In this post on USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” the agency describes its activities in “assisting communities and individuals impacted by the cyclones in Madagascar, Mozambique, and Malawi.” USAID is “providing shelter, clean water, and health protection to those affected by the cyclones” and its “disaster response experts are on the ground working alongside local officials to identify needs and learn what additional U.S. assistance is needed,” the blog notes (2/17).
The Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report summarizes the latest, most relevant information on U.S. global health policy developments and related news from hundreds of sources. RSS feeds are available.
WHO Meeting Decides To Extend Moratorium On Bird Flu Research, Delay Full Publication Of Two Studies Detailing Lab-Modified Strains
A group of 22 public health and influenza experts reached a consensus on Friday at a WHO-convened meeting regarding the work of two research teams that created genetically altered strains of the H5N1 bird flu virus that are easily transmissible among ferrets, a laboratory model for humans, a WHO press release reports (2/17). “In December, the [U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity] asked two leading scientific journals, Nature and Science, to withhold details of the research for fear it could be used by bioterrorists,” Reuters writes, adding that on January 20, flu researchers also imposed a 60-day moratorium on continuing research using highly pathogenic strains (Nebehay/Kelland, 2/17). At the meeting, the group agreed to “extending the temporary moratorium on research with new laboratory-modified H5N1 viruses and recogni[zed] that research on naturally occurring H5N1 influenza virus must continue in order to protect public health,” the press release states, adding that they “also came to a consensus that delayed publication of the entire manuscripts would have more public health benefit than urgently partially publishing” (2/17).
Russian Government’s Censorship Of Websites With Harm Reduction Methods For Drug Users Helps Fuel HIV Epidemic, IPS Reports
“A recent government crackdown on Russian media, particularly online information portals specializing in health tips and harm reduction methods for drug users, has sparked widespread public opposition, with critics claiming that the ‘draconian silencing’ of public health advocates could worsen an already perilous health situation in the country,” Inter Press Service reports. “Given that Russia currently has one of the largest populations of injecting drug users in the world as well as one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics, the dissemination of such information is essential to keep the spread of the virus under control,” IPS writes. “The fact that the United Nations listed universal treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS as one of its most urgent millennium development goals (MDGs) — with a deadline of achieving universal treatment by 2015 — human rights and health advocates contend that Russia’s failure to allow information or services helpful to drug users breaches international human rights and public health laws,” according to the news service (Klomegah, 2/17).
The PBS NewsHour examines polio eradication efforts in India, which has gone an entire year without reporting a polio case. “For India, the challenge is to remain vigilant and polio free for two more years to officially fall off the list of endemic countries,” according to the news service (De Sam Lazaro, 2/20). “The success in India has been achieved through a partnership between the Indian government, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary, UNICEF and with major contributions from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” BBC News reports in an analysis of India’s success. “The global effort to eradicate polio is the biggest public health initiative in history. It has cost billions and has already stopped a huge amount of disability and many deaths,” but the disease remains endemic in three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, the news service notes (Walsh, 2/19).
PBS “Religious and Ethics Newsweekly” host Kim Lawton on Friday interviewed USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, who spoke about the role of faith-based organizations in humanitarian relief efforts. “We want to do our work, which is about protecting people who are vulnerable around the world and expanding the reach of human dignity, as broadly as possible. And often it is communities of faith, faith-based organizations, that are there working when the rest of the world has forgotten about people who have no other place to turn,” Shah said (2/17). An extended version of the interview also is available online (2/17).
In this video report, PBS NewsHour’s “The Rundown” examines curable and preventable diseases such as measles and river blindness that countries are focusing more effort on fighting. Mark Eberhardt, a neglected tropical diseases expert at the CDC, and Stephen Cochi, a measles and polio expert from the CDC, “describe the diseases and why they still need attention.” “‘They are often ignored,’ [Eberhardt] told the NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan. ‘There was often thought to be very little that could be done for them which has led to neglect from the scientific community and even the local population,'” the news blog notes (Rogo, 2/20).
The New York Times profiles UNAIDS Executive Director Michel SidibÃ©, recounting some of his successes since becoming the head of the agency; quoting several colleagues about their experiences working with him; and providing a brief history of his family life, which he says helped him develop his diplomatic skills. “With a combination of bonhomie and persistence, he has delivered difficult messages to African presidents very persuasively in his three years in office,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Thanks, in part, to Mr. SidibÃ©’s intensive lobbying, South Africa and China are rapidly revising their approaches to the [AIDS] epidemic, and he hopes Russia and India soon will too.” The newspaper notes, “Globally, Mr. SidibÃ© says, he is trying to ‘be a voice for those without one'” (McNeil, 2/20).
IRIN examines “whether a new generation of social protection schemes, aimed at reducing poverty and often using cash transfers to the poorest, can be harnessed to bring down the rate of [tuberculosis (TB)] in developing countries.” The news service writes, “TB is a disease often associated with poverty because latent infections are more easily activated by malnutrition and lowered immune systems, and more quickly passed on in badly ventilated, overcrowded living conditions.”
The medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Thursday said the conditions for hundreds of thousands of refugees living in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp are worsening and people there “are experiencing a ‘humanitarian emergency’ because of the scaling back of aid work,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (2/16). MSF “said the health of refugees at the complex is deteriorating, with recent outbreaks of measles, cholera and acute diarrhea,” and said an estimated one in 12 children is malnourished, VOA News writes. “Most of the refugees at Dadaab are Somalis who fled last year’s severe drought or Somalia’s chronic conflict,” the news agency notes. MSF “called on the Kenyan government, international aid groups, and the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to provide ‘continuous support’ to the Dadaab camp, saying thousands of refugees are relying on their support,” according to the news agency (2/16).
Researchers of H5N1 bird flu virus “are set to wrap up a two-day meeting on the issue Friday with international experts at the World Health Organization in Geneva” with the aim of settling controversy over the work of two research teams that created genetically altered viral strains that are easily transmissible among ferrets, a laboratory model for humans, the Associated Press reports (Mason, 2/17). “The meeting may reach some consensus on a few immediate issues, such as what parts of the studies should be published, and who might qualify for access to the full papers on a ‘need-to-know’ basis,” according to the Nature News Blog (Butler, 2/16).