KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

U.S. Vice President Pence Pledges Solidarity With Venezuelan People, Interim President Guaidó; Humanitarian Crisis Continues

NPR: Pence On Venezuela: ‘We Will Keep Standing With You Until … Libertad Is Restored’
“Vice President Pence traveled to Bogotá, Colombia, on Monday and urged regional leaders to support Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela, vowing that the U.S. will stand with the opposition leader ‘until your libertad is restored.’ Pence also announced U.S. sanctions against several border-state governors aligned with embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro who are said to be involved in blocking shipments of humanitarian aid from reaching Venezuelans…” (Ingber, 2/25).

Roll Call: Big risks, ‘no silver bullet’ as Trump wades further into Venezuelan unrest
“…Minutes later, in remarks at a conference in Bogota to officials from a dozen countries trying to find a solution to the Venezuelan unrest, Pence called Maduro the ‘tyrant in Caracas’ and slammed him for dancing at a rally over the weekend ‘as his henchmen murdered civilians and burned truckloads of food and medicine destined for the people of Venezuela’…” (Bennett, 2/25).

Additional coverage of the humanitarian and health care situation in Venezuela is available from the Associated Press, Homeland Preparedness News, Vox, and Washington Post.

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USAID Administrator Mark Green To Testify Before U.S. House On Agency's Reorganization Plans

Devex: USAID looks for congressional support for reorganization plans
“U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green will testify at the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday in a hearing that will likely offer a window into the status of the agency’s ongoing reorganization. Many of the changes Green and his team hope to make require approval from lawmakers. The agency laid out its request in a series of congressional notifications last summer. The notifications, which Devex obtained, provide an in-depth look at the reasons behind Green’s proposed changes, what the agency’s leaders expect will be required to make them happen, and the specific problems each of the proposals are intended to fix…” (Igoe, 2/26).

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Yemen Pledging Conference Underway To Raise $4.2B As U.N. Warns Of Harm To Children; U.S. Senate Will Not Vote On House-Passed Bill To End Involvement In War

The Guardian: U.N. target of $4bn in aid for Yemen reliant on Saudi and U.S. pledges
“The international community will gather on Tuesday to try to raise more than $4bn to help alleviate the suffering and famine caused by Yemen’s civil war, but will find itself heavily dependent on three combatants in the conflict — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the U.S. — to reach its fundraising target for 2019…” (Wintour, 2/26).

The National: U.N. to host largest country appeal ever for Yemen
“…Led by the governments of Sweden and Switzerland and with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in attendance, the appeal will highlight that 80 percent of the Yemeni population needs urgent humanitarian assistance and protection. … But aid agencies say funding alone will not suffice and that action is needed to prevent air strikes on civilian areas…” (Aldroubi, 2/25).

POLITICO: GOP maneuver will block Yemen bill from getting Senate vote
“A House-passed bill to halt U.S. involvement in Yemen’s deadly civil war will not get a vote in the Senate, a setback to Democrats and Republicans who sought to cut off U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen…” (Desiderio/Zanona, 2/25).

U.N. News: Not a single child spared the ‘mind-boggling violence’ of Yemen’s war
“Four years of ‘mind-boggling violence’ in Yemen ‘has not spared a single child,’ a top U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) official said on Monday, on the eve of a pledging conference in Geneva to help alleviate the suffering of millions across the country…” (2/25).

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New York Times Examines Potential Implications Of Empty U.N. Ambassador Post

New York Times: America’s U.N. Ambassador Post Is Empty. Is That a Problem?
“…[Nikki R. Haley’s] departure [as U.S. ambassador to the U.N.], with no word on a successor, has left the Trump administration devoid of a high-profile presence at the United Nations, the world’s most prominent diplomatic stage, for nearly two months. Here is a look at the role of the ambassador and whether a prolonged vacancy poses problems for the United States…” (Gladstone, 2/19).

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DFID Not Independent Department, U.K. Aid Chief Mordaunt Reiterates In Letter

Devex: DFID is not independent, Mordaunt reiterates
“Despite raising eyebrows last month for refusing to give a firm answer about the future of the U.K. Department for International Development, Secretary of State Penny Mordaunt has again claimed that DFID is not an ‘independent’ department in a letter obtained by Devex on Monday. In a letter to Preet Gill — the Labour Party’s shadow minister for international development, who was seeking clarification of Mordaunt’s earlier remarks — the U.K. aid chief wrote that her department ‘could not … be described as “independent,”‘ and that she hoped to ‘move the debate about DFID on from being one about where our desks are situated to being focused on delivering the global goals’…” (Abrahams, 2/26).

