KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Sen. Shaheen, Rep. Lowey Introduce Global HER Act To Permanently Repeal Mexico City Policy

Bustle: The Global HER Act Wants To Repeal Trump’s Global Gag Rule Once & For All
“…Democrats Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Nita Lowey launched a bipartisan and bicameral reintroduction of the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act on Thursday with the support of Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. The legislation, which was introduced in both the Senate and the House, seeks to repeal the global gag rule once and for all…” (Brinlee, 2/8).

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U.S., Russia Present Different Draft Resolutions On Venezuela At U.N. Security Council; Volunteers Ready U.S.-Supported Aid For Delivery

Al Jazeera: U.S., Russia present rival U.N. draft resolutions on Venezuela
“The United States has presented a draft resolution on Venezuela to the United Nations Security Council, triggering a Russian counterproposal. The U.S. draft resolution calls for international aid deliveries and presidential elections in Venezuela while stressing ‘deep concern with the violence and excessive use of force by Venezuelan security forces against unarmed, peaceful protesters.’ … In response, Moscow came up with an alternative resolution, expressing its concern for Venezuela’s territorial integrity and political independence…” (2/10).

Associated Press: Volunteers ready U.S. aid set for Venezuela as Maduro digs in
“Dozens of volunteers prepared sacks of rice, canned tuna, and protein-rich biscuits for malnourished children at a warehouse on the Colombian border on Friday as Venezuela’s opposition vowed to deliver the U.S. humanitarian aid to their troubled nation, even if it means mounting a mass mobilization of their countrymen to carry it in…” (Armario/Smith, 2/8).

Additional coverage of the humanitarian and political crises in Venezuela is available from Agence France-Presse, Al Jazeera, Bloomberg, and U.N. News.

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Controversial Gain Of Function Research On Bird Flu To Resume In U.S. After 4-Year Moratorium

ScienceInsider: EXCLUSIVE: Controversial experiments that could make bird flu more risky poised to resume
“Controversial lab studies that modify bird flu viruses in ways that could make them more risky to humans will soon resume after being on hold for more than 4 years. ScienceInsider has learned that last year a U.S. government review panel quietly approved experiments proposed by two labs that were previously considered so dangerous that federal officials had imposed an unusual top-down moratorium on this kind of research…” (Kaiser, 2/8).

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Devex Examines 3 Key Questions Following WHO Executive Board Meeting

Devex: 3 questions from the WHO board sessions
“The eight-day long 144th executive board session of the World Health Organization concluded earlier this month, but several key questions about next steps continue to hover. … In the lead up to the World Health Assembly in May, member states and civil society will demand answers from WHO on many of these issues, including details surrounding the organization’s internal reforms. 1. What’s the future of WHO and civil society engagement? … 2. Will WHO overcome its chronic budget woes? … 3. What does success look like for the U.N. high-level meeting on UHC?…” (Ravelo, 2/11).

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Global Fund Executive Director Discusses China's Involvement With Organization's Efforts In Xinhua Interview

Xinhua News: Interview: China’s strength in health sector important for Africa: Global Fund chief
“Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Sunday hailed the organization’s health cooperation with China. Speaking to Xinhua in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the 32nd African Union summit, Sands said the fund has been working with the Chinese government in the treatment and prevention of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria…” (2/10).

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A.U. Summit Opens With Calls To Improve Access To Health Care, Focus On Security, Migration, Economic Growth

Devex: A.U. summit opens with focus on peace and migration
“The 32nd African Union summit opened at the A.U. headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Sunday, with a ceremony that focused on peace and security, migration, and economic growth. The two-day assembly of 55 heads of state and government will establish the union’s priorities and outline its work program for 2019. The agenda addresses institutional reform, progress on the African Continental Free Trade Area, and updates on peace and security — alongside closed sessions concerning violent extremism, corruption, early marriage, and the adoption of continental legal instruments, open only to specific delegations…” (Roby, 2/11).

New Times: Kagame calls for joint efforts to fund health care in Africa
“President Paul Kagame has urged governments and members of the private sector from across Africa to work more collectively to fund health care systems on the continent. He delivered the message [Saturday] while speaking at the African Leadership Meeting on Investing in Health which took place at the 32nd Ordinary Summit of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. President Kagame chaired the meeting, which was attended by Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres among others…” (Kwibuka, 2/10).

Xinhua News: Historic leadership meeting calls for more investments in Africa’s health sector
“…The event, titled ‘The Africa Leadership Meeting: Investing in Health,’ was hailed as the first of its kind on the continent during the 32nd African Union (A.U.) Summit. Speaking at the conference, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who is also the rotating chair of the A.U., said African governments should increase domestic expenditure in health sector to achieve national and international health-related goals, including the A.U. Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Kagame called on African governments to encourage the private sector to invest more in health-related services…” (2/9).

