KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Islamic Development Bank To Provide $104M In Loans For Expansion Of African Millennium Villages

“The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) is to provide $104 million (£67.3 million) in loans to African governments to fund an expansion of Millennium Villages, the controversial project led by Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute,” The Guardian reports. “About $40 million of the money will go towards a flagship Sustainable Villages Program (SVP) in Chad, Mozambique, and Sudan,” the newspaper writes, adding, “In addition, $29 million will support the extension of existing Millennium Village Projects (MVPs) in Mali, Senegal and Uganda, while $35 million will be used for a drylands initiative in Djibouti, Somalia and Uganda” (Tran, 8/113). “The $104 million will be provided in the form of Islamic finance (long-term repayments at zero interest rates) to the recipient countries, except in the case of a grant provided to Somalia,” RYOT notes, adding, “In each of these projects, host governments will partner with the IsDB, the Earth Institute and Millennium Promise to carry out the projects,” while “[t]he Earth Institute, led by its Millennium Development Goals Centers in East and West Africa, and Millennium Promise, will provide technical, operational and scientific guidance to the nations involved in the new initiative” (8/13). The Guardian examines the Millennium Village Project in greater detail and notes “questions have been raised about the project’s approach and the evaluation of its impact” (8/13).

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U.N. Agencies Voice Concern Over Humanitarian Situation In CAR

“United Nations humanitarian agencies [on Tuesday] voiced deep concern over the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR), where hundreds of thousands of people continue to be affected by lawlessness and insecurity, and widespread fear is reported among residents,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/13). “The U.N. refugee agency [UNHCR] says nearly 63,000 people have fled [CAR] to neighboring countries since the start of the latest violence there late last year,” VOA News writes, adding, “UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said another 206,000 people have been internally displaced” (8/13). The WHO “said that unless access to health services improves in the country, children and women will be at risk of contracting communicable diseases and there may be a resurgence of cases of malnutrition among children under the age of five,” the U.N. News Centre notes (8/13). “More than 100,000 children in the Central African Republic are facing sexual abuse and recruitment into armed groups, Save the Children has warned,” according to BBC News, which adds, “Mark Kaye, a spokesman for the charity, told the BBC the health system had been almost completely destroyed.” The news service notes, “The U.N. Security Council is due to discuss the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) on Wednesday” (8/13).

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Cervical Cancer Prevention, Treatment Needed In Low-, Middle-Income Countries, Researchers Say

“Cervical cancer prevention, screening and treatment are neglected in low- and middle-income countries,” though there have been “substantial reductions in death rates and increased access to reproductive health care in those nations in recent years,” according to an essay published on Tuesday in PLOS Medicine, HealthDay reports. The researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, “also outlined why cervical cancer screening and treatment should be included in efforts to improve women’s reproductive health in low- and middle-income countries,” the news service notes. In addition, they “said that the burden of cervical cancer falls on women of reproductive age and that cervical cancer is associated with reduced reproductive capacity” and “that cervical cancer screening and treatment can be integrated into other health services and that recent evidence indicates that human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination can protect girls from precancerous cervical lesions” (Preidt, 8/13). “For cervical cancer, we fortunately now have a wide range of feasible, affordable, and effective prevention options, which make dramatic global reductions in cervical cancer incidence a realistic goal in our lifetime,” the authors concluded, according to a PLOS press release (8/13).

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DRC To Launch New Polio Vaccination Campaign

IRIN examines polio eradication efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), highlighting a new vaccination campaign scheduled to begin this month. “At one stage, after no cases were recorded between 2001 and 2005, polio was considered eradicated in DRC,” the news service writes. Today, however, “DRC is considered an ‘importation country,’ meaning it experiences outbreaks of the disease because of low levels of immunity among the population,” the news service adds and provides a brief history of polio vaccination campaigns in the country, the first of which began in the mid-1980s. According to IRIN, “[p]olio eradication campaigns [in the country] face myriad obstacles, including large-scale population displacements caused by DRC’s persistent conflicts, poor access to isolated communities, religious objections to the vaccine and weak infrastructure.”

“In 2008, after an ‘epidemiological situation evolved in the central African region,’ resulting in dozens of new infections in the country, the government and donors announced a polio vaccination program targeting seven million children,” IRIN writes, adding, “This August, during the country’s National Immunization Day (NID), officials will hold a second round of vaccinations targeting” more than 2.5 million children under five years old (8/13). Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi at a press conference on Tuesday appealed to parents to ensure their children are immunized and to facilitate the work of the health workers who will be moving from door-to-door,” Xinhua/Global Times reports. “He noted that the vaccination campaign to be carried out in August 2013 is meant to consolidate the achievements of the first phase of the immunization campaign that was organized between July 11 and 13, 2013,” the news agency adds (8/14).

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Anti-Tobacco Measures Help Reduce Smoking Among Teens In Taiwan, Study Shows

“Fewer teens are smoking in Taiwan since 2009, when strict smoke-free policies, cigarette advertising bans and other anti-tobacco measures were put into place, according to a new study,” Reuters reports. The study, published in the journal Addiction, found “[s]tudents who reported ever having smoked decreased from 27 percent in 2004 to 23 percent in 2011,” and “[a]mong smokers, those who reported trying their first cigarette before age 10 decreased from 38 percent in 2004 to 28 percent in 2011,” the news agency writes. “Though adult smoking in Taiwan had declined every year from 2004 to 2011, teen smoking didn’t start to decline until 2010, the authors note,” Reuters states, adding, “The smoke-free policies appeared to have the strongest effect on teens in rural areas.”

