A funding shortfall led the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to announce in November that “it won’t make any grants to fund programs for at least two years,” a Deseret News editorial notes and calls on the U.S. to take a leadership position in saving the fund. The editorial states, “Few worldwide initiatives have the success record of the Global Fund …, but those breakthroughs may not have much chance to save many lives,” and notes that the non-profit lobbying group “Results is calling for the Obama administration to assemble an emergency meeting of donor nations this spring to find ways to ensure that the fund and its programs are able to continue and to provide new medicines where they are needed most.”
Speaking at a media briefing in Geneva on Thursday, Sheila Tlou, UNAIDS director of the regional support team for Eastern and Southern Africa, said the region is making progress in scaling up access to prevention and treatment services, including behavior change and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programs, the U.N. News Centre reports. “We have to now focus on making sure that we scale up voluntary medical male circumcision, behavior change, and all those [interventions] to make sure that we reduce infections,” she said, adding that improving access to treatment also is critical, according to the news service (1/19). “‘There has been quite a lot of progress since 1997 with a 25 percent reduction in new infections in our region,’ said Tlou,” Agence France-Presse notes (1/19).
Psychological, organizational and budgetary factors contributed to why governments did not respond sooner to early famine warnings in the Horn of Africa, Hugo Slim, a visiting fellow at the Institute of Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict at the University of Oxford, says in this Guardian opinion piece. In a new report (.pdf), Save the Children and Oxfam “suggest that government officials were reluctant to call a crisis until there was a crisis”; that organizing “NGOs and U.N. agencies to agree the scale of a problem and then to act in concert is always going to be difficult”; and that, “[m]ore importantly, budgets are still divided too strictly between emergency and development funds,” he writes.
“Scientists and aid organizations gave the world plenty of time to prepare, but a late response by the world’s donor nations cost 50,000 to 100,000 lives during last year’s drought in the Horn of Africa region,” the Christian Science Monitor’s “Global News Blog” writes about a report (.pdf) released on Wednesday by Save the Children and Oxfam (Baldauf, 1/18). “The two agencies blame ‘a culture of risk aversion’ among donors and NGOs, which meant the specially-built early warning system, FEWSNET, worked but was ignored until it was too late,” GlobalPost’s “Africa Emerges” blog writes (McConnell, 1/18). “A food shortage had been predicted as early as August 2010, but most donors did not respond until famine was declared in parts of Somalia last July,” the Associated Press/New York Times notes (1/18).
Community health workers (CHWs) “are seen to be a key part of a functioning primary health system,” especially in African nations, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes in a post on Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “This system should include a clinic within short walking distance, with supplies, a skilled birth attendant and other staff, electricity, and safe water; an ambulance for emergency transport; an emergency ‘911’ number; a policy of free care at the point of service (so as not to turn away the indigent); and trained and remunerated CHWs, taught also to treat diseases and save lives in the community,” he says.
Noting that the “fifth Millennium Development Goal target for 90 percent of births in low- and middle-income countries to have a skilled birth attendant (SBA) by 2015 will not be met,” researchers from University College London estimate “that there will be between 130 and 180 million non-SBA births in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa from 2011 to 2015 (90 percent of these in rural areas)” in this BioMed Central Pregnancy & Childbirth article. They conclude, “Efforts to improve access to skilled attendance should be accompanied by interventions to improve the safety of non-attended deliveries” (1/17).
In this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, examines the role of community health workers (CHWs), “increasingly on the frontlines of disease control in rural Africa,” in providing Africa’s rural population with access to life-saving health care. He writes, “When [my colleagues and I at the Earth Institute] began the work in the Millennium Villages in 2006, Africa’s community health workers were generally unpaid, untrained, unsupervised volunteers with no diagnostic or therapeutic capabilities. … Now the CHWs are seen to be a key part of a functioning primary health system.”
A Congressional delegation traveling in Africa visited Arusha, Tanzania, on Wednesday “to see first-hand the impact of development projects” funded by the U.S., IPP Media reports, noting that the delegation included Senators Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), John Thune (R-S.D.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.). The delegation met with farmers who have used drought- and disease-resistant maize varieties, as well as “visited Ngarenaro Health Centre in Arusha, which receives support from private and U.S. government organizations,” including USAID, the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), and PEPFAR, the news service writes. According to a press statement, “the delegation also visited Ghana and South Africa, and would meet with the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) officials in Stuttgart, Germany, following their trip to Africa,” IPP notes (1/14).
Counterfeit, Substandard Drugs Threaten Progress In Controlling Malaria In Africa, Researchers Report
“Hopes of controlling malaria in Africa could be wrecked by criminals who are circulating counterfeit and substandard drugs, threatening millions of lives, scientists” said in a study published in the Malaria Journal last month, the Guardian reports. “They are calling for public health authorities to take urgent action to preserve the efficacy of the antimalarials now being used in the worst-hit areas of the continent,” the newspaper adds (Boseley, 1/16). “The counterfeit medicines could harm patients and promote drug resistance among malaria parasites, warns the study, funded by the Wellcome Trust,” BBC News writes (1/16).
In the National Geographic News blog “Mobile Message,” “a series of posts from FrontlineSMS about how mobile phones and appropriate technologies are being used throughout the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives,” Laura Stachel, an obstetrician-gynecologist and the co-founder and executive director of WE CARE Solar, writes about the “‘Solar Suitcase,’ a portable, rugged, complete solar electric kit packed with solar panels, a charge controller, batteries, medical LED lights, phone chargers, headlamps, and a fetal monitor.” She says the suitcases improve lighting so surgeries can be performed 24 hours a day; allow nurses to contact on-call physicians in the case of emergency through a mobile phone; and, with alterations, power blood bank refrigerators (Banks, 1/12).