KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Bill, Melinda Gates Release Annual Letter Focusing On 'Surprises', Addressing Nationalism

Devex: Q&A: Bill and Melinda Gates expand on 3 surprises from annual letter
“The time is now to ensure women have a stake in their financial future, according to Bill and Melinda Gates. The idea that mobile phones are most powerful in the hands of the poorest women is one of the nine ‘surprises’ the founders of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation detailed in their annual letter released Tuesday. Of the surprises they’ve been confronted with along their journey to philanthropy, the Gates write: ‘Some worry us. Others inspire us. All of them are prodding us to action. We hope they do the same for you, because that’s how the world gets better.’ In an email interview, Devex asked the billionaire co-chairs of the largest private foundation in the world about their views on the importance of data, human capital, and getting more mobile phones in the hands of women…” (Cheney, 2/13).

The Seattle Times: Bill and Melinda Gates warn that ‘go-it-alone’ politics could deal a major setback to global health
“In an interview ahead of the foundation’s release of its annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates warned that a pullback in support for global health initiatives by some wealthy governments could undercut years of progress in battling polio and other infectious diseases and potentially set the stage for renewed outbreaks…” (Roberts, 2/12).

Additional coverage of the annual letter and comments made by Bill and Melinda Gates is available from Associated Press, CBS News, Fast Company, GeekWire, Los Angeles Times, TIME, and Xinhua (2).

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Aid To Venezuela Continues To Be Blocked; Media Outlets Provide Coverage Of Different Angles Of Crisis In Country

IRIN: Briefing: International politics and humanitarian aid collide in Venezuela
“… Last week, 50 metric tonnes of aid provided by the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, was delivered in a convoy of trucks with the help of the Colombian government to Cúcuta. Colombian and U.S. officials say it includes basic food items such as flour, rice, lentils, and cooking oil, as well as personal hygiene items. The United States has pledged $20 million in assistance to Venezuela. … The Venezuelan military continues to block the Tienditas international bridge between Cúcuta and the neighbouring Venezuelan town of Tachira, preventing the USAID supplies from being delivered. President Maduro denies that Venezuela faces a humanitarian crisis, and maintains that economic difficulties are a result of sanctions imposed by Washington…” (Dupraz-Dobias, 2/12).

PRI: Stalled humanitarian aid to Venezuela ‘is a trap,’ says ex-Maduro staffer
“…Venezuela’s government on Friday said the United States should distribute humanitarian aid in Colombia where it is being stockpiled, while the opposition warned that blocking much-needed food and medicine could constitute crimes against humanity. Rival Juan Guaidó, who is recognized by dozens of countries as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, warned military officers against blocking the arrival of aid amid spiraling disease and malnutrition brought on by a hyperinflationary collapse…” (2/12).

SciDev.Net: Venezuela goes back 20 years in child mortality
“The progress made by Venezuela in reducing child mortality rates has been lost over the past decade, leaving the country facing rates at a level not seen since the late 1990s. Child mortality had been steadily declining since the 1940s. According to official data reported in an article published in The Lancet, in 2009 there was an average of 16 deaths of children under one year of age for every 1000 live births. But since then, ‘the rate began to increase with a rapid growth from 2011,’ write the authors. Venezuela’s economy and health system have collapsed in recent years, and the country is currently in the midst of a political crisis…” (Núñez, 2/12).

VOA News: Venezuela’s Guaidó Says Humanitarian Aid to Enter Country Feb. 23
“Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó says humanitarian aid would be brought into the country on February 23, even though President Nicolas Maduro has refused to let it in. Guaidó, recognized by the U.S. and some 50 other countries as the interim president of Venezuela, spoke Tuesday to thousands of supporters who demonstrated as part of an ongoing campaign to break the military’s support for Maduro and force the socialist leader from power. Guaidó has been pressing for emergency food and medicine from the U.S. to be transported into the economically-devastated country…” (2/12).

Additional coverage of the crises in Venezuela is available from Bloomberg and The Times of India.

