KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

U.S. Officials Prepare Response To Zika Virus, As WHO, Latin American Officials Warn Disease Spreading Rapidly

CQ HealthBeat: Shaheen Asks for Spending Estimates for Fighting Zika Virus
“…In a Jan. 27 letter, [Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)] asked the secretaries of the Health and Human Services, State, and Homeland Security departments to ‘swiftly detail’ any additional resources they may want to request to fight Zika virus. Obama will release his fiscal 2017 budget request on Feb. 9. As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Shaheen will be in a position to advocate for resources to combat Zika. She is the top Democrat on the committee’s Homeland Security panel and also a member of its Labor-Health and Human Services-Education panel…” (Young, 1/27).

The Hill: White House: Zika virus is not Ebola
“The Obama administration is looking to ease public fears over the Zika virus as it becomes increasingly likely that the mosquito-borne disease will spread to the U.S. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday that federal officials are planning a ‘conspicuous, concerted effort’ to communicate the risks of the disease, making clear that it poses a far different — and less severe — threat than the recent Ebola epidemic…” (Ferris, 1/27).

New York Times: Zika Virus ‘Spreading Explosively’ in Americas, WHO Says
“Officials from the World Health Organization said on Thursday that the Zika virus was ‘spreading explosively’ in the Americas and announced that they would convene an emergency meeting on Monday to decide whether to declare a public health emergency…” (Tavernise, 1/28).

New York Times: Reports of Zika-Linked Birth Defect Rise in Brazil
“Brazil’s health ministry issued new figures on Wednesday about the Zika virus that offered reason for continued concern, but also a glimmer of hope…” (Romero, 1/27).

Reuters: Global health body under pressure to stop Zika virus
“The World Health Organization will hold a special session on Thursday on the Zika virus as the U.N. agency comes under pressure for quick action against the infection linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil that is spreading through Latin America and the Caribbean…” (Steenhuysen/Nebehay, 1/28).

Reuters: U.S. researchers call for WHO to take rapid action on Zika
“U.S. researchers called on the World Health Organization on Wednesday to take swift action on the mosquito-transmitted Zika virus that is linked with thousands of birth defects in Brazil and is rapidly spreading in Latin America and the Caribbean. Georgetown University researchers urged WHO Director-General Margaret Chan to heed the lessons of Ebola and act quickly…” (Steenhuysen/Nebehay, 1/27).

Wall Street Journal: Brazil Announces More Microcephaly Cases Possibly Linked to Zika Virus
“Even as Brazil’s president pledged an ‘extreme commitment’ to eradicating the mosquito-borne Zika virus, new government figures released Wednesday show birth defects possibly linked to the virus continue to increase, though by fewer cases than in the previous period…” (Jelmayer/Johnson, 1/27).

Washington Post: Why the United States is so vulnerable to the alarming spread of Zika virus
“With the Zika virus now circulating in two dozen countries and territories across the Americas, the mosquito-borne pathogen seems destined to reach the United States and likely sooner rather than later. What is far less certain, say public health and infectious disease experts, is Zika’s potential reach and impact here…” (Sun/Dennis, 1/27).

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U.S. President Obama To Sign Memorandum Calling For White House Task Force On Cancer Led By VP Biden

New York Times: Obama to Take First Step in a Cancer ‘Moonshot’
“President Obama will sign a presidential memorandum on Thursday creating a White House task force on cancer, the first step in what Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has called a ‘moonshot’ to cure the disease, administration officials said. The president will appoint Mr. Biden to lead the panel, which will include representatives from at least 13 government agencies. The group’s first meeting will be on Monday, officials said…” (Shear, 1/28).

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Devex Examines How Refugee Movement Changing ODA Flows, Upcoming Development Assistance Committee Meeting

Devex: Is it time to redefine ODA?
“Next month the Development Assistance Committee within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — the body responsible for defining and tracking official development assistance — will hold a high-level meeting in Paris to discuss, among other things, how the Syrian refugee crisis is changing ODA flows and what can be done about it…” (Anders, 1/27).

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Drought-Hit Ethiopia Needs $500M To Support Food Aid To 10.2M People Beyond April, WFP Says

Agence France-Presse: Millions in drought-hit Ethiopia facing food shortages: U.N.
“Millions of people in drought-hit Ethiopia face dire food shortages, with the United Nations warning Thursday of a break in deliveries that could leave huge numbers without life saving aid…” (1/28).

Reuters: Ethiopia drought relief needs $500 mln for support beyond April: WFP
“The drought relief effort in Ethiopia needs about $500 million to fund programs beyond the end of April to support 10.2 million people facing critical food shortages this year, the U.N. World Food Programme said on Thursday…” (Blair, 1/28).

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Ethiopian drought is ‘code red’ for newborns and their mothers: NGO
“Some 350,000 babies are expected to be born by August into severe food shortages in Ethiopia’s worst drought in 50 years, the charity Save the Children said, urging leaders to raise the alarm at the African Union summit this week…” (Migiro, 1/25).

