KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

International Donors Pledge More Than $10B For Syrian Aid

CNN: Donors pledge $10 billion-plus for Syria as Russian planes pound Aleppo
“Donor countries pledged more than $10 billion for Syria at an international conference Thursday in London, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced, but a brutal Syrian government offensive, backed by Russian air power, overshadowed this goodwill…” (Hume, 2/4).

The Guardian: Governments pledge $10bn for Syria in largest one-day humanitarian drive ever
“…A total of $5.6bn was raised for this year, the British prime minister announced at the close of the conference, with a further $5.1bn for 2017-20, making it easier to develop long-term plans to help refugees in the camps and regions surrounding the war-torn country…” (Wintour/Black, 2/4).

New York Times: Syria Aid Pledges From Rich Countries Reach $10 Billion
“…The pledges of aid at a donor conference in London slightly exceeded the meeting’s goal, avoiding the failure of a similar conference last year, when cutbacks in aid helped spur mass migration of refugees to Europe…” (Davis/Castle, 2/4).

USA TODAY: Leaders pledge $10B to help displaced Syrians
“…British Prime Minister David Cameron promised $1.7 billion in new aid by 2020. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would provide more than $925 million, including over $600 million for food, shelter, medical care, and other aid. The U.S. has already provided over $4.5 billion to assist Syrian refugees. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country would give $2.6 billion until 2018. Norway said it would give $1.1 billion…” (Onyanga-Omara/Hjelmgaard, 2/4).

VOA News: $10B Aid Pledge for Syria Overshadowed by Upsurge in Fighting
“…Arriving at the Syria donors’ conference Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry implored the world to act fast. ‘If people are reduced to eating grass and leaves and killing stray animals in order to survive on a day-to-day basis, that is something that should tear at the conscience of all civilized people and we all have a responsibility to respond to it,’ he said…” (Ridgwell, 2/4).

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At Least 200M Women, Girls Have Undergone FGM In 30 Countries, UNICEF Report Shows, Adds Data From Indonesia

News outlets discuss findings from a UNICEF report released to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on February 6.

Al Jazeera America: UNICEF: At least 200 million girls and women have undergone FGM
“There are at least 200 million girls and women around the world who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), with nearly a quarter of them being under the age of 14 when they were cut, according to a new report released by the U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF)…” (Parvaz, 2/4).

Associated Press: U.N.: At least 200 million females estimated to be circumcised
“…The UNICEF statistical report said the global figure includes nearly 70 million more girls and women than it estimated in 2014. It said this is due to population growth in some countries and new data from Indonesia…” (Lederer, 2/4).

International Business Times: UNICEF: 200 million girls, women living with FGM in 30 countries
“…The report suggested 44 million of the 200 million to have undergone FGM are below the age of 14…” (Singh, 2/5).

New York Times: UNICEF Report Finds Female Genital Cutting to Be Common in Indonesia
“…There has long been anecdotal evidence of the practice there, but the United Nations Children’s Fund estimated Thursday that 60 million women and girls there have been cut based on national survey data collected by the Indonesian government. The addition of Indonesia is largely responsible for raising the global tally of women and girls who have undergone the practice to 200 million from 130 million, and the number of countries where it is concentrated to 30 from 29…” (Belluck/Cochrane, 2/4).

Thomson Reuters Foundation: U.N. study finds more women face genital mutilation than earlier estimated
“… ‘Female genital mutilation differs across regions and cultures, with some forms involving life-threatening health risks,’ said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta. ‘In every case FGM violates the rights of girls and women. We must all accelerate efforts — governments, health professionals, community leaders, parents, and families — to eliminate the practice’…” (Batha, 2/5).

TIME: Female Genital Mutilation More Widespread Than Previously Thought, UNICEF Says
“…If more men in areas of Africa and the Middle East knew the issues it creates with fertility and women’s health, activists say, those voices of opposition might be louder…” (John, 2/4).

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12 Nations Formally Sign TPP; Questions Remain Over U.S. Ratification

Financial Times: As Pacific trade deal is signed pharma holds key to U.S. ratification
“U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to get a vast Pacific Rim trade deal through Congress this year is taking flak from the presidential campaign trail, where disdain for the pact appears to be one of the rare unifying themes for almost everyone from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton. … [K]ey GOP leaders such as Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, do not like the intellectual property protections [the Obama] administration negotiated for biologics in the TPP. They have vowed to block ratification until something changes…” (Donnan, 2/4).

Washington Post: U.S., 11 nations formally sign largest regional trade deal in history
“Trade ministers from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations formally signed the largest regional trade deal in history on Thursday in New Zealand, but the fate of one of President Obama’s signature economic projects remained fraught on Capitol Hill. … ‘No one should be under any illusions that, because the TPP is being signed today, an up or down vote on the agreement is imminent,’ Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a floor speech…” (Nakamura, 2/3).