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MSF Ebola Treatment Center In DRC's Katwa Attacked, Caretaker Killed

Associated Press: Ebola treatment center attacked in Congo’s east
“Assailants attacked an Ebola treatment center in Congo’s eastern town of Katwa on Sunday night, killing one caretaker and injuring another as the country grapples to control the second largest outbreak in recorded history, Congo’s health ministry said Tuesday. Doctors Without Borders confirmed the attack on its facility in Katwa, saying that the patients, four confirmed with Ebola and six suspected cases, have been transferred to other centers for continued treatment…” (Petesch/Mwanamilongo, 2/26).

CIDRAP News: New cases, torched center spotlight Katwa as Ebola hot zone
“…The attack — coupled with new cases recorded in the city this weekend — have made Katwa the epicenter of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC’s) Ebola outbreak. ‘Attacks like this could undo the progress we have made. Despite this setback, we will keep working with the government, partners & communities to end this outbreak,’ said World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, on Twitter earlier [on Monday]…” (Soucheray, 2/25).

NPR: Why Does Ebola Keep Spreading In Congo? Here’s A Major Clue
“…[S]ome weeks ago, as cases started erupting around two towns, Katwa and Butembo, the investigators found that patient after patient had something else in common: They had all recently visited a health clinic for treatment for some other disease such as a respiratory infection or malaria. … The surge of confirmed cases in Katwa and Butembo — 307 and rising — is now the largest flare-up during the course of this outbreak, which has infected nearly 900 people since August. And WHO officials estimate that in about one-fifth of these recent cases, the person contracted Ebola at health care facilities…” (Aizenman, 2/25).

Reuters: Attackers torch Ebola treatment center in Congo, patients evacuated
“…There were no immediate details on the identity or motive of the people who torched the center in the district of Katwa, at the heart of the country’s worst outbreak of the deadly disease. … Most of the cases since the start of the year have been in Katwa, which is close to the border with Uganda…” (Mahamba/Paravicini, 2/25).

Vice Video: Why the latest Ebola outbreak in DRC is more worrisome than the first
“… ‘Clearly, we can’t become complacent,’ Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, said earlier this month. ‘The greatest risk, which is related to insecurity, continues to be a factor’…” (2/25).

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EndHep2030 Fund Aimed At Eliminating Viral Hepatitis Prepares For Rollout Later This Year

Devex: Global fund for hepatitis prepares for rollout
“The Fund for Elimination of Viral Hepatitis, or EndHep2030, the world’s only corpus dedicated to the elimination of viral hepatitis, is expected to open soon. Starting April, the fund will accept proposals from charitable organizations working to raise awareness on and improve delivery systems for the screening and treatment of viral hepatitis…” (Ravelo, 2/26).

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More News In Global Health

BloombergQuint: Why Unmonitored Pill-Induced Abortions Are A Big Threat To Women’s Health In India (2/22).

Business Insider: Bill Gates’ warning to anti-vaxxers: People in rich countries will die because they aren’t getting measles shots (Brueck, 2/26).

New York Times: Ireland Diagnosed Record Number of HIV Infections in 2018, Health Data Suggests (O’Loughlin, 2/25).

Popular Science: We need to police gene editing. The World Health Organization agrees (Eschner, 2/25).

Reuters: Rise of drug-resistant superbugs rings alarm bells in Europe (Kelland, 2/26).

SciDev.Net: Billions at risk from heat stress at home (Bagcchi, 2/25).

STAT: ‘Incredible mind, incredible heart’: After decades fighting Ebola, a beloved expert hangs up his boots (Branswell, 2/26).

Xinhua News: Experts call for efforts to eradicate Africa’s health care perils, commend China’s support (2/25).

Xinhua News: Chinese embassy in South Sudan donates anti-malaria drugs (2/25).

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Editorials and Opinions

U.S., Opposition Must Continue To Pursue Economic, Diplomatic Course In Venezuela

Washington Post: A peaceful ploy against Venezuela failed. That doesn’t make force the answer.
Editorial Board

“Venezuelan opposition leaders and their international allies calculated that an attempt to push desperately needed humanitarian aid into the country on Saturday would trigger the final collapse of the country’s authoritarian regime. Sadly, their bet did not pay off. Security and paramilitary forces torched aid trucks and opened fire on opposition supporters — killing at least eight and wounding several hundred … The regime demonstrated that it remains willing and able to employ arms against opponents who can’t and won’t respond in kind. That leaves supporters of a peaceful transition to democracy in Venezuela with a dilemma. … The right strategy is the one the administration and its allies continued to pursue Monday, which is bringing pressure to bear on the military to turn on the Maduro regime. … The Trump administration has repeatedly hinted at military intervention. But Saturday showed the regime is ready to call that bluff. That means Mr. Guaidó and his international alliance must settle in for a potentially prolonged economic and diplomatic siege. The chances for success still look substantial, given the ability of the United States and its allies to choke off most of the regime’s revenue. But patience will be necessary — and, in the meantime, Venezuelans will continue to endure more violence and deprivation” (2/25).