U.N. News Centre: As food emergency intensifies in drought-hit Ethiopia, U.N. appeals for more resources
“… ‘Resources currently in-hand do not guarantee a full relief food basket for beneficiaries,’ said the latest weekly update on Ethiopia compiled by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). It also added that ‘without additional resources, the food sector projects a full pipeline break in a couple of months.’ $1.2 billion is needed for food relief to 10.2 million people. However, the current appeal is only funded by one third…” (1/26).

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Cambodia, Global Fund Settle Malaria Financing Dispute; Nation Launches 5-Year Prevention Plan

IRIN: Breakthrough in Cambodia malaria row
“A disagreement between Cambodian and global health officials that followed a corruption scandal and froze millions of dollars in funding for the fight against malaria has been resolved, the World Health Organization has told IRIN…” (Boyle, 1/22).

Phnom Penh Post: Malaria money available as Global Fund dispute ends
“…The impasse ended in December, according to Dr. Luciano Tuseo, head of the WHO’s malaria program in Cambodia. However, details on the agreement itself were scant. But in an interview with the Post yesterday, Ieng Mouly, chairman of the country coordinating committee of the Global Fund for Cambodia and the National Aids Authority, said the agreement included a range of financial requirements…” (Rollet/Sassoon, 1/28).

Xinhua News: Cambodia aims to wipe out killer malaria strain
“The Cambodian government has launched a 142 million U.S. dollars, five-year plan to eliminate cases of the deadliest form of malaria in Cambodia by 2020, a local newspaper reported on Thursday…” (1/28).

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Global Fund To Send Shipment Of Antiretroviral Drugs To Uganda As Short-Term Solution To Shortage

Reuters: Global Fund rushes HIV drugs to Uganda amid shortage
“The Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] says it plans to send an advance supply of antiretroviral therapy to Uganda, after the East African country ran out three months before the end of last year. … ‘The government needs to mobilize resources to fill the gaps and find a long-term solution,’ [Global Fund communications head Seth] Faison said…” (Honan, 1/25).

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MSF Requests Independent Commission Investigation Into January 10 Bombing Of Yemeni Hospital

The Atlantic: The Search for Answers at Médecins Sans Frontières
“The global medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières has called for a full investigation of a recent bombing of a Yemen hospital that killed six people and injured seven others. Médecins Sans Frontières … said in a statement Monday that it has requested an investigation from the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, an independent body created by the Geneva Convention in 1991 to handle alleged breaches of international humanitarian law…” (Chappellet-Lanier, 1/25).

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Libya Requests WHO Raise Country's Emergency Level To Mobilize Additional Resources

Agence France-Presse: Libya asks to be labeled top health emergency by WHO
“Libya on Wednesday asked the World Health Organization to raise the emergency level in the country to the highest category, saying it would help mobilize resources for people in need. There are currently five crises that WHO has classified as ‘level-three’ health emergencies: Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and the parts of West Africa hit hardest by Ebola…” (1/27).

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U.S. Special Envoy Hopeful Southern African Nations Making Progress On Gay Rights

Thomson Reuters Foundation: “Seeds of hope” for gay rights in Africa, says special U.S. envoy
“Southern Africa is moving towards greater acceptance of sexual and gender minorities though there is still a long way to go, the United States’ first special envoy for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people said on Wednesday. Randy Berry, an openly gay senior U.S. diplomat, was speaking at the end of a 10-day visit to Malawi, Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa, one year after his appointment…” (Migiro, 1/28).

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Editorials and Opinions

Editorial, Letters To Editor, Opinion Pieces Address Zika Virus Response

New York Times: Zika Virus Requires an Urgent Response
Editorial Board

“…It is imperative that the World Health Organization not repeat its sluggish response to the Ebola crisis and act urgently this time to mobilize international action [against Zika virus]. … Regrettably … the World Health Organization seems, once again, to be dozing and has yet to generate a broad and coordinated international response. By coincidence, the WHO executive board is currently meeting in Geneva, so this is the perfect time for the agency to show leadership by convening an emergency committee of experts to take stock of the Zika pandemic and advise the WHO director general, Dr. Margaret Chan, on how best to combat it” (1/28).

New York Times: The Zika Virus Leaves Salvadoran Women in a Serious Bind
The newspaper published two letters to the editor — one from Piper Hoffman, executive director of Having Kids, and one from Lauri Romanzi, obstetrician-gynecologist and project director of Fistula Care Plus at EngenderHealth — regarding its recent article about the government of El Salvador issuing a warning about Zika virus and urging women in the country to not get pregnant until 2018 to avoid having children born with microcephaly (1/27).

TIME: We’ve Neglected Diseases Like the Zika Virus for Too Long
Marilyn Parsons, professor of neglected infectious diseases and director of training and professional development at the Center for Infectious Disease Research

“…Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases called for a ‘full-court press’ to develop a vaccine for Zika. I and many other scientists received an urgent notice advising of new funding released to research the Zika virus. Renewed urgency from officials is welcome, but it can take years, even decades, to develop new drugs and vaccines for complex and neglected diseases such as Zika, chikungunya, or dengue. … Understanding the interaction between pathogens and our immune systems is critical if we want to develop solutions. Waiting until they are on our doorstep is reckless and shortsighted. Where lives are at risk, we should bring every resource we have to speeding up this process…” (1/26).

