KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Humanitarian Aid Shipments Set To Enter Venezuela As Political Impasse Continues; Violence Erupts At Border

The Atlantic: When Humanitarian Aid Is Used as a Weapon to Bring Down Regimes
“…Ostensibly aimed at alleviating Venezuela’s spiraling crises of hunger, health, and security, the humanitarian aid put forward by the United States also serves another purpose. Venezuelan opposition leaders here and the U.S. officials offering up much-needed aid posit that the mission could induce military officers to turn away from their government. Aid groups on the ground worry, however, that a political operation thinly padded with humanitarian objectives could send a precarious situation down an even worse path — disastrous American efforts to intervene in Latin America from decades past serve as a reminder of how badly things can go…” (Baddour, 2/21).

New York Times: As Venezuela’s Politicians Fight Over Aid, Patients Die Without It
“…The arrival of American donations of food and medical supplies to the Colombian border with Venezuela appeared to be a lifeline for [dozen of patients] in critical condition or with serious chronic diseases interviewed by the New York Times last week. But the delivery of aid has become the epicenter of an escalating political confrontation between President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and the country’s opposition, and the impasse has kept the supplies stuck in a converted customs warehouse in the Colombian border town of Cúcuta — and out of Venezuela — for nearly two weeks. … Mr. Maduro has denied there is a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and said Monday the country can export medication. He called American aid a ‘Trojan horse’ aimed at overthrowing his government and blocked a bridge between Venezuela and Cúcuta with barricades and soldiers…” (Kurmanaev et al., 2/22).

Washington Post: Two dead after Venezuelan soldiers open fire on opposition supporters
“Venezuelan soldiers opened fire on a group of civilians attempting to keep open a segment of the southern border with Brazil for deliveries of humanitarian aid, causing multiple injuries and the first fatalities of a massive opposition operation meant to deliver international relief to this devastated South American country, according to eyewitnesses and community leaders…” (Faiola et al., 2/22).

Washington Post: Venezuela braces for possible conflict ahead of opposition’s push to deliver humanitarian aid
“At Tachira Central Hospital, ceilings are caving in, most ambulances don’t work, and antibiotics are scarce. Now harried doctors are stockpiling blood and drafting weekend medics as Venezuela braces for what the opposition is calling the ‘D-Day’ of humanitarian aid. ‘This could turn into a dangerous conflict: the armed forces versus the people,’ said Laidy Gómez, the opposition governor of Tachira, a Venezuelan state abutting Colombia. She has ordered state hospitals to prepare for casualties Saturday, when, in defiance of President Nicolás Maduro, an army of volunteers will seek to break the socialist government’s blockade of international relief…” (Faiola/Krygie, 2/21).

Additional coverage of the situation in Venezuela is available from BBC News and The New York Times.

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Incidence Of Vaccine-Preventable, Insect-Borne Diseases Rises In Venezuela As Health Care System Fails, Threatening Region, Experts Say

The Guardian: Venezuela crisis threatens disease epidemic across continent — experts
“Experts have warned of an epidemic of diseases such as malaria and dengue on an unprecedented scale in Latin America following the collapse of the health care system in Venezuela…” (Boseley/Graham-Harrison, 2/21).

NBC News: Life-threatening, insect-borne diseases spike in Venezuela, report says
“…Venezuela is seeing a resurgence in diseases like malaria, dengue, the Zika virus, and Chagas disease, according to a report published Thursday by medical journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases…” (Acevedo, 2/21).

Reuters: Venezuela crisis could spark surge in infectious diseases: study
“… ‘As well as the return of measles and other vaccine-preventable infectious diseases, the continued upsurge in malaria could soon become uncontrollable,’ said Martin Llewellyn, a doctor and senior lecturer at Britain’s Glasgow University who led the review with researchers from Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, and Ecuador…” (Kelland, 2/21).

The Telegraph: Venezuela compared to war zone as number of malaria cases rocket
“…The research adds to the growing evidence of the impact of economic collapse and hyperinflation in what was once one of the richest countries in South America. Earlier this year separate pieces of research showed that the country’s infant mortality rate had reversed and infectious diseases such as measles and diphtheria were returning to the country…” (Gulland, 2/21).

