“Those following the two-year-old saga of the United Nations and cholera in Haiti were startled by” the U.N.’s announcement last week of a $2.2 billion initiative to help eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, freelance journalist Jonathan Katz and Tom Murphy, editor of the development blog “A View From the Cave,” write in a Foreign Policy opinion piece. “Since [the crisis began in October 2010], scores of epidemiologists — including those appointed by the U.N. itself — have unearthed overwhelming evidence supporting the hypothesis that [U.N. peacekeepers] carried the disease and introduced it to Haiti through negligent sanitation,” they continue, adding, “In response, U.N. officials have ignored, dismissed, or mischaracterized it all.”
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NPR’s “Shots” blog examines how “[o]pportunists who market street drugs may be undermining the global struggle against AIDS,” writing, “In South Africa, two mainstay HIV drugs have found their way into recreational use.” According to the blog, “[p]eople with HIV who smoke so-called whoonga — an illicit concoction of an AIDS medication and a street drug, like marijuana or heroin — can develop mutant strains of the virus resistant to the medication,” or “people can become infected with a strain of HIV that came from someone who used whoonga.”
“Menstrual hygiene issues should be integrated into programs and policies across sectors, including water, sanitation and hygiene, reproductive health, emergency management, and education, notes a new report [.pdf]” by WaterAid, IRIN reports. Taboos and stigma associated with menstruation “leave many girls and women in low- and middle-income countries without access to sanitation facilities and excluded from school and opportunities,” the news service writes. According to IRIN, the report “illustrates good menstrual hygiene-related policies and interventions, and provides modules and toolkits on topics such as sanitary materials; working with communities; providing sanitary facilities in schools and emergency situations; and aiding girls and women in vulnerable, marginalized or special circumstances,” as well as “advocates further research and monitoring on these issues” (12/19).
Seattle Times Examines Partnership Between Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Uganda Cancer Institute
The Seattle Times examines a partnership between the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI). In 2008, “the two institutes formally agreed to collaborate on clinical care and research projects, and more recently a major building project at Uganda’s only cancer-research center,” the newspaper writes. Corey Casper, director of the UCI/Fred Hutchinson Research Center Cancer Alliance, “says [the partnership] has the potential to demonstrate ‘that you can do first-rate research that can alter the impact of cancer care in the developing world, and that the craft of oncology can be practiced as well in Africa as it is in the developed world, just like it is with HIV,'” according to the Seattle Times (Silberner, 12/16).
“Three workers in a polio eradication campaign were shot in Pakistan on Wednesday, and two of them were killed, the latest in an unprecedented string of attacks over the past three days that has partially halted the U.N.-backed campaign,” Reuters reports (Ahmad, 12/19). “Earlier on Tuesday, five health workers involved in the vaccination drive were killed in the cities of Karachi and Peshawar,” News Pakistan notes (12/19). Another health care worker was killed on Monday, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the WHO, UNICEF and the Pakistani and provincial governments, which condemned the multiple attacks. “We call on the leaders of the affected communities and everyone concerned to do their utmost to protect health workers and create a secure environment so that we can meet the health needs of the children of Pakistan,” the statement said (12/18). The Associated Press reports the WHO suspended the vaccination campaign in two of the country’s provinces (Khan, 12/19). However, CNN reports the “attacks prompted authorities to suspend the campaign throughout the country” (Khan, 12/19). “Under the canceled program, Pakistani health officials planned to administer millions of ‘polio drops’ to immunize people,” according to International Business Times, which adds, “The program involved 25,000 workers targeting more than 30 million children” (Ghosh, 12/18).
In a Huffington Post “Impact” blog post, Tom Murphy, founder of the development blog “A View From The Cave,” examines Rwanda’s efforts to reduce cancer incidence by implementing screening programs for breast and cervical cancers and vaccinating girls and young women for human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer. Discussing the new programs, Minister of Health Agnes Bingawaho said, “We are a government that is evidence-based and result-oriented. … We always go for a policy first — the science in front of everything. We develop a strategy plan, followed by an implementation plan and then fundraise,” according to Murphy. He discusses Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s push for accountability within the government, the U.N. General Assembly’s resolution recognizing non-communicable diseases as a global problem, and efforts by Merck and the GAVI Alliance to vaccinate more girls against HPV (12/18).
The AIDS.gov blog recaps some of the major themes of the mHealth Summit: Connecting the Mobile Health Ecosystem, which was held at the beginning of December in Washington, D.C. According to the blog, these include the effectiveness of wireless technology in health programs; the importance of policy, infrastructure, and ownership; and the need for health literacy in any intervention. Noting “the Summit has grown from 800 attendees to thousands” in four years, the blog adds that more information about the meeting is available online at mhealthsummit.org (12/18).
“We know that in addition to drugs to treat and control [neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)], improvements to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) can help prevent re-infection and contribute to lasting health, education and economic improvements,” Anupama Tantri, a senior program officer with the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, writes in the group’s “End the Neglect” blog. “The challenge is figuring out how to reach communities and enable these WASH improvements and NTD control activities,” she continues, highlighting efforts “to identify practical, concrete steps to help these sectors work together and ensure that efforts and resources reach these marginalized, neglected communities.” Tantri concludes, “The solutions are out there. We just need work together to end the neglect” (12/18).
The Lancet reports on global efforts to develop a malaria vaccine, writing, “Since the mid-1980s, various malaria vaccine candidates have been tested in the hope of finding a molecule that can provide long-lasting immune protection against the disease that still kills 600,000 to 1.2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa each year. However, none has yet made it into routine use.” The journal highlights a recent trial “of one of the most advanced candidate vaccines, the RTS,S subunit vaccine,” which “found only modest efficacy, about 30 percent,” and notes, “These results prompted some people to question whether this vaccine is ever likely to make a viable contribution to malaria control programs.” The Lancet adds, “Meanwhile, new experiments with whole parasite immunizations offer hope of more effective vaccines, but with substantial technological challenges” (Hayward, January 2013).
“Small ceramic indoor stoves, such as those sold by women in AIDS self-help groups in Africa, do save fuel and cut down on eye-irritating smoke, a new study has found — but they do not save children from pneumonia,” the New York Times reports. “The study, published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, compared 168 households in rural Kenya that used either ‘upesi jiko’ [ceramic] stoves or traditional three-stone indoor fires,” the newspaper writes, noting, “Biweekly visits by researchers found that children in both the stove and open-fire homes got pneumonia equally often” (McNeil, 12/17). Though the ceramic stoves have some benefits, such as reduced smoke in the home and lower risk of burns, Rob Quick, a medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a member of the research team, said, “[O]ur group is studying six novel cookstove technologies designed to cleaner burning, and we should have results in the next few months to see if one or more of these cookstove designs offer potential for reducing the risk of pneumonia,” according to VOA News (Lewis, 12/17).