CNN: How to cut off the spread of a Zika virus
Ford Vox, physician and medical analyst

“…Without a medical development such as a vaccine, or a novel pest control such as the Oxitec mosquito, Zika seems destined to start spreading in the Southern United States, starting with Florida and south Texas. … This leaves only public health recommendations for our protection. They should be upfront and realistic. … In this case the CDC should warn that we do not have capacity to test all women properly. This fact should weigh heavily on women who are considering travel to Zika-affected areas. It should affect family planning decisions, certainly in the southernmost regions of the United States with the Aedes aegypti mosquito…” (1/26).

The Guardian: Zika isn’t a global health threat like Ebola. It needs a targeted response
Clare Wenham, LSE fellow in global health politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science

“…Through understanding prevention and treatment mechanisms for mosquito-borne diseases, … the global community will be much better prepared to respond to and prevent diseases such as Zika in the future. As with other outbreaks, politics will decide if and how Zika will be controlled. But we should steer the conversation on to the positive steps of combating mosquito-borne diseases in a comprehensive manner, rather than turning Zika into a security issue, which may only result in mass panic and a potentially unsuitable global response” (1/27).

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WHO Should Add Mycetoma To Official List Of NTDs To Help Encourage Funders To Commit To R&D Efforts

Global Health NOW: End Mycetoma’s Catch-22
Amy Maxmen, freelance journalist, and Brian W. Simpson, editor-in-chief of Global Health NOW

“…The lack of research about mycetoma’s prevalence is one reason it’s not on [the WHO’s official list of neglected tropical diseases]. Yet in order for foundations and government agencies to commit funds for even basic epidemiological studies on mycetoma, it needs to be on the list. It’s a Catch-22 that’s stymied much-needed research for decades. … Mycetoma deserves the world’s attention. … Among topics [the] WHO’s Executive Board will discuss at this week’s meeting in Geneva is Item 9.4. Mycetoma. The board will consider a resolution … [that] calls on the 69th World Health Assembly and member countries to expand research into mycetoma and to support intervention and control efforts. The resolution also asks WHO [to] finally add the disease to WHO’s neglected tropical diseases list. … We urge the WHO Executive Board to recommend the WHA approve the resolution and help start driving change” (1/26).

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Engaging Youth In Health Care Decision Making Can Improve Program Access, Rights

Devex: Future reproductive freedom starts by giving youth a seat at the table
Suzanne Ehlers, president and CEO of PAI, and Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver

“…Research shows that when you include young people in decision-making and invest in his or her health, rights, and wellbeing, everybody wins. And the gains go beyond health. Nobody knows this better than the young people who are impacted by restrictive policies but who play a critical role in keeping their countries accountable for their promises. … As we begin to tackle the Sustainable Development Goals, PAI and Women Deliver will do our part to make sure that young people are meaningfully included in developing, implementing, and evaluating the policies and programs that impact their lives. … [Youth] are not only our leaders of tomorrow, they are leaders of today, deserving of direct participation in public policy” (1/27).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Senators Urge President Obama To Increase Funding To Support National TB Action Plan

Humanosphere: Without money, effort to stop TB becomes ‘another plan on the shelf’
Humanosphere reporter Tom Murphy discusses TB activists’ and senators’ call for more funding to support the recently launched National Action Plan to Address Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis, citing a recent letter signed by seven senators stating, “Without an increase in funding, it will be difficult — if not impossible — to quickly execute the plan,” as well as a letter written by a similar group of senators when the administration made a preliminary announcement about the National Action Plan (1/27).

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Blog Posts, Pulitzer Center Reporting Project Discuss Reproductive Health, Family Planning Issues

Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting: Reporting on Reproductive Health: Opportunities and Obstacles International Conference on Family Planning 2016
This reporting project includes six Pulitzer Center grantees’ work reporting on reproductive health issues at the International Conference on Family Planning 2016 (1/27).

IntraHealth International’s “Vital”: Youth Advocates Can Increase the Use of Modern Contraceptives, If We Listen to Them
Senam Beheton, founder and executive director of EtriLabs, discusses the role that youth play in strengthening family planning efforts in West Africa (1/27).

IntraHealth International’s “Vital”: What’s the Recipe for Family Planning Progress in Senegal?
Babacar Gueye, chief of party and country director for IntraHealth International Senegal, discusses Senegal’s progress in increasing family planning in the country and the importance of partnerships between the government and NGOs in moving these efforts forward (1/27).

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Researchers Examine Access To GeneXpert TB Test In High-Burden Countries

Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks”: Survey shows Xpert TB diagnosis costly, out of reach in countries where private care predominates
Rabita Aziz, policy research coordinator for the Center for Global Health Policy, highlights a correspondence published in The Lancet Global Health’s February issue discussing access to the GeneXpert MTB/RIF diagnostic test for drug-resistant tuberculosis in high-burden countries…” (1/27).

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