Xinhua News: U.N. chief says insecurity, climate change remain Africa’s top dev’t threats
“The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Sunday identified peace and security as well as climate change as the two major challenges the African continent presently faces. The U.N. chief made the remarks while addressing the opening session of the 32nd African Union (A.U.) assembly summit, which is underway from Feb. 10 to 11 at the headquarters of the A.U. in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa…” (2/10).

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UNICEF Urges African Leaders To Address Causes, Needs Of 13.5M Displaced Children In Africa

Xinhua News: UNICEF calls for national, int’l help for 13.5 mln uprooted children in Africa
“At least 13.5 million uprooted children in Africa need strengthened national actions as well as regional and international cooperation to uphold their rights and help them fulfill their potential, the U.N. children’s agency appealed Saturday. Ahead of the African Union (A.U.) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, set for Sunday and Monday, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) urged A.U. leaders to work together to address the negative drivers of irregular migration and respond to the needs of uprooted children across the continent…” (2/10).

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Death Toll In DRC Ebola Outbreak Surpasses 500, Health Minister Says

Al Jazeera: Ebola death toll in DR Congo passes 500: Health ministry
“More than 500 people have died from the latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but a vaccination program has prevented thousands more deaths, the country’s health minister said…” (2/9).

CBC Radio: ‘Whack-a-mole’ Ebola outbreak could morph from epidemic to endemic, says expert
“The sporadic nature of the Ebola outbreak in Congo is being caused in part by infected, armed combatants who are leaving the illness in their wake as they prowl the conflict-ravaged nation, according to one expert. ‘Since this epidemic first popped up … it has had a kind of whack-a-mole effect,’ said Laurie Garrett, a former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations…” (Fenn/Birchard, 2/8).

CNN: Nearly 100 children dead from Ebola in DRC as crisis worsens
“Nearly 100 children have died since the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo started last year — and the crisis is gathering pace, with the number of new cases doubling last month, according to charity Save the Children…” (Picheta, 2/10).

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Some Poorer African Nations Outperforming Richer Countries In Efforts To Eliminate NTDs, Ranking Shows

The Telegraph: Poorest countries in Africa set to wipe out neglected diseases while richest fall behind
“Some of the poorest countries in Africa are set to wipe out the most common diseases of poverty within the next few years. A review of 49 African countries’ progress in fighting neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) shows that some of the continent’s poorest countries, such as eSwatini (formerly known as Swaziland), Malawi, and Mali are outperforming some richer countries such as Botswana and South Africa. The analysis, by the organization United to Combat NTDs, looked at the five most common NTDs in Africa: blinding trachoma, the leading cause of infectious blindness; intestinal worms that can stunt the growth of children; mosquito-borne elephantiasis; snail-borne bilharzia; and river blindness…” (Gulland, 2/10).

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WHO Recommends Reclassifying Cannabis In U.N. Convention On Narcotic Drugs To Allow For Medical Use

The BMJ: WHO proposes rescheduling cannabis to allow medical applications
“The World Health Organization has proposed rescheduling cannabis within international law to take account of the growing evidence for medical applications of the drug, reversing its position held for the past 60 years that cannabis should not be used in legitimate medical practice…” (Mayor, 2/5).

Health Policy Watch: WHO Recommends Cannabis Be Reclassified In U.N. Convention On Narcotic Drugs
“The World Health Organization has recommended to the U.N. Secretary General that cannabis and cannabis resin be removed from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs — a classification of drugs with ‘particularly dangerous properties,’ including narcotics such as fentanyl, heroin, and other opioids…” (Fletcher, 2/7).

Newsweek: WHO Recommends Rescheduling Cannabis In International Law For First Time In History
“…The WHO says that it has not reviewed cannabis since it was scheduled in 1961 because there was not sufficient scientific research into the health effects of the drug. However, the organization said that in recent years this situation had changed as attitudes toward the drug shifted. Cannabis and cannabis-related products have now been legalized for medical use in several countries around the world, while Canada, South Africa, and Uruguay — as well as several U.S. states — permit its recreational use…” (Georgiou, 2/8).

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More News In Global Health

BBC News: Tanzania male MPs face circumcision call to stop HIV spread (2/8).

Bloomberg: Ray Washburne to Resign From Overseas Private Investment Corp. March 1 (Jacobs, 2/10).

Bloomberg: China’s Potential HIV Contamination Revives Drug Safety Fears (Wei/Einhorn, 2/11).