The WHO “advocates evidence-based measures including price increases, advertising bans, smoke-free policies and graphic warning images to curb tobacco use, and those policies were part of an anti-smoking law implemented in Taiwan in 2009,” according to Reuters. “Though the U.S. has signed the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, it has not been ratified in Congress, [John Pierce of the University of California, San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center] said. The treaty calls for graphic warning labels on cigarette packages, which have been implemented in Taiwan but were not supported in the U.S.,” the news agency notes (Doyle, 8/13).

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Young Scientists Recognized For Development Of Mobile App, Hardware To Detect Malaria

Inter Press Service profiles “[Brian] Gitta, Joshua Businge, Simon Lubambo and Josiah Kavuma, known as team Code 8, [who] were announced the winners of the inaugural Women’s Empowerment Award at Microsoft’s global student software competition, Imagine Cup, … [and] recognized for their development of an application that they call Matibabu, Swahili for medical center.” The app is downloaded onto a smartphone and with a small piece of attachable hardware that utilizes light-emitting technology rather than a blood sample, users can quickly detect malaria in a patient’s blood, IPS notes, adding, “Matibabu then sends the results to the Microsoft file hosting service, Skydrive, and these can be shared with the patient’s doctor almost immediately.” According to the news service, “The students hope their device will be on the market within two years and say the application will be free to download. The hardware may cost between $20 and $35” (Fallon, 8/13).

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Editorials and Opinions

Renewed Efforts Against Tobacco Use Needed To Move Forward On Sustainable Development

“A billion persons are likely to die from tobacco-related diseases in this century, according to WHO,” and “India is expected to have the highest rate of rise in tobacco related deaths, over the next three decades,” R.K. Pachauri, director of TERI; K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India; and Shyam Saran, chair of the National Security Advisory Board, write in a Hindu opinion piece. “Tobacco is not merely a health hazard. It is also a threat to the environment,” they state, asking, “With millions of undernourished children and hungry people across the world, should the world be wasting four million hectares of arable land on tobacco instead of growing food crops?” In addition, “[t]obacco is linked to poverty, both as cause and consequence,” the authors write and describe the link.

“Countries across a wide spectrum of development have shown how effective regulatory measures can reduce tobacco consumption and its health burdens — Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, Uruguay, Brazil, Thailand and Bhutan are among the outstanding examples,” the authors state. “However, this global threat now calls for a concerted global thrust to lift the dark shadow of tobacco from the 21st century,” they write, adding, “As the world awaits the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, we must recognize tobacco as a grave threat to humanity’s aspirations for progress and wellbeing.” They continue, “Whether we are concerned about health, environment, food security, water security or poverty reduction, we have to work for a tobacco free society. Otherwise, tobacco will frustrate all prospects of sustainable development” (8/14).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

High-Level Meeting Participants In Africa Call For New Commitments On HIV, Reproductive Health Efforts

“At a recent meeting in Botswana, a high-level group of education and sexual reproductive health experts from Eastern and Southern Africa highlighted the need for good quality, gender-sensitive sexuality education that prepares adolescents for puberty and relationships and prevents unintended pregnancy and HIV,” according to a UNAIDS update. “The participants also called [.pdf] on the region’s health and education ministers to sign a new commitment to work closely together to improve access to high quality sexuality education and health services. This commitment, due to be signed in December 2013 ahead of the International Conference on AIDS in Africa, will demand that countries look at young people’s needs with more openness, and be willing to re-examine social norms about young people’s sexuality,” the update states (8/12).

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Examining Need For Increased Investment Into Africa's Pharmaceutical Production Industry

Writing in the Global Health Corps “Fellows” blog, fellow Brian Ngwatu from Uganda argues for increased investment in the local pharmaceutical production industry in Africa, which boasts “11 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the global disease burden” but “only one percent share of the world’s pharmaceutical markets.” He notes “two thirds of the global value of pharmaceutical products is produced in five countries (U.S., Japan, France, Germany and the U.K.) where the global disease burden is negligible,” and writes, “I can’t help but think of the significant amounts of donor money flowing into the purchase of [antiretroviral drugs (ARVs)] and other essential medicines in sub-Saharan Africa that could be diverted into local pharmacy production instead of flowing to multinational corporations and Indian generic manufacturers” (8/9).

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Working Paper Discusses Universal Health Coverage

A post in the Medicus Mundi International Network (MMI) blog describes a working paper (.pdf) “drafted by an ad hoc working group of the MMI Network and adopted by the MMI Board on August 13,” which “presents key elements of the concept of [universal health care (UHC)] as promoted by the [WHO] and reflects them based on [the] ambition of Health for All such as stated in the MMI Network Policy.” The blog continues, “In the three sections (1) ‘What is in Universal Health Coverage?,’ (2) ‘Financing UHC,’ and (3) ‘UHC and health equity’ of the discussion paper we will directly refer to two helpful ‘questions and answers’ papers recently published by the [WHO] and add some of our reflections and open questions, hoping to contribute with this to the further discussion within and beyond our network” (8/13).

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Examining Progress Made Against HIV/AIDS In South Africa

Writing in the Clinton Foundation’s “Up Close” blog, Celicia Serenata, deputy country director in South Africa for the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), examines the HIV/AIDS response in South Africa, noting the country has made “great progress.” She writes, “Because of the support of so many stakeholders, including CHAI, South Africa has the largest HIV treatment program in the world,” and “transmission rates between mothers and children have dropped from eight percent in 2009 to less than 2.5 percent in 2012” (8/12).

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