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Kenya High Court Delays Ruling On Whether To Strike Down Law Criminalizing Gay Sex; Washington Post Examines Similar Laws Across Africa

The Guardian: ‘Lives are hanging on the line’: Kenya delays landmark ruling on gay rights
“Judges in Kenya have postponed a long-awaited landmark ruling that could have led to sex between men or between women decriminalized. The attempt by LGBT campaigners to have colonial era legislation struck out has been closely watched by activists across Africa…” (Burke, 2/22).

Reuters: Kenya High Court delays ruling on law banning gay sex to May 24 — judge
“…The ruling, potentially a landmark decision for gay rights in Africa, was due to be issued on Friday, but the court said it needed until May 24 to reach a decision. Judge Chacha Mwita told a packed court in the capital, Nairobi, that the extra time was necessary because of the voluminous paperwork submitted in the case…” (Ndiso/Ratner, 2/22).

Washington Post: Kenya is close to legalizing homosexuality. What about the rest of Africa?
“…Kenya would not be the first country in Africa to legalize homosexuality, and probably would not be the last, either. Homosexuality is a major taboo across much of the continent, where most people adhere to either Christianity or Islam. But while legal processes are resulting in greater rights for LGBT people in some countries, others in Africa retain some of the harshest punishments in the world for homosexual conduct. Below is a look at where some of Africa’s countries stand…” (Bearak, 2/22).

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DRC Ebola Outbreak Death Toll Reaches 531; WHO Says Outbreak Persists With 'Moderate Intensity'

Bloomberg: Ebola Death Toll in Democratic Republic of Congo Climbs to 529
“The death toll from an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo has risen … as the deadly virus persists with ‘moderate intensity,’ according to the World Health Organization…” (Shone, 2/22).

CIDRAP News: More Ebola in DRC as nurse’s murder halts efforts in Vuhovi
“…There are now 853 cases (788 confirmed and 65 probable), including 531 deaths, and 177 cases are still under investigation…” (Soucheray, 2/21).

Xinhua News: Ebola continues to spread in DR Congo “with moderate intensity”: WHO
“…Katwa and Butembo, both located in northeastern DRC, remain major zones of health concern, while simultaneously small clusters continue to occur in various geographically dispersed locations, the WHO said…” (2/22).

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Parliamentarians Meet At U.N., SG Guterres Announces September Summit To Mobilize Action On Climate Change

U.N. News: Parliamentarians directly called to take action on global issues by U.N. chief
“Addressing parliament elected officials from around the world gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York on Thursday for an annual hearing, U.N. chief António Guterres called for their support on legislation and financing of global solutions to global problems, such as climate change, uncoordinated migration, and the dangers of some new technologies…” (2/21).

Xinhua News: U.N. chief says to “mobilize action, partnerships, financing” in climate summit
“U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said on Thursday that he will convene a summit in September to ‘mobilize action, partnerships, financing’ on climate change. In his remarks at an annual parliamentary hearing, the U.N. chief said that the most important systemic risk the world face today is climate change, and it is worse than scientists had foreseen…” (2/21).

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More News In Global Health

Associated Press: Measles epidemic in Madagascar kills more than 900, says WHO (2/21).

Associated Press: U.N. says North Korea has asked for help on food shortages (2/21).

BBC News: Singapore HIV data leak shakes a vulnerable community (Leyl, 2/22).

Christian Science Monitor: Not your typical door-to-door sales: the family-planning ladies of Nigeria (Brown, 2/21).

CNN Philippines: ‘Fake news is deadly’: The numbers behind measles cases and immunization in the Philippines (Popioco, 2/21).

Devex: Donors come together on a plan for drone investment (Cheney, 2/21).

Devex: Q&A: How the next generation can change global health ‘faces and spaces’ (Root, 2/21).

Fast Company: How UNICEF sends lifesaving supplies anywhere within 48 hours (Locker, 2/21).

MIT Technology Review: China’s CRISPR twins might have had their brains inadvertently enhanced (Regalado, 2/21).

New York Times: India Threatens a New Weapon Against Pakistan: Water (Gettleman et al., 2/21).

NPR: A Fatal Public Health Problem In Africa That Flies Under The Radar (McDonnell, 2/21).

Pulitzer Center: Some Anti-FGM Activists Say Law Is Not Enough to End Practice (Nzanga, 2/19).

U.N. News: Pregnant, nursing women can now be given Ebola vaccine, U.N. health agency announces (2/21).

VOA News: Study: Abortions From Rapes on Rise in Cameroon’s Conflict Zones (Kindzeka, 2/20).