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U.S. Federal HIV Research Funding Likely To Remain Flat For FY16, CQ Reports

CQ HealthBeat: NIH HIV Budget Feared Stagnant After End of AIDS Earmark
“The Obama administration may disappoint AIDS activists and researchers next week by confirming that the funding for HIV research will be relatively flat for fiscal 2016, despite a substantial increase in the National Institutes of Health budget and an earlier White House intention to boost funds…” (Young, 2/3).

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Zika Shines Light On Little-Studied Microcephaly, Guillain-Barré Syndrome; New Evidence From Brazil Shows Possible Association Between Birth Defect, Virus

Associated Press: Zika spotlights rare birth defect with a variety of causes
“The Zika virus is putting a spotlight on a potentially devastating birth defect that until now has gotten little public attention. Regardless of whether the mosquito-borne virus really causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads, a variety of other conditions trigger microcephaly…” (Neergaard, 2/4).

The Guardian: Colombia confirms first three deaths of patients infected with Zika virus
“Colombia has confirmed the first three deaths of patients infected with the Zika virus who had contracted a seemingly related disease that attacks the nervous system and causes paralysis. Alejandro Gaviria, the health minister, told the Guardian that another two deaths caused by the disease — known as Guillain-Barré syndrome — were still unconfirmed to be Zika-related…” (Brodzinsky, 2/4).

PBS FRONTLINE: New Link Between Zika and Microcephaly Is Found in Brazil
“…Researchers here tested the spinal fluid of 12 babies with microcephaly, all of whom were born to mothers who reported having symptoms of Zika early in their pregnancies. In all 12 cases, the researchers found evidence of Zika — results they described as stunning…” (Worth, 2/3).

Wall Street Journal: Rate of Zika-Related Birth Defects in Brazil Uncertain
“…[T]he magnitude of the rise in microcephaly remains uncertain. On closer review, Brazilian health authorities are finding that as many as two-thirds of the suspected cases aren’t microcephaly, or aren’t the kind of microcephaly caused by a virus like Zika…” (Lyons, 2/4).

Washington Post: Brazil pushes back at Zika critics, finds new evidence of link to birth defect
“Brazilian officials pushed back Thursday at claims that the country’s export controls are preventing international researchers from obtaining badly needed samples of the virus. Brazil’s Health Ministry said two-thirds of the Zika samples collected in the country during recent fieldwork performed with a team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be sent to the United States, after export of the samples was approved by a medical ethics review board…” (Phillips et al., 2/4).

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News Outlets Examine Mosquito-Control Methods, Research Into Zika Treatments, Vaccines

Bloomberg Businessweek: Zika Is the Next Front in the Mosquito Wars (Tozzi et al., 2/4).

New York Times: In Australia, a New Tactic in Battle Against Zika Virus: Mosquito Breeding (Innis, 2/4).

Reuters: Brazil researchers hope to test Zika virus treatment in a year (Flynn/Haynes, 2/4).

Science: The race for a Zika vaccine is on (Cohen, 2/5).

Washington Post: What it would really take for GMO mosquitoes to stop Zika (Harvey, 2/4).

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Zimbabwe President Mugabe Declares 'State Of Disaster' Due To Drought, Food Shortages

Agence France-Presse: Zimbabwe declares ‘state of disaster’ over drought
“Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe on Friday declared a ‘state of disaster’ in many rural areas hit by a severe drought, with more than a quarter of the population facing food shortages…” (Jongwe, 2/5).

BBC News: Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe declares drought disaster
“…The announcement comes days after the E.U. urged Mr. Mugabe to declare a state of disaster so donors can raise money quickly to provide food aid. The government has urged Zimbabweans not to panic, as it is importing maize from neighboring Zambia…” (2/5).

Bloomberg Business: Mugabe Declares National Emergency in Zimbabwe Over Drought
“…The number of people needing emergency food assistance has risen to 2.4 million from 1.5 million in a nation of 12 million people, Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said in a statement handed to reporters in the capital, Harare, on Friday. Crops have been affected across 95 percent of the country and more than 16,000 cattle have died, he said…” (Marawanyika, 2/5).

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Sierra Leone Releases 55 People From Ebola Quarantine, Seeks Nearly 50 Others For Testing

Agence France-Presse: U.N. urges missing Sierra Leone people to come for Ebola testing
“United Nations officials in Sierra Leone on Thursday appealed to nearly 50 people wanted for Ebola testing to come forward, as the country seeks to stamp out a fresh outbreak of the virus…” (2/4).

