The Islamist rebel group al-Shabab has banned the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from distributing food in southern areas of Somalia under its control, accusing the organization of delivering out-of-date food, the Guardian reports. “The new ban could deal a major blow to aid operations in the dangerous south of the country as the ICRC was one of only a few international agencies still able to operate there after al-Shabab banned 16 other groups last November,” the newspaper reports. Famine continues to threaten 250,000 people in the region, according to the Guardian (Chonghaile, 1/31).
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The February issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on multidrug-resistant tuberculosis; a public health round-up; an article on the health care challenges posed by population aging; a research paper on the systems approach to improving maternal health in the Philippines; and a policy paper on reducing death rates from cyclones in Bangladesh (February 2012).
Government health officials in Free State, South Africa, have recalled a lot of 8,700 boxes of condoms that were distributed free of charge at guesthouses, hotels, restaurants, and bars to celebrate the centenary of the African National Congress, BBC News reports (1/30). “The Free State Health Department says it is recalling the estimated 1.35 million condoms as a ‘precautionary measure’ — and urged the public not to panic,” the BBC notes, adding, “They say they are still investigating claims that the condoms are porous.”
In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance” blog, Connie Veillette, director of CGD’s rethinking U.S. foreign assistance initiative, highlights two recent posts by CGD’s Amanda Glassman and Nandini Oomman on the future of the Global Health Initiative (GHI). She writes, “With the Appropriations Committee weighing in by requiring a status report by mid-February on transitioning GHI to USAID, it is no understatement that the GHI is at an important juncture. Declining budgets for foreign assistance will also require new thinking on where the U.S. provides assistance and for what purpose” (1/31).
“The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria has proved to be one of the world’s most important and innovative multilateral funding agencies,” a Financial Times editorial states. Therefore, “[t]he abrupt reshuffle of top management last week” â€“ with the resignation of Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine and the appointment of General Manager Gabriel Jaramillo â€“ “must not distract attention from its achievements over the past decade, which on their own justify further donor support,” the editorial continues. “[T]here is a need to re-examine the agency’s management and operations, particularly when squeezed donors are seeking better value for money,” and that involves “scrutinizing grant applications to ensure its stretched finances go to the neediest: those with fewest resources, the highest disease burden, and policies that do most to prevent and treat infection,” the editorial states.
In her “Global Health Blog,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley speaks with GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty about the year-long efforts to bring together the heads of more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies in a large public-private initiative to control or eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). “In terms of what should this industry be doing preferentially, it should be making available the drugs which nobody else has for people in these countries who suffer from these diseases … and we should be committing ourselves to discover more, better drugs for the future, and we’re doing that today and we’re collaborating with others to make it happen quicker,” Witty said (1/31).
“The Global Fund’s drive to ensure sustainability and efficiency means that it may not be able to meet its commitments to combat disease, says Laurie Garrett,” a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, in Nature’s “World View” column. Citing his resignation letter, Garrett discusses the “the political struggle” that led Michel Kazatchkine to step down as executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria last week and writes, “It is a classic battle of titans, pitting urgency against long-term sustainability. … Kazatchkine essentially conceded victory to the forces for sustainability.”
“Poor-quality emergency immunization campaigns and low routine polio immunization coverage are helping the polio virus to spread in Chad, with 132 cases reported in 2011 — five times the number in 2010,” IRIN reports. “More commitment is needed across the board, especially from local health authorities, to try to get immunizations right, say aid agencies,” the news service adds.
“Details of a genetically altered strain of the deadly avian flu virus are ‘a grave concern’ to public safety and should be kept under wraps,” the 23-member National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity declared Tuesday “[i]n a letter released by the journals Science (.pdf) and Nature,” CNN reports (1/31). “The board explains that its main concern was that publishing the experiments in detail could help someone to develop viruses for harmful purposes,” BBC News writes, adding, “But it acknowledges the work holds ‘clear benefits’ in alerting humanity to the potential H5N1 threat, and that it could lead to greater preparation and potential development of novel strategies for disease control” (Walsh, 1/31).
In this post on the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Amanda Glassman, a research fellow and director of global health policy at CGD, explains why the banking background of the new general manager of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Gabriel Jaramillo, “should serve him well.” She says that obtaining the highest health return on investment “requires a fundamental rethink of the organization’s role as a commissioner of or payer for health services and, ultimately, health outcomes. Instead of a passive cashier, the fund can become an active and strategic investor in the shared enterprise of producing health results. And that is a banker’s business” (1/30).