Ongoing ethnic tension and sectarian violence in areas of western Myanmar are preventing Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) from delivering medical care in the region, the group said on Monday, the New York Times reports. The group “reported that many of its local staff members were afraid to work at refugee camps and medical centers in Rakhine State, where people wounded in clashes need treatment for wounds from guns, knives, arrows and other weapons,” the newspaper writes. “Aid workers have reported severe malnutrition among children and widespread malaria,” according to the New York Times (Fuller, 11/5). “[S]ince the outbreak of violence in June, MSF is operating at a fraction of its capacity due to access limitations largely stemming from threats and intimidation,” the organization said in a press release, adding, “Tens of thousands of long-term residents, previously receiving medical care, have gone without care for months.” In the press release, MSF “calls for unhindered access and for tolerance of the provision of medical care to all those who need it” in the region (11/5).
Access to Health Services
IRIN examines how patents and intellectual property protection in South Africa affects patients’ access to medicines. “A form of intellectual property protection, patents are typically awarded to companies that can prove their product is new,” IRIN writes, adding, “Not so in South Africa, say activists and researchers, who claim the country’s patent system allows pharmaceutical companies to apply for new patents on existing drugs based on immaterial changes — like adding table salt to a formulation or changing a pill’s color.” The news service continues, “While pharmaceutical companies cash in, patients face staggering health care costs, and medicines like cancer treatments, third-line antiretrovirals (ARVs) and treatments for drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) are often priced out of reach.”
In this UHC Forward blog post, Abeba Taddese, a program officer with the Results for Development Institute, writes about the importance of including policymakers in discussions surrounding universal health coverage (UHC). She provides the example of a recent workshop held in Marrakech, Morocco, which offered “a rare opportunity to bring technical experts and parliamentarians together for a full four days of interactive discussion.” She concludes, “The presence of policymakers in Marrakech was critical to building political commitment and consensus around country action plans. The success of the workshop holds much promise for future cross-country learning events. Policymakers can help make UHC forms a reality, supporting countries to move from plan to action” (11/5).
IRIN examines the controversy surrounding the Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm), writing, “The argument over the way it operates has reignited ahead of a board meeting of the [Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] on 14-15 November, which is due to assess the success of the project and its reliance on private sector providers.” The news service reports on an evaluation of AMFm published recently in the Lancet and another paper by Oxfam criticizing the facility. The Global Fund Board, which administers AMFm, “is meeting in nine days to decide whether AMF has worked as was intended, and whether it should be continued, scaled up, or abandoned altogether,” IRIN writes (11/5).
“Doctors were at the forefront of the AIDS treatment revolution a decade ago, denouncing stigmatization and inequality from conference platforms and lobbying politicians alongside the activists,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in her “Global Health” blog, asking, “Could we see cancer doctors take up the banners and the slogans on behalf of the poorest in the same way?” She continues, “Until last weekend, I personally did not think so. But in a lakeside hotel in Lugano in Switzerland, at a meeting of the World Oncology Forum, I watched what looked like a process of radicalization take place.” She adds, “Nearly 100 of the world’s leading cancer doctors were there,” noting, “The question for discussion over a day and a half was ‘Are we winning the war on cancer?'”
“Flooding in Haiti caused by Hurricane Sandy has triggered a surge in cholera, with three deaths and almost 300 suspected cases, adding to a death toll from the storm of 54,” the Financial Times reports (Mander, 11/2). “Already struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Isaac in August, which in turn set back rebuilding from the earthquake of January 2010, Haiti now faces renewed crises on multiple fronts,” PBS NewsHour’s “The Rundown” writes (Lazaro, 11/2). “Three days of torrential downpours and strong winds brought by Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of Haiti’s fragile agriculture and have put a million and a half Haitians at risk for hunger, the United Nations’ humanitarian-aid coordination office said over the weekend,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which notes, “Potential food-price increases worry international and Haitian officials” (Arnesen, 11/4).
Asia-Pacific Accounts For Second Highest Burden Of Malaria Outside Of Africa, RBM Partnership Report Says
At a meeting of leading malaria scientists, political leaders, and health experts in Sydney on Friday, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership released a new report (.pdf) showing that more than two billion people in the Asia-Pacific region are at risk of the disease, Agence France-Presse reports. “There were some 34 million cases of malaria outside Africa in 2010, claiming the lives of an estimated 46,000 people,” the news agency notes, adding, “The Asia-Pacific, which includes 20 malaria-endemic countries, accounted for 88 percent, or 30 million, of these cases and 91 percent, or 42,000, of the deaths” (Parry, 11/2).
Noting the progress made since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the upcoming recognition of World AIDS Day on December 1, Ronald Valdiserri, deputy assistant secretary for health, infectious diseases at the Department of Health and Human Services, writes in a Public Health Reports opinion piece (.pdf), “[W]e would do well to keep in mind the following caution. No matter the elegance of the controlled trial, the statistical significance of the results, or the superiority of the science, we must confront this inevitable reality: We will never be able to take full advantage of our progress in HIV clinical and prevention science until we develop and sustain the human, organizational, and structural capacities necessary to implement these new scientific breakthroughs.” He continues, “If we fail to attend to the ‘on-the-ground’ details of implementation, we risk dissipating the promise of new drugs, novel therapies, and enhanced interventions that could, in fact, lead us to an AIDS-free generation.”
According to a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and WHO joint press release, USAID “has tripled its financial support for the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Regional Tuberculosis Program, which seeks to prevent 15,000 deaths from tuberculosis in Latin America and the Caribbean over the next five years and reduce the incidence of this disease.” The press release notes the commitment “increases a previous $5 million USAID/PAHO agreement, signed in November 2011 to strengthen programs for tuberculosis, maternal and neonatal health, and health systems in the region over the course of a three-year period, to a total of $8.9 million.” The press release states that $5.1 million is earmarked for the tuberculosis program, “up from an originally expected investment of $1.5 million” (10/31).
“Afghanistan is taking steps to improve its routine immunization coverage, after a drop in coverage led to a sharp increase in measles outbreaks last year, killing more than 300 children,” IRIN reports. “Experts say nearly 30 percent of the population has no or very poor access to primary health care, including immunization, and the percentage is estimated to be as high as 70 percent in areas of conflict in the south,” the news service writes, adding “decreasing vaccination coverage [is] due to rising insecurity, decreased access, difficult terrain and harsh winters,” as well as last year’s severe drought. “In the National Priority Programmes, which outline government priorities until 2015, the government admits many vaccinators lack initial training, and that budget shortages in past years prevented supervisory and monitoring visits by provincial level management teams,” IRIN states, adding that the WHO this year has implemented training programs and, along with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, has combined the measles and polio vaccination campaigns to better utilize resources (11/1).