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Media Outlets Examine Measles Outbreaks Across World, Role Of Vaccine Hesitancy

Al Jazeera: Philippines: Vaccine scare blamed for deadly measles outbreak
“Health officials in the Philippines are racing to contain a deadly measles outbreak the government blames on a marked decline in immunisations after a scandal surrounding a dengue fever vaccine…” (Gotinga, 2/12).

Bloomberg: Widening Anti-Vaccine Movement Paves the Way for a Measles Comeback
“A growing band of immunization detractors is driving a surge in measles cases from the Philippines to Washington State that threatens to derail efforts to wipe out the disease. Worldwide cases of the viral illness increased by about 50 percent to 2.3 million last year, according to data from the World Health Organization, which included ‘vaccine hesitancy’ in its list of top ten threats to global health this year. The contagion has cropped up in Israel, Greece, Madagascar, the Ukraine, and Venezuela, among others…” (Altstedter/Griffin, 2/12).

Science: Measles cases have tripled in Europe, fueled by Ukrainian outbreak
“Measles cases more than tripled across Europe in 2018, and one country drove much of the surge: Ukraine. Nearly 83,000 cases of measles were reported in the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) European Region in 2018, compared with some 25,500 in 2017, WHO, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, announced last week. Ukraine had more than 54,000 cases in 2018, its government says. … Ukraine’s government is taking action. ‘It’s egregious to have people have measles in the 21st century in a European country,’ says Ulana Suprun, a physician who has been Ukraine’s acting minister of health since August 2016. She blames a decade of corruption, war, a lack of political commitment to vaccination, and antivaccine sentiment…” (Wadman, 2/12).

Washington Post: As Americans reject vaccines, health workers abroad risk death to deliver them
“In early October, three cases of measles were confirmed in Antanarivo, the capital of Madagascar. The highly contagious virus quickly spread across the island nation; by the next month, thousands of cases had been confirmed. The crisis only grew from there. Madagascar has poor health-care infrastructure and a low vaccination rate. But public health experts say its dangerous measles outbreak still offers a warning for anti-vaccination campaigners in the United States, where a smaller-scale flare-up has led to more than 100 confirmed cases since the beginning of the year. Conspiracy theories that vaccines are ineffective or can cause certain disabilities and medical conditions have led a number of American parents to resist vaccinating their children…” (O’Grady, 2/13).

The Guardian: Facebook under pressure to halt rise of anti-vaccination groups
“Facebook is under pressure to stem the rise of anti-vaccination groups spreading false information about the dangers of life-saving vaccines while peddling unfounded alternative treatments such as high doses of vitamin C. So-called ‘anti-vaxxers’ are operating on Facebook in closed groups, where members have to be approved in advance. By barring access to others, they are able to serve undiluted misinformation without challenge…” (Pilkington/Glenza, 2/12).

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Media Outlets Continue Coverage Of DRC Ebola Outbreak; Treatment Trial Expands In Country

CIDRAP News: Ebola treatment trials move to hot spot centers
“Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced [Tuesday] that an ongoing trial of four experimental Ebola treatments will begin enrolling participants at treatment centers in Katwa and Butembo, the current hot spots in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC’s) seven-month-long Ebola outbreak. The trial, which began last November at another location, aims to identify the most effective of four Ebola treatments — Remdesivir, mAb114, REGN-EB3, and ZMapp…” (Soucheray, 2/12).

Deutsche Welle: DRC neighbors still on alert over Ebola virus
“More than 500 people have died as a result of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of [the] Congo (DRC), but the vaccination program has prevented thousands more deaths, the Congolese ministry of health has said. Authorities and aid groups have been fighting against Ebola in the volatile eastern region of the country, where numerous militia groups still operate. … The security situation in the east of the country, where armed rebels have terrorized the population for years, has made it difficult to treat and control the disease. … DRC’s ministry of health said that more than 77,000 people had been vaccinated against the virus since August 2018. Yet the aid agency Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported another surge of the virus in mid-January, and neighboring Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan are all on alert…” (Wanjiru, 2/12).

wbur: Aid Worker In Congo Describes ‘Tackling An Ebola Crisis In A War Zone’
“The charity Save the Children said this week that the number of new Ebola cases in Congo spiked last month. The country’s health ministry says there have been more than 800 cases and more than 500 deaths. Here & Now’s Robin Young talks with Jamie LeSueur, head of Ebola operations in Congo for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies” (Young, 2/12).

