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Also In Global Health News: Parasite, Bacteria Survival Discovery; Polio Vaccine Campaign; Sanitary Kits In Kenya; Sierra Leone Maternal Mortality; Egypt’s Health Care; Kenya ARVs

Discovery Of Chemical Reaction Process Could Lead To New Malaria, TB Treatments

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say that a recent finding could help develop new treatments to fight diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, KWMU reports (LaCapra, 2/15). The researchers “say they’ve discovered an unusual chemical reaction that allows malaria parasites and many bacteria to survive. … The scientists said the chemical pathway they discovered occurs in malaria parasites and in most bacteria, but not in humans or other animals, thereby making it an ideal drug target. The findings are reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” United Press International reports (2/16).

U.N. Agencies Launch 3-Day Polio Vaccination Campaign In Pakistan, Afghanistan

UNICEF, the WHO and the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) recently launched a three-day polio vaccination campaign targeting “millions” of children in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Press Trust of India reports. Organizers are hoping to reach a total of about 2.8 million Afghan children under the age of 5. In Pakistan, “the campaign is concentrated but not limited to high-risk border districts as a result of the polio outbreak last year close to the Afghan border,” PTI writes (2/16). In Pakistan, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani launched the campaign “and vowed that his government would undertake all measures to eradicate this crippling disease,” according to the Associated Press of Pakistan (2/15). IRIN reports that children in parts of southern Afghanistan “are missing out on polio immunization due to an ongoing military operation against the Taliban by Afghan and NATO forces” (2/15).

Kits Help Kenyan Schoolgirls Deal With Menstrual Health, Offer HIV/AIDS Information

The New York Times examines an effort underway in Kenya to provide “kits containing washable sanitary pads, underwear and soap” to schoolgirls from poor families who a recent study found would otherwise likely have to “stay home up to five day each month when they have their period.” According to the newspaper, “Huru International, in partnership with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, Sunflag Steel, Warner Brothers and other backers, developed large but soft terry-cloth pads that can be washed and reused.” The kits also provide educational materials promoting safer sex and information about HIV/AIDS, the New York Times writes (McNeil, 2/15).

Sierra Leone To Provide Free Health Care To Pregnant Women, Children Under Five

“Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Koroma is to give free health care to pregnant women and children under five to reduce high mortality rates, public radio reported Monday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Sierra Leone has the world’s highest death rate among pregnant women and children,” the news service writes. The government plans to institute the changes as of April, the president said (2/15).

Egyptian Government Unable To Cover Free Health Services

IRIN examines how debts of $219 million have left the Egyptian government unable to reimburse hospitals for free health services for poor patients. “Last year, the government gave free treatment to 2.2 million poor Egyptians, including kidney failure, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure patients, according to Mohamed Abdeen, chairman of the Specialized Medical Councils, the part of the Health Ministry which determines whether a patient qualifies for free treatment or not,” IRIN writes. In December, the hospitals began turning away patients sent by the government, according to the news service (2/15).

Kenyan Officials Call For Domestic Production Of ARVs

Kenya should work to improve its domestic capacity to produce antiretrovirals (ARVs), allowing the country to become less dependent on donors for the drugs, Medical Services Minister Professor Anyang’ Nyong’o said Tuesday at an event for the Kenya Medical Training College, Capital News reports. Also speaking at the event, Permanent Secretary Professor James Ole Kiyiapi said, “The government is going to reverse the excessive dependency on donors for ARVs. In fact beginning this financial year we are going to move from the 10 percent government support to 30 percent plus exploring the possibilities of manufacturing cheaper generics.” According to Capital News, “Government statistics indicate that there are 360,000 people on antiretroviral treatment out of which 25,000 are government funded” (Karong’o, 2/15).