CIDRAP News: Saudi Arabia reports more MERS in Wadi ad-Dawasir outbreak (Schnirring, 2/8).

The Guardian: Boris Johnson backs call for multibillion cut to U.K. aid budget (Wintour, 2/11).

HealthDay News: Worldwide, More Die After Surgery Than From HIV, Malaria: Study (Preidt, 2/8).

Health Policy Watch: The ‘Year Of UHC’ — Interview With Swiss Global Health Amb. Nora Kronig Romero (2/7).

IntraHealth International: Early Termination of West Bank Project Affects 120,000+ Clients and 100,000+ Health Workers (2/8).

NPR: Why Period Activists Think The ‘Drop Of Blood’ Emoji Is A Huge Win (Gharib, 2/8).

Reuters: Women overlooked and undervalued in medicine: researchers (Elks, 2/8).

SciDev.Net: Zanzibar cuts new malaria cases by 94 percent (Ogema, 2/9).

TIME: An Indonesian Elementary School Expelled 14 Children Because They Have HIV (Quackenbush, 2/11).

U.N. News: From the Field: For refugees and migrants in Europe, health care’s essential but a challenge to find (2/8).

VOA News: U.S. Congresswoman Talks to VOA About African Refugees (2/11).

VOA News: Lassa Fever Outbreak in West Africa Escalating Rapidly: WHO (Schlein, 2/8).

Washington Post: Young girls’ trauma leads Sierra Leone to declare a national emergency over rape (O’Grady, 2/9).

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Editorials and Opinions

Opinion Pieces Discuss Impacts Of Expanded Mexico City Policy, Reintroduction Of Global HER Act

The Hill: Trump’s ‘culture that cherishes innocent life’ hurts many abroad
Brian Dixon, senior vice president of Population Connection Action Fund

“When Trump extended the specious olive branch during his State of the Union address — ‘let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life’ — it was nothing but a hollow statement. Every year, 31,000 women die from unsafe abortions, 97 percent of which occur in developing countries. These women lack information and access to safe abortion services. By forcing health care providers in some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities to decide between critically needed U.S. funding and providing their patients with comprehensive health care and information, Trump’s ‘global gag rule’ [otherwise known as the Mexico City policy] no doubt exacerbates this crisis. … By introducing [the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act], … representatives and senators are not only demonstrating their commitment to listen to and represent their constituents, but also that they care about the health and dignity of everyone, everywhere. This iteration of the global gag rule has lasted two years too many — and Congress should act quickly to pass the Global HER Act and restore crucial support to health providers and the people they serve around the world. Let us work together to build a culture that genuinely values the lives of people around the world…” (2/8).

STAT: ‘Gag rule’ threatens to restrict women’s access to a highly effective HIV therapy
Meredith Kernan, student at Columbia Business School, and Cameron Nutt, student at Harvard Medical School

“…As we wait for more evidence about the safety of [the antiretroviral] dolutegravir during pregnancy, the solution is simple: ensure that women living with HIV have access to contraception so they can benefit from this medication. But that has become an often-insurmountable problem due to the global gag rule and the Trump administration’s decision to withhold U.S. contributions to the United Nations Population Fund, a major funder of women’s health services around the world and especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where AIDS is the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age. … Health officials and clinicians will have their hands tied when trying to implement the WHO and PEPFAR recommendations on dolutegravir. In addition to funding cuts to the United Nations Population Fund that leave pharmacy shelves empty of birth control medications, HIV doctors wanting to thoroughly counsel women about dolutegravir and neural tube defects could risk losing every cent of their clinic’s U.S. funding should they even mention the word abortion. … The uncertainty now surrounding dolutegravir need not result in a double standard based on gender. Instead, it should serve as a call for better integrating comprehensive reproductive health services into HIV care. Making this a reality, however, will require kicking the Trump administration’s dangerous policies toward women out of the clinic. The world looks to the women of the 116th Congress to show the way” (2/8).

Washington Post: I’ve witnessed the devastating effects of Trump’s global gag rule. Congress must act.
Melvine P. Ouyo, student at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and former clinic manager at Family Health Options Kenya

“…In order to keep [its] operations afloat and provide patients with this crucial, low-cost, high-quality care, Family Health Options Kenya relies on funding from external sources, including the United States. But two years ago, newly elected President Trump signed the global gag rule, which requires organizations abroad … that received U.S. [global health] aid to sign a statement indicating they will not mention abortion to clients, provide abortions, or refer clients to legal abortion services. Family Health Options Kenya, along with many other organizations, was faced with a choice: either sign the policy and stop providing comprehensive sexual reproductive health care services or decline to sign and lose desperately needed U.S. funding. Signing this policy would have been a violation of our ethical duty to do no harm, [to] protect our patients’ safety and save lives. … [Last] week, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) reintroduced the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act to Congress. … The Global HER Act and other initiatives to fight back against the gag rule give me hope for the future. The leaders of tomorrow understand that we must build a world where everyone — including disadvantaged children, poor men and women, young girls and boys, slum dwellers, the homeless, members of the LGBTQ community, the HIV-infected and -affected, sex workers, and women suffering from reproductive organ cancers — has access to equal rights and resources…” (2/8).