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Devex Examines Role Of Private Sector In African Health Systems

Devex: Africa’s $66B health financing gap requires private sector power, experts say
“Universal health care is vital to making sure Africa is not left behind in the quest to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Tuesday to a standing-room-only audience. It’s the private sector that has a vital role in progressing national health plans, he said. … Heads of state, health experts, development partners, and the private sector met on the sidelines of the 32nd African Union summit for the Africa Business Health Forum on Tuesday to discuss ways to improve health care in Africa through public-private partnerships in an effort to achieve universal health coverage…” (Roby, 2/13).

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Nigeria's Presidential Election Presents Opportunities For Development, Groups Say

Devex: What development groups want from Nigeria’s election
“Presidential elections will be held in Nigeria on Feb. 16, with incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress and former Vice President Abubakar Atiku of the People’s Democratic Party as the frontrunners. International development organizations believe much is at stake in this election, more so than in previous years. Dr. Eugene Kongnyuy, interim representative for the United Nations Population Fund in Nigeria, said the country finds itself with a window of opportunity to capitalize on the demographic dividend that started in the early 2000s, with its working-age population currently larger than its nonworking-age population. But that window of opportunity will close around 2035, he suggested, meaning Nigeria must put the resources and investment in the right places now…” (Adepoju, 2/12).

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More News In Global Health

CNN: Why these Pacific Island nations have world’s highest childhood obesity rates (Howard, 2/13).

IRIN: Drought and rising costs to leave 2.4 million Zimbabweans needing food aid (Phiri, 2/12).

U.N. News: ‘Shared responsibility’ to stop 420,000 needless deaths from tainted food each year, U.N., world leaders warn (2/12).

U.N. News: Thousands flee fresh violence in South Sudan, many ‘suffering from trauma’ (2/12).

Xinhua News: H1N1 flu kills 139 in Yemen (2/12).

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Editorials and Opinions

Increasing Investments In PEPFAR, Global Fund, Acting With Urgency Vital To Ending HIV/AIDS Epidemic

Washington Post: Letters to the Editor: We can end HIV/AIDS if we have the will
Chris Collins, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

“The global community is at a tipping point in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Although the epidemic is rarely acknowledged as a public health threat in the United States, the president gave it welcomed visibility in his State of the Union speech. The president’s pledge to end HIV/AIDS by 2030 was part of a collection of health policies in his address, but it is one of those goals with a clear path to success if we invest to scale up evidence-based solutions and reach those most affected. … It is time to act with urgency and invest to end the AIDS epidemic. That begins with budget increases for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — a public-private partnership that has worked alongside PEPFAR to cut the number of AIDS-related deaths in half since 2005 and encourages other countries around the world to contribute more to the fight” (2/12).

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Increased Long-Term Investments In Women, Girls Necessary To End Extreme Poverty, Gender Inequality

Devex: Opinion: We have to think bigger about investments in women and girls
Megan O’Donnell, senior policy manager at the ONE Campaign

“…2019 must be the year the world finally gets serious about long-term investments in women and girls, and especially those living in extreme poverty. … In August, France will host the G-7 Summit, where world leaders have an opportunity to make historic policy and financial commitments that benefit women and girls. … France is also hosting the replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in October 2019. … Donor countries will play an important role at the G-7 and in fighting AIDS, but so too will African governments, who need to increase investments in their citizens and ensure that investments effectively reach women and girls. That’s why the ONE Campaign and our partners will call upon African leaders to also increase their ambitions in 2019 with regard to promoting gender equality, implementing, and financing necessary policy changes to meaningfully improve women and girls’ capabilities and opportunities alike. Beating extreme poverty by tackling global gender inequality will, of course, require more than just one G-7 or replenishment. It’ll take a steady stream of victories both big and small. And that important work must not wait a minute longer. Investing in women and girls is the single most promising economic, political, and social opportunity of our time. 2019 should be the year we treat it that way” (2/12).