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U.S., Other Donors Must Increase Global Fund Investments To End HIV, TB, Malaria Epidemics

Miami Herald: U.S. should not abandon the global fight against AIDS and malaria
Brian McLaren, author, speaker, activist, and public theologian in Marco Island, Florida

“…This year, we are entering a three-year funding cycle where the choice is before us whether we will step up the fight to end [the HIV, TB, and malaria] epidemics or allow them to plateau or, even worse, increase. If we cut funding [to the Global Fund] … as recommended by the Trump administration last year, we risk our previous investments being squandered. … But if we scale up our support for the Global Fund — leveraging funding from other donors and encouraging affected countries to step up the fight — we could see significant health gains around the world. … Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart have been tremendous champions, with legacies of supporting U.S. humanitarian assistance programs, like the Global Fund, during their time in office. We need their continued leadership for the United States to continue to invest in one-third of the Global Fund’s financing and encourage other donors to increase their investment with a contribution of $1.56 billion in fiscal years 2020-2022. In a time of unprecedented polemics in politics, global health funding is one area where we can come together across the aisle, choose to save millions of lives together, and demonstrate life-saving American leadership around the world” (2/25).

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North Korean Government, International Community Should Commit To Improving Country's Health Care Issues

IRIN: North Korea’s silent health crisis
Gianluca Spezza, research fellow at the DPRK Strategic Research Center and assistant professor of international relations at KIMEP University, and Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings, lecturer in humanitarian studies at the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership

“North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump are scheduled to begin talks on 27 February in Hanoi, Vietnam — the second encounter between the two men after last June’s summit in Singapore, which sparked reams of analysis but few tangible results. Speculation abounds over what might materialize this time: concessions on sanctions, a path toward denuclearization, perhaps even … an official peace declaration. As the two leaders meet, however, everyday North Koreans are struggling with widespread malnutrition and food insecurity. … Levels of malnutrition, maternal health, and tuberculosis are worrying enough, but a lack of accurate data on HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B presents new cause for alarm. … For North Koreans grappling with the long-term impacts of an inadequate health system, a peace agreement and an end to hostilities will not, on their own, bring an improvement to their lives. … Without adequate funding, access, and the increased capacity to cope with today’s health burdens … many ordinary North Koreans will continue to struggle to live a full and healthy life…” (2/25).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

U.N. Should Take 'Stronger Stance' On Protecting Health Facilities, WASH Infrastructure In Humanitarian Emergencies, JHSPH Expert Says

World Economic Forum: We must stop turning a blind eye to the world’s health crises
Paul Spiegel, director of the Center for Humanitarian Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, discusses the challenges of responding to humanitarian disasters, especially in conflict zones like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Yemen. Speigel writes, “There have been a number of United Nations Security Council resolutions addressing the humanitarian crises in DRC, Yemen, and elsewhere, but rarely do the force of words carry enough resolve to pacify these disasters. … The U.N. needs a stronger stance on the protection of health facilities, as well as water and sanitation infrastructure. In this age of satellite data, monitoring attacks against these off-limit targets should be easier to document, even in the world’s more remote places…” (2/25).

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WHO European Region Health Leaders Identify Key Actions To Scale Up Health Emergency Preparedness, Response

WHO Europe: European countries commit to accelerate action to protect people from health emergencies together
“Sustained investment, mutual learning and support, and regular monitoring of progress — ministers of health and high-level delegates identified these as critical to scaling up health emergency preparedness and response in the WHO European Region. The priorities and actions compiled in the outcome summary of the ministerial consultation and high-level meeting held on 12-14 February 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey, will accelerate coordinated action to protect people from health emergencies of any type…” (2/25).

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Women Disproportionately Affected By HIV In Western, Central Africa, UNAIDS Data Show

UNAIDS: The disproportionate impact of HIV on women in western and central Africa
“Women are disproportionately affected by HIV, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. However, in some countries the imbalance is severe. According to data collected in the Demographic and Health Surveys 2009-2017 — a program that collects and disseminates data on health and populations in developing countries — in the past decade HIV prevalence has been up to three times higher among 20-29-year-old women than men in some of the countries with the highest HIV burden in western and central Africa: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana…” (2/25).

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From the U.S. Government

Vice President Pence Announces Additional Humanitarian Aid To Venezuelans

USAID: United States Provides Additional Humanitarian Aid to Venezuelans Who Have Fled Their Country
“[On Monday], Vice President Pence announced that the United States is providing nearly $56 million in additional humanitarian assistance to support the regional response for the nearly 3.4 million Venezuelans who have fled Venezuela due to the political and economic crisis caused by Nicolas Maduro. This assistance complements the aid that the United States and its partners pre-positioned near the Colombia- and Brazil-Venezuela borders over the last few weeks, and it will provide urgently needed shelter, food, medical services, and livelihoods support that will help the integration of Venezuelans who have fled into host communities in the region…” (2/25).

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