VOA News: Malawi’s Albinos Look to Asylum to Escape Attacks (Masina, 2/21).

Xinhua News: Interview: China helps Africa in fight against Ebola outbreak: Africa CDC chief (2/22).

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Editorials and Opinions

Opinion Pieces Discuss Selection Process For World Bank President

Devex: Opinion: It’s time to challenge the status quo in picking the World Bank president
María José Romero, policy and advocacy manager at the European Network on Debt and Development

“…In [an open letter to the World Bank Group Board of Executive Directors], prominent academics, politicians, and civil society groups from the U.S., Latin America, Africa, Europe, and Asia call for the selection [of a new World Bank president] to be a transparent and competitive process that is open to any applicant and actively encourages candidates from the global south to apply. Given that the World Bank operates in developing countries, and has the strongest impact in the poorest of them, a majority of votes only on the basis of shares in the institution is no longer valid as a method of decision. The candidate should be also supported by a majority of member states, and a public declaration of member state preferences should raise the accountability bar. A transformative global development agenda rooted in international human rights can be reached. However, this is only possible if all countries around the world show a firm commitment to multilateralism by playing their part at the board of directors of the World Bank and nominating a candidate that stands out as the most appropriate leader for an institution with a development mandate” (2/22).

The Conversation: Why opposing the man Trump wants as head of the World Bank might just work
John J. Stremlau, visiting professor of international relations at the University of the Witwatersrand

“U.S. President Donald Trump’s nomination of his Treasury Undersecretary David Malpass to become president of the World Bank Group and CEO of the World Bank should be seen more as an opportunity than a problem by African leaders and other major borrowers. … There are four reasons why opposing Trump’s nominee may be easier than it first appears. … The first reason is that Trump may not survive in office much longer. … Secondly, reforms in nominating and appointing Bank presidents in 2011 opened up the process for the first time in 2012. … Thirdly, an important precedent was set last year when Trump’s candidate to head the Bank’s International Organisation for Migration was rejected by United Nations (U.N.) members. … The last reason that there’s hope in rejecting Malpass is that the power dynamics in the bank have changed dramatically in the last nearly 80 years. … What’s more important is that a consensus candidate is found who has the necessary skills and practical ideas for the bank to better support much needed programs in Africa and other countries. There are also huge infrastructure needs the bank can address. And it needs quick response capabilities to help countries cope with sudden natural disasters and pandemics. If a search driven by these concerns succeeds, then bank supporters can thank Trump for unwittingly encouraging their efforts” (2/20).

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Editorial, Opinion Piece Discuss Humanitarian, Health Situation In Venezuela

Wall Street Journal: Aid Showdown in Venezuela
Editorial Board

“The fight for democracy in Venezuela has retreated from the front pages, but an important moment arrives Saturday when thousands of Venezuelan exiles will try to deliver food and medical supplies to their suffering compatriots. … Dictator Nicolás Maduro may try to block the aid, and his forces may resort to violence. The help from abroad is welcomed by Juan Guaidó, who has been recognized by more than 50 countries as Venezuela’s legitimate government since the elected parliament recognized him as Interim President under the constitution last month. … The volunteers delivering the supplies are taking great personal risks because no one knows how the Maduro forces will respond if the convoys insist on entering and setting up distribution centers. A surrounding swell of public support could protect them, but not if the military or regime militia start shooting. … Mr. Maduro is trying to frame the aid brigades as pawns of a U.S. invasion. … But those won’t be foreign troops arriving Saturday. They’ll be Venezuelans carrying food and medicine for a country plunged into malnutrition and disease by Cuban-Maduro socialism. The aid showdown puts in stark relief the choice in Venezuela between a dictator who wants to block aid for the people, and the Guaidó government that wants to deliver it” (2/21).

The Conversation: Venezuela: region’s infectious crisis is a disaster of hemispheric proportions
Martin Llewellyn, senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health & Comparative Medicine

“Over the last two decades, Venezuela has entered a deep socioeconomic and political crisis. Once recognized as a regional leader for public health and disease control, Venezuela’s health care and health research infrastructure has fallen into a state of collapse, creating a severe humanitarian crisis and a major outbreak of infectious disease. This week, we published the first comprehensive assessment of the vector-borne disease outbreak that is assailing the country. … The purpose of our recent review was to draw together fragmented information from Venezuelan civil societies, researchers, international organizations, and neighboring countries to get the best estimate of what is actually going on. … The picture is grim. Health is highly politicized in Venezuela and working as a researcher is not without risk. … Venezuelans are resilient and resourceful people. … In recognizing the regional aspect to the crisis, the spillover of disease in the region, and the millions of refugees, we hope our review will galvanize international organizations to act. I’m optimistic that we are reaching a turning point in a crisis ten years in the making. I fervently hope the spirit of Venezuelans will break through…” (2/22).