Agence France-Presse: Sierra Leone frees 55 from Ebola quarantine, but seeks 48 others
“Only four people remained in quarantine in Sierra Leone on Wednesday after 55 others were declared free of the Ebola virus and released from hospital, officials and medical sources said…” (2/3).

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Global Food Prices At Near 7-Year Low To Begin 2016, U.N. Agency Says

Reuters: World food prices start 2016 at near seven-year low
“World food prices fell to near a seven-year low in January, weighed down by declines for agricultural commodities, particularly sugar, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday…” (Binnie, 2/4).

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Editorials and Opinions

Congress Should Provide Funding To Eliminate Malaria, As Response To Disease Remains 'Centerpiece Of American Foreign Policy'

The Hill: Obama calls for an end to malaria
Josh Blumenfeld, managing director of policy & advocacy at Malaria No More

“…By issuing a call to action in his final State of the Union address, [President Obama] placed malaria elimination at the very top of the American political agenda … [George W.] Bush first established America as a global leader on malaria, and Obama is striving to set us on the path to end this dreadful disease. Two presidents with vastly divergent policies, both understand the power of achieving this important foreign policy and humanitarian goal. By providing the necessary funding, … Congress can continue to play a historic role in ensuring that fighting malaria remains a centerpiece of American foreign policy, and a legacy of bipartisanship — demonstrating the best of American politics” (2/4).

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International Response To Zika Must Be Rational, Humane, Coordinated, Collaborative

TIME: Gates Foundation: Fear Must Not Dictate Zika Policy
Chris Elias, president of the Global Development Program, and Trevor Mundel, president of the Global Health Division, both at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“The spread of Zika virus across the Americas reminds us that a health crisis anywhere can rapidly become a health challenge everywhere. … History teaches us that our response must also be rational and humane. The early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic demonstrated the dangers of letting fear dictate policy. … [W]e must ensure we are guided by facts and science. … [I]t is essential to strengthen health monitoring and reporting everywhere to help the world respond rapidly and effectively to potential pandemics. Another lesson from Ebola that the world has learned is that international organizations must respond rapidly and in close coordination, as WHO, PAHO, and CDC are doing now. … Our experience with other vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya shows that we cannot wait for global crises to appear before making investments in health surveillance and research and development for emerging and neglected diseases. The Zika outbreak provides another stark reminder of the need to prepare now for tomorrow’s crisis” (2/5).

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Lessons Learned From Ebola Should Inform Global Response To Zika Virus

Global Health NOW: Getting Schooled About Zika, Ebola-Style
Sulzhan Bali, Global Governance Futures 2027 fellow, masters candidate in global health at Duke University, and director of production and HR at TWiGH

“…Zika, just like Ebola, is another fervent reminder of the fact that diseases and disease vectors respect no borders. … However, there are other lessons to be learned from Ebola, that if not applied to Zika would render the entire act of declaring the disease a [public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)] futile. … Lesson #1 — Controlling misinformation through a top-down flow of credible information … Lesson #2 — Mitigating the ‘Fearonomic Effect’ … Lesson #3 — Collaboration, Synchronization, and Coordination … Lesson #4 — Engage with the Private Sector … Lesson #5 — Getting the community and traditional community leaders involved … Like Ebola, Zika offers this final, crucial lesson: Neglected tropical diseases are no more just a problem of the developing world…” (2/4).

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Opinion Pieces Discuss Need To Protect Women, Children In Syrian Crisis, Involve Women In Peace Talks

Project Syndicate: A Breakthrough for Child Refugees?
Gordon Brown, U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education and chair of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity

“Buried in the declaration from the just-completed fourth United Nations’ Syria Pledging Conference in London is a little publicized but important promise: by next year, every Syrian refugee child will be offered a place in school. … Now that education for Syria’s child refugees has been recognized as a responsibility of the humanitarian aid system, we have to find the means to finance it. … At the epicenter of the world’s biggest refugee crisis, we must take another step forward, by establishing what I call the HOPE fund: The Humanitarian Operation for the Provision of Education in Emergencies, the first permanent fund guaranteeing education in conflict zones. … If we can succeed in one of the most war-ravaged regions of the world, progress elsewhere would become much more likely. … [L]et us be the first generation to put every child in school” (2/5).