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Human Trafficking Both Human Rights Issue, Security Challenge

Washington Post: Human trafficking isn’t just morally repugnant. It’s also a security threat.
Jamille Bigio, senior fellow, and Rachel Vogelstein, Douglas Dillon senior fellow and director, both in the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations

“…Every year, tens of thousands of Nigerians are trafficked, primarily to Europe and across west Africa. … Ninety-one percent of Nigeria’s trafficking victims are women, with 78 percent reporting sexual exploitation at the hands of their traffickers. Why does the plight of Nigeria’s trafficking victims matter? To be sure, this crime is a tragic violation of basic dignity and rights, one that rightfully inspires moral outcry. But human trafficking is not only a human rights issue — it is also a security challenge. … [T]oo little has been done to address this practice as a threat — not only to human rights, but also to international stability. To address this gap, governments ought to prioritize investigation of the sophisticated criminal and extremist networks that perpetrate this crime. Law enforcement should be better trained to identify trafficking victims, traffickers should be held accountable — as well as any public officials who may be complicit in the crime — and comprehensive care should be offered to survivors. Given the many ways in which human trafficking fuels transnational crime and extremism, this scourge must be treated as a hazard to both human dignity and international security. Nothing less than our collective safety is at stake” (2/12).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

U.N. Dispatch Examines Venezuela's Refugee Crisis, Movement Of Refugees Into Colombia, Other Countries

U.N. Dispatch: Venezuela is a Refugee Crisis
Mark Leon Goldberg, editor of U.N. Dispatch and host of the Global Dispatches Podcast, discusses the refugee crisis in Venezuela, including the movement of Venezuelan refugees into Colombia and countries in Central America and the Caribbean. Goldberg highlights a podcast episode on the topic from last year and writes, “While the politics of this situation are evolving, this conversation offers the context you need to understand the humanitarian and refugee dimension of this crisis” (2/12).

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WHO Releases Q&A On Measles Outbreak In Philippines

World Health Organization: Questions and answers on the measles outbreak in the Philippines
The World Health Organization released a Q & A on the measles outbreak in the Philippines, which addresses the current situation, immunization rates, prevention, and actions being taken by the government and WHO to address the outbreak (2/12).

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UNDP Officials Explore Proposal For Funding Compact To Refine U.N. Funding Mechanism For Development

United Nations Development Programme: The future of multilateralism
Ulrika Modéer, assistant administrator and director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy at the UNDP, and Tsegaye Lemma, strategy and innovation specialist at the UNDP, discuss the proposal for a Funding Compact, which “puts forward a set of commitments focusing on Member States increasing the level of quality funding; core, pooled, and thematic funding” for development, and also “seeks to improve the quantity and quality of budgetary resources for U.N. development operations” through less earmarked funding and fewer restrictions on funding. The authors note the Funding Compact “reiterates the shared responsibility of Member States and the U.N. development system to collectively achieve the [Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)]. By refining the funding mechanism for development, the U.N. development system can effectively reinforce multilateralism and reaffirm the trust between Member States and the U.N.” (2/12).

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FHI 360 Podcast Explores Potential Unintended Consequences Of Global Development Efforts

FHI 360’s “A Deeper Look Podcast”: The darker side of development: Good intentions, negative consequences
In this podcast episode, Patrick Fine, chief executive officer at FHI 360, speaks with Raj Kumar, founding president and editor-in-chief of Devex, about “how good intentions can lead to negative consequences in development, the ways that development is shifting away from a top-down approach, and how concepts drawn from commercial development, such as customer satisfaction and creative destruction, relate to human development” (2/11).

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Aidspan Publishes New Issue Of 'Global Fund Observer'

Aidspan: Global Fund Observer
Aidspan, an independent watchdog of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, published Issue 350 of the ‘Global Fund Observer.’ The newsletter includes articles on various topics, including the call from civil society organizations for a “bold” replenishment target of $18 billion — $4 billion higher than the $14 billion target announced by the Global Fund — for the Global Fund’s sixth replenishment, and the OIG report on the 2014 Ebola outbreak’s toll on Sierra Leone, as well as an interview with Ade Fakoya, the Global Fund’s senior disease coordinator specializing in HIV/AIDS (2/13).

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