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Public Education, Trust Vital To Global Vaccination Efforts

The Guardian: The Guardian view on vaccination: a duty of public health
Editorial Board

“…Because of the way that herd immunity works, [parents who refuse to vaccinate their children] are threatening other people’s children too, some of whom cannot for medical reasons be vaccinated. … If parents trusted the state, the medical profession, or the gatekeepers of the media, this problem would not arise. … When power is no longer trusted, it does not matter that it [is] telling the truth. Yet the distrust of anti-vaxxer parents is a threat to everyone’s children and not just their own. One step is obviously a campaign of public education by figures who are trusted by the target audience in the way that their friends on social media are. If public health campaigns were run with half the ruthless ingenuity displayed by betting companies, we might be better off. But not everything can be left to governments and large companies. Parents who care about their own children’s health must be prepared to take the argument to the playgrounds and on to social media as well” (2/17).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

'Science Speaks' Profiles New Members Of U.S. House Appropriations State, Foreign Operations Subcommittee

IDSA’s “Science Speaks”: 116th Congress: Meet the new Republican, two new Democrats on the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee
Antigone Barton, senior editor and writer at “Science Speaks,” profiles new members of the U.S. House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee, including Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.), Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), and Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) (2/21).

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FT Health Discusses Vaccine Hesitancy, Features Interview With AAAS Chair Margaret Hamburg

FT Health: Anti-vaxxers up the ante
The latest issue of the Financial Times’ weekly global health newsletter discusses vaccine hesitancy and features an interview with Margaret Hamburg, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and current chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, about the state of scientific research today. The newsletter also provides a round-up of global health-related news stories (Dodd/Cookson, 2/22).

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WHO Releases Guidelines For Malaria Vector Control

World Health Organization: Guidelines for malaria vector control
“The Guidelines for malaria vector control provide a ‘one-stop shop’ for all countries and partners working to implement effective malaria vector control measures. … The guidelines consolidate more than 20 sets of WHO recommendations and good practice statements in one user-friendly format. They will be updated on an ongoing basis as new evidence is assessed by WHO…” (February 2019).

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PLOS ONE Study On Breakthrough TB Helps Inform Global TB, HIV Response

FHI 360’s “R&E Search for Evidence”: New analysis of breakthrough TB in Ethiopia can inform global TB response
Corey White, managing editor of R&E Search for Evidence discusses results and key takeaways from a new PLOS ONE article on “breakthrough TB.” White writes, “Studies that determine how common breakthrough TB among PLHIV actually is and what factors influence its development can better inform health care providers and policymakers as well as provide additional evidence to support test-and-treat strategies. In this post, I summarize how the new PLOS ONE article accomplishes both. … Overlooking vital preventative treatments like isoniazid can stop us from eliminating either epidemic” (2/21).

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From the U.S. Government

USAID Releases February 2019 Issue Of Innovation And Impact Newsletter

USAID: Innovation and Impact Newsletter — February 2019
The latest issue of USAID’s Innovation and Impact Newsletter features an article on the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in Global Health Coordinating Body, which “supports country governments, donors, technology, and implementing partners to make more informed decisions about integrating UAS in supply chain systems to improve global health outcomes.” The issue also highlights upcoming events and provides a news round-up of articles on various development and global health innovations (February 2019).

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DARPA, PREEMPT Medical Preparedness Research To Model How Viruses Evolve Within Animal Populations

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency: A New Layer of Medical Preparedness to Combat Emerging Infectious Disease
“DARPA has selected five teams of researchers to support PREventing EMerging Pathogenic Threats (PREEMPT), a 3.5-year program first announced in January 2018 to reinforce traditional medical preparedness by containing viral infectious diseases in animal reservoirs and insect vectors before they can threaten humans. Through studies in secure laboratories and simulated natural environments, the PREEMPT researchers will model how viruses might evolve within animal populations, and assess the safety and efficacy of potential interventions…” (2/19).

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