The Guardian: The Syria peace talks would have a better chance with one key addition: women
Sabrina Hersi Issa, CEO of Be Bold Media, co-founder of End Famine, and director of Survivor Fund, and Liz Drew, independent consultant

“…While UNSCR 2254 — the Security Council resolution which set the framework for the [Syrian peace] talks — calls for the full participation of Syrian women in the newest roadmap for peace, the mechanisms to achieve this remain undeveloped. … To design a peace process where both men and women’s lives are valued equally, we must stop siloing the contributions of Syrian women and learn from those engaged on the ground. … The Women, Peace, and Security agenda is based on the simple premise that peace is more likely to prevail and hold if women are fully involved in building it. … Syria offers a vivid reminder of how we are falling short of our commitment. Gender-sensitive humanitarian response and peace-building will only result from deliberate planning and dedicated personnel holding us all to account…” (2/5).

Devex: Appeal to protect the health and rights of Syrian women and girls
Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund

“…In every emergency, the risks to women and girls increase as access to health services decline. … As donors gather in London, I appeal to them to pay increased attention to the urgent needs and rights of women and adolescent girls from Syria. … The health, rights, and dignity of women and adolescents should not be treated as an afterthought in humanitarian action. Evidence points to the urgent need for a stronger response. … Protecting the rights of women and young people and putting an end to gender-based violence is everyone’s responsibility. Ensuring women and girls have access to the kind of medical and psychological care and services they need is not a luxury. Neither is giving young people the possibility to build a future. More often than not, these interventions are lifesaving” (2/4).

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Coordinated Global Action Needed To Respond To Cancer

The Lancet: Tackling cancer: time for a global response
Franco Cavalli, scientific director of the Oncology Institute of Southern Switzerland and chair of the Scientific Committee of the European School of Oncology

“…Huge efforts have … been made to encourage action on cancer in the global political agenda. … Despite these steps, there has been little coordinated global action on cancer. … But two recent developments offer a glimmer of hope. The first comes from the World Bank, which has published costings for an essential package of sustainable interventions that would enable low-income and middle-income countries to tackle cancer on many fronts … A second glimmer of hope comes on the political front. The pro tempore presidency of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) is currently held by Tabaré Vázquez, the president of Uruguay, whose background is in radio-oncology. During his term of office he will lead a high-level meeting on tackling cancer, which could help generate the momentum needed to get a Global Cancer Fund up and running…” (2/3).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

PEPFAR Releases Technical Considerations For HIV Response

Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks”: PEPFAR releases technical considerations for country, regional HIV responses
Antigone Barton, senior writer and editor of “Science Speaks,” discusses the release of PEPFAR’s Technical Considerations for Country/Regional Operational Plan (COP/ROP) Fiscal Year 2016. The document outlines “strategies necessary to provide access to testing and effective treatment to more people immediately, while maintaining efforts to confront tuberculosis and deliver other essential prevention and health services” (2/4).

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U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Birx Discusses Gender Equality, Partnerships In UCLA Speech

Daily Bruin: U.S. official calls for focus on gender equality as means to end AIDS
Daily Bruin contributor Aaron Julian discusses a speech given at UCLA on Wednesday by U.S. Ambassador Deborah Birx, global AIDS coordinator and special representative for global health diplomacy at the State Department. “Birx said she thinks creating partnerships with local communities around the world and combating socioeconomic issues such as gender discrimination and lack of education for young women, can end the AIDS epidemic…” (2/4).

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Zika Virus Raises Questions Regarding Women's Reproductive Rights

RH Reality Check: The Zika Virus Is a Matter of Reproductive Injustice
Beatriz Galli, senior Latin America policy adviser for Ipas and member of the Bioethics Commission of the Lawyers Bar Association in Rio de Janeiro, discusses the Zika outbreak’s impact on women’s health, especially as it pertains to access to safe abortions. Galli writes, “The discussion around the Zika outbreak and recommendations for women is really a matter of reproductive justice and gender equality. … Unsafe abortion rates are likely to rise during the Zika outbreak in Brazil, and this reality cannot be ignored when governments and U.N. agencies meet to discuss urgent measures needed to face this global health crisis…” (2/3).

Humanosphere: Zika: Women told to delay pregnancy, but lack reproductive rights to heed call
Humanosphere journalist Lisa Nikolau discusses the implications of the Salvadoran government’s recommendation in response to the Zika outbreak urging women to not get pregnant until 2018. Nikolau writes, “It raises the question of whether pregnant women who hear of the potential fetal abnormalities [associated with the Zika virus] will seek abortions, which in El Salvador are criminalized and can lead to decades in jail” (2/4).

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Global Community Should Support Sexual, Reproductive Health Initiatives For Women, Girls In Humanitarian Emergencies

RH Reality Check: How We Are Failing Women and Girls in Humanitarian Emergencies
Jamie J. Hagen, a doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Boston in the global governance and human security program, discusses findings from a UNFPA report and other research on protecting the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girls in crisis settings (2/3).

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