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Opinions: Improving Malaria Control, Treatment; Faith Organizations In Fight Against TB; Vaccines For All Children; Eradicating Polio

To Improve Malaria Control, Remove Taxes On Medicines

In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, president of the United Republic of Tanzania, and Yoweri Museveni,  president of the Republic of Uganda, both of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, write about ways to overcome barriers to malaria control and treatment. Because antimalarial commodities are produced outside of Africa, when the ships carrying the products arrive, “their cargoes are often subjected to taxes and tariffs that absorb precious funds, reducing the volume of health goods that can be purchased and creating delays in distribution,” Kikwete and Museveni write. Based on work done in their own countries, the authors note that the removal of taxes and tariffs “strengthens the fight against malaria and benefits the poor the most,” but also serves to boost small businesses who are able to sell products at a reduced rate.

“If African countries are to achieve universal access to critical health-care commodities and meet the goal of reducing malaria-related deaths to near zero by 2015, we need to take definitive steps now. Tax and tariff removal is one of those steps,” the authors write. “Just as international donors have increased their commitments, it is time for African leaders to intensify theirs by removing costly and counterproductive obstacles to effective malaria control,” they conclude (7/27).

Faith Organizations Should Contribute To TB Fight

Katherine Marshall, senior fellow at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, and Executive Director of the World Faiths Development Dialogue, in a Washington Post “On Faith” piece, writes that “religious communities need to be more actively and creatively engaged” in global efforts to deal with tuberculosis. 

“Faith-inspired organizations are keenly aware of the TB challenges, especially the religious organizations that act as primary healthcare providers, but also all who live and work in poor communities where TB is common,” Marshall writes. However, “despite their extensive reach, the work of faith-inspired organizations addressing TB is poorly understood.…Bringing the experience and voices of the faith actors into the picture seems not only obvious but imperative, and that will mean building their capacity as well as quelling inhibitions separating the groups. The challenge that tuberculosis presents today demands it” (7/26).

Global Community Must Commit Resources To Bring Vaccines To All Children

Although immunizations offer “one of the most cost-effective investments in child health[,]… the global community has not committed the resources to bring the full range of vaccines to all children,” former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan write in an opinion piece in the National.

Despite the impact of global partnerships that assist countries with vaccinations has made on driving down child deaths in recent years, “… we are at risk of losing many of the gains that have been made and foregoing the additional benefits that are within reach,” Carter and Annan warn. They outline several reasons for the scaled-back emphasis on immunization programs, including the global economic crisis as well as “donor and recipient fatigue.”

“What needs to be done to save more children? We need a balanced immunisation investment strategy that reinforces routine immunisation, achieves existing initiatives to eradicate polio and reduce measles deaths by 95 per cent, and enables the introduction of new vaccines,” they write. They offer suggestions on how to achieve increased investment at the global level, country level and local level (7/25).

Lessons From Global Fight Against Polio

“There is no longer an acceptable reason for anyone to contract polio. The debilitating disease, which has crippled and killed millions throughout history, can be completely eradicated thanks to effective and inexpensive vaccines and immunisation programmes,” Mo Ibrahim, the founder and chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, writes in Mail & Guardian opinion piece.

After noting some of the global efforts to eradicate polio, Ibrahim highlights Nigeria, where “only five new cases of polio have been reported so far this year, compared with 388 cases at the same time last year.”

“There are two valuable lessons to be drawn from this experience. First, it emphasises the importance of good governance in fighting disease. … Eradication campaigns on such a large scale require, at minimum, cooperation from governments. Good governance is not always about direct action from governments; it is sometimes just about allowing others to do their jobs.” Ibrahim contends that the other important lesson is the “necessity of cross-border cooperation and regional integration in fighting disease.”

The global fight against polio “has not yet been won,” he writes, adding that complete eradication will require a “final push” like the recent African Rotary initiative; “in the months leading up to the World Cup Rotary launched a massive vaccination drive across the continent, with 85-million children under the age of five being vaccinated by 400,000 volunteers in 19 countries” (7/23).