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Also In Global Health News: Global Alcohol-Related Deaths; Pentavalent Vaccine Plant To Resume Operations; Harm-Reduction In Russia; IDUs In Tanzania; MDG Tracking Program In Kenya

Alcohol Kills 2.5M Annually, WHO Report Says

“Alcohol abuse is killing 2.5 million people each year,” according to a report from the WHO, which said that about “4 percent of all deaths worldwide are attributable to alcohol,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “The main causes of alcohol-related deaths are injuries incurred when drunk, cancer, liver cirrhosis, heart disease and strokes,” according to the article (2/11). “One of the most effective ways to curb drinking, especially among young people, is to raise taxes, the report said. Setting age limits for buying and consuming alcohol, and regulating alcohol levels in drivers, also reduce abuse if enforced,” Reuters reports (Nebehay, 2/11). “Many countries recognize the serious public health problems caused by the harmful use of alcohol and have taken steps to prevent the health and social burdens and treat those in need of care,” Ala Alwan, WHO assistant director-general for noncommunicable diseases and mental health, said in a WHO press release (2/11).

Crucell Set To Resume Manufacturing Pentavalent Vaccine After Plant Problems Fixed

“Crucell … can resume selling its top vaccine Quinvaxem to United Nations agencies, after the World Health Organization said Thursday that the Dutch biotech company has resolved manufacturing problems at its plant in South Korea,” Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal reports (Van Tartwijk, 2/10). According to Bloomberg, last month the WHO said the plant shutdown “contributed to a worldwide shortage of so-called pentavalent vaccines such as Quinvaxem,” which protect “children against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and the pathogen that causes meningitis and pneumonia” (Kresge, 2/10). “The release of newly produced batches of Quinvaxem is expected to resume this month,” Reuters reports (Gray-Block, 2/10).

HIV/AIDS Advocacy Groups Ask U.N. Human Rights Chief To Support Harm-Reduction In Russia

The International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA), along with more than a dozen other HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations “have asked the U.N. human rights chief [Navi Pillay] to pressure Russia to legalize the heroin substitute methadone when she visits next week amid a worsening HIV/AIDS crisis” in the country, Reuters reports. “Russia has one of the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world, fueled up to three million heroin addicts, many of whom use dirty needles, local health organizations say,” according to the article, which adds that Russia’s ministry of health will not finance harm-reduction methods, like access to methadone or clean needs, to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS (Ferris-Rotman, 2/10).

The Citizen Examines PEPFAR-Backed Program In Tanzania Targeting IDUs

The Citizen reports on a recently launched program in Tanzania that is targeting injecting drug users (IDUs) in an attempt to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS within this population. According to chief medical officer Deo Mtasiwa, the pilot program, which is providing methadone-assisted therapy to help reduce opioid dependence, was launched on Feb. 4. “Currently the programme is undertaken jointly with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) providing IDUs with services like voluntary HIV, hepatitis B and C testing,” according to the newspaper. Mtasiwa “explained that Tanzania is the first sub-Sahara African country to provide the treatment, whose funding comes from … PEPFAR,” according to the newspaper (Mirondo, 2/10).

Online MDG Tracking Program Launched In Kenya 

“The U.N. Millennium Campaign, in collaboration with 20 local and national Kenyan non-governmental organizations, is sponsoring” an online tracking program that will allow citizens in Kenya to track the implementation of services related to the Millennium Development Goals, Devex reports. “The project will benefit millions of Kenyans, who will be directed to anonymously contact government officials via text messaging when they find any kind of service that is lacking or missing from their communities. The exact nature and deriving location of all complaints, as well as the local government officials and offices responsible for responding to them, will be posted live on Huduma.info,” the news service writes (Lieberman, 2/10).