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Vaccines Could Play Vital Role In Reducing AMR

Scientific American: We’re Not Using One of Our Best Weapons against Drug-Resistant Microbes
Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

“Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been hailed as one of the biggest threats to humanity. … But while the challenges of developing new classes of antibiotics and reducing the use and misuse of existing drugs have dominated the headlines, there is a more immediate and complementary solution: vaccines. Vaccination not only prevents the spread of these bugs and prevents resistance from occurring, but it also significantly curtails the use of drugs every year by preventing infections in the first place. … [I]f we made AMR a core part of our global vaccine strategy — dictating how we prioritize and incentivize the use of existing vaccines and the development of new ones — then we could achieve so much more. Until we do, we’re not doing all we can to beat AMR. … [A]s the WHO Executive Board reviews the progress and discusses the challenges of AMR [at their annual meeting last week], we have to face up to the grim fact that it will take years or even decades to develop new antibiotics — and when they are developed, the cycle of resistance development will just begin anew. And yet there are vaccines already in existence and development that are not being deliberately targeted at AMR and so are not fully exploited. Given the right incentives they could expand our arsenal against AMR and make all the difference” (2/8).

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Opinion Piece Highlights 3 Areas For Urgent Action To Ensure Protection Of IDPs

IRIN: The world’s 40 million invisible refugees
Johan Schaar, chair of ALNAP and associate senior fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

“People displaced within their own countries — whether by conflict or disaster — often struggle for the same recognition and protections afforded to refugees. … So what can be done to improve the lives of the world’s 40 million [internally displaced persons (IDPs)]? In a 2018 analysis for the 20th anniversary of the [Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement], the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) in Geneva … identified three urgent issues for further action. First, the economic consequences of internal displacement need to be properly assessed. … Second, access to data on existing levels and new flows of internal displacement must be improved. … Finally, and most importantly, governments in the affected countries must be encouraged and supported to take more responsibility for their IDPs. … The number of people forced to flee violence and the impacts of climate change is growing. The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement should be increasing their chances of receiving protection and assistance. But they need to be respected and, without the political will to prevent people from being forced to leave their own homes in the first place, they are insufficient” (2/11).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

FT Health Discusses Cancer, Features Interview With Hugh Pullen Of European Medicines Verification Organisation

FT Health: Combating cancer; Brexit and E.U. medicine verification
The latest issue of the Financial Times’ weekly global health newsletter discusses efforts to address cancer, the world’s second leading cause of death, and features an interview with Hugh Pullen, president of the European Medicines Verification Organisation, discussing the launch of its new system involving the whole medical supply chain across Europe. The newsletter also provides a round-up of global health-related news stories (Dodd, 2/8).

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UNICEF Highlights 10 Facts About Child Brides, Why Practice Should End

UNICEF: Fast Facts: 10 facts illustrating why we must #EndChildMarriage
“Globally, one in five women were married before their 18th birthday. … While the prevalence of child marriage is decreasing globally, in many places, progress on ending this practice remains too slow. In order to finally end this practice by 2030 — the target set out in the Sustainable Development Goals — progress must be significantly accelerated. Without further acceleration, more than 150 million additional girls will marry before their 18th birthday by 2030.” This post highlights 10 key facts about child brides (2/10).

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From the U.S. Government

Newly Launched U.S. Women's Global Development And Prosperity Initiative Aims To Advance Women's Equality

U.S. Department of State’s “DipNote”: Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative
Rahima Kandahari, acting director of the Office of Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State, discusses the launch of the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative, which aims to “ensure women around the world are empowered and have the resources needed to meaningfully participate in, contribute to, and benefit from economic opportunities. … W-GDP is the U.S. government’s first integrated approach to global women’s economic empowerment across multiple U.S. government departments and agencies” (2/8).

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State Department Blog Discusses U.S. Efforts To Provide Assistance To Venezuela, Highlights Administration Officials' Remarks

U.S. Department of State’s “DipNote”: United States Supports the Venezuelan People With Humanitarian Assistance
This post discusses U.S. efforts to support Venezuela during the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis, highlighting remarks from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, USAID Administrator Mark Green, U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams, and U.S. President Donald Trump (2/8).

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