‘a potentially important proof of concept but still a long way from a product that can be used with confidence against human infections,’ said virologist Alan L. Schmaljohn of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research,” the newspaper adds (Maugh, 8/23).

Aid Agencies Argue Niger Hunger Crisis Could Have Been ‘Significantly Reduced,’ Lancet Reports

A Lancet World Report examines how “the slow reaction of donors” to initial appeals by aid agencies over the hunger crisis in Niger has exacerbated the problems the country now faces. “The granting of foreign aid is generally a highly political process. Those countries not judged to be strategically important, like Niger and the Sahel countries, receive little attention,” the journal writes. Aid agencies, like in 2005, “saw the current emergency coming,” and warned that a “severe food crisis was imminent.” Ending the cycle of hunger “will take significant investment in agriculture, family planning, and economic development,” the article concludes. The report features comments from representatives of non-governmental organizations working in the region, including Oxfam, UNICEF, and Medecins Sans Frontieres as well as the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the UK’s Department for International Development (Lowenberg, 8/21).

IPS Reports On The Confusion Among HIV-Positive Mothers In Uganda Surrounding New WHO Breastfeeding Guidelines

A new WHO recommendation “that HIV-positive mothers on antiretroviral therapy (ARVs) can exclusively breastfeed their babies for up to twelve months without infecting them has created confusion among HIV-positive mothers in Uganda as information about the new guidelines struggles to reach them,” Inter Press Service reports. The previous recommendation in Uganda encouraged HIV-positive mothers to breastfeed for three months, according to IPS. “Many [women] are still very scared of infecting their children. Many are not yet aware of these new guidelines so this needs a lot of awareness raising and the training of health workers, including midwives,” Lydia Mungherera, executive director of the AIDS Support Organization (TASO) said, adding that information about the new policies should be more widely circulated in Uganda (Kiapi, 8/21).

Indian Program Offers Cash To Couples Who Agree To Delay Having Children In Effort To Lower Country’s Birth Rate

The New York Times reports on India’s use of cash bonuses to lower the nation’s birth rate. Getting couples to wait before having children “would allow India more time to curb a rapidly growing population that threatens to turn its demography from a prized asset into a crippling burden,” the newspaper writes. “In coming decades, India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous nation, and the critical uncertainty is just how populous it will be. Estimates range from 1.5 billion to 1.9 billion people, and Indian leaders recognize that that must be avoided.” The article discusses a pilot program that pays newly married couples $106 to wait two years before having children (Yardley, 8/21).

Militants Seize And Burn WFP, USAID Food Aid In Somalia

“Islamist fighters in Somalia said Friday that they seized food from the World Food Program [WFP] from markets in Mogadishu and burned more than 500 bags of maize and wheat,” the Associated Press reports. Sheik Ali Mohamed Hussein, an official with Somalia’s “most powerful militant group – said the food was expired,” according to the AP. WFP Spokesman Peter Smerdon, however, “said the group does not distribute expired food.” The food appeared to be from WFP as well as USAID and “[o]ne photo showed what appeared to be old, clumpy maize.” The article also includes comments from Matt Goshko, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy Somali team, and local businessmen Ali Jamal, Omar Muhidin, and Adow Nuure, who “estimated that 3,000 to 4,000 sacks of food – sorghum, maize, wheat and oil – had been confiscated by the militants” (Olad Hassan, 8/21).

Oxfam Wants Transaction Tax Implemented To Aid Developing Countries

Non-governmental organization (NGO) Oxfam “says a ‘Robin Hood tax‘ should be imposed on banks to help low-income nations fill huge budget holes,” the Guardian reports. “The charity is worried that much of the focus during and after the credit crunch has been on the fate of richer countries such as Greece, the U.S. and Britain, while continued growth in emerging markets such as Brazil and India has been largely been taken as a sign the crisis was restricted to developed nations.” However, the article cites a report that examined 56 low-income country budgets that have also been “left with gaping budget deficits” after the credit crisis. “‘Five years away from the deadline for reaching the Millennium Development Goals, it is scandalous that no international organisation is tracking MDG spending in the way that this report has done at the level of individual low-income countries,’ says the research,” the newspaper writes (Allen, 8/18).