KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

WHO Zika Emergency Committee Advises Pregnant Women To Avoid Travel To Zika-Affected Areas, Take Precautions To Prevent Sexual Transmission

News outlets discuss the outcomes of the second meeting of the WHO’s Zika emergency committee and a briefing by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

CIDRAP News: Growing Zika complication data color advice from WHO panel
“Only five weeks after its first meeting, a World Health Organization (WHO) Zika emergency committee met [Tuesday] to discuss rapidly accumulating evidence that shows a stronger link between the virus and serious complications such as birth defects and neurologic problems, which led to stronger and more finely tuned recommendations…” (Schnirring, 3/8).

New York Times: WHO Advises Pregnant Women to Avoid Areas Where Zika Is Spreading
“The World Health Organization advised pregnant women on Tuesday to avoid travel to areas where the Zika virus is spreading. Experts on the organization’s Zika emergency committee also recommended that pregnant women and their partners who have been in areas with Zika rely on abstinence or safe sex to prevent sexual transmission of the virus…” (McNeil, 3/8).

Reuters: WHO advises pregnant women to avoid travel to Zika-affected areas
“…Sexual transmission is ‘relatively common’ and health services in Zika-affected areas should be ready for potential increases in cases of neurological syndromes such as microcephaly and congenital malformations, it said…” (Nebehay/Miles, 3/8).

Washington Post: WHO warns pregnant women to avoid going to Zika-affected areas
“…David Heymann, an infectious disease specialist who is heading the WHO emergency committee on Zika, pointed to the accumulating evidence linking the pathogen to birth defects and neurological disorders in adults. ‘We felt we needed to make this recommendation,’ he said, adding that it remains up to individual countries to designate regions where there are ongoing outbreaks ‘and where there are not’…” (Sun, 3/8).

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CDC Director Says Agency Working With Puerto Rico To Protect Pregnant Women From Zika

Reuters: CDC director calls Zika in Puerto Rico a ‘challenge and crisis’
“During a tour of Zika preparations in Puerto Rico, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called Zika a ‘tremendous challenge and crisis’ and said protecting pregnant women from the virus is a top priority. … Frieden has been working with CDC staff and the Puerto Rican government on strategies to protect pregnant from becoming infected with the mosquito-borne virus…” (Steenhuysen, 3/9).

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Johns Hopkins Neurologist Speaks With Los Angeles Times About Zika Virus

Los Angeles Times: Could climate change be the culprit in spread of Zika virus?
“…According to [Johns Hopkins University neurologist] Dr. Carlos Pardo Villamizar, warmer climates may have triggered the emergence and subsequent spread of the Zika virus by making more of the world habitable for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, its main carrier. Higher temperatures and dryness have been linked to the spread of another mosquito-borne illness, dengue, and deforestation is thought to be a cause of the most recent Ebola outbreak in Africa…” (Kraul, 3/9).

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U.N. Officials, Agencies Recognize International Women's Day, Launch Effort To End Child Marriage

U.N. News Centre: On International Women’s Day, U.N. officials call to ‘Step It Up’ for gender equality
“Senior United Nations officials from around the world are marking International Women’s Day with calls to ‘Step It Up’ with more resources and greater political action to achieve gender equality by 2030. ‘I remain outraged by the denial of rights to women and girls — but I take heart from the people everywhere who act on the secure knowledge that women’s empowerment leads to society’s advancement,’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the day…” (3/8).

U.N. News Centre: New U.N. initiative aims to protect millions of girls from child marriage
“…The initiative by the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), announced on International Women’s Day, is part of a global effort to prevent girls from marrying too young and to support those already married as girls in 12 countries across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, where child marriage rates are high…” (3/8).

U.N. News Centre: INTERVIEW: U.N. official explains why new global development agenda is good news for women
“From economic exclusion to violence targeting women and girls, the head of the United Nations entity tasked with promoting gender equality believes such challenges make it all the more critical to push ahead with the new global development agenda, which contains many targets specifically recognizing women’s equality and empowerment. ‘We’re asking private sector, individuals, ourselves — as the women organization — to step it up for gender equality,’ Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of U.N. Women, told the U.N. News Service…” (3/8).

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Sanctions On North Korea Hampering Access To Tuberculosis Medications, Humanitarian Foundation Says

Washington Post: North Korean tuberculosis patients at risk as sanctions hamper medicine shipments
“The lives of more than 1,500 North Korean tuberculosis patients are at risk, an American-run humanitarian foundation said Wednesday, because tough new sanctions are stopping medicine from getting to sick people. Following the multilateral sanctions imposed by the United Nations this month as punishment for North Korea’s recent nuclear test and missile launch, South Korea this week imposed direct sanctions of its own. But unlike the unilateral American sanctions passed by Congress, the South Korean measures do not make a general exception for humanitarian aid…” (Fifield, 3/9).

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WHO Needs Nearly $74.3M To Address Health Care Issues In Syria

International Business Times: WHO seeks financial aid to support health care needs in Syria
“The World Health Organization (WHO) needs $74.33 million in urgent aid to address the health care problems in war-torn Syria. Under its Strategic Response Plan (SRP) 2015, the WHO said it would work towards disease surveillance and response, strengthening delivery of secondary health care services, and support immunization programs…” (Malik, 3/8).

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Former South African President Mbeki Reignites Criticism Over Views On HIV/AIDS

Associated Press: Former South African president criticized for AIDS comments
“…Now [South Africa’s former] leader, Thabo Mbeki, faces fresh scrutiny for defending his old pronouncements about the disease. … Mbeki, who had questioned the link between HIV and AIDS, said in a Monday post on his foundation’s website that nutrition was critically important and that antiretroviral drugs, or ARVs, should be used ‘with great care and caution’…” (Torchia, 3/8).

Health24: Thabo Mbeki is a coward and his AIDS denialism was catastrophic — TAC
“… ‘The impact of Mbeki’s AIDS denialism was catastrophic,’ the [Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)] said in statement in response to the former statesman’s letter, which forms part of a series of letters attempting to reframe Mbeki’s presidency. The letter, titled ‘A brief commentary on the question of HIV and AIDS,’ comes seven and a half years after Mbeki was forced to step down as president of South Africa…” (3/9).

Newsweek: Ex-South African President Thabo Mbeki Stands By Controversial HIV Comments
“Former South African President Thabo Mbeki has reignited controversy surrounding his views on HIV/AIDS by stating that he ‘stands by’ everything he said on the issue while in office…” (Gaffey, 3/8).

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Ipas Trains Indian Health Care Workers In Safer Abortion Technique

The Guardian: India’s doctors learn safer abortion techniques to cut maternal deaths
“…At Vani Vilas hospital for women and children in Bangalore, in the south-west state of Karnataka, doctors and nurses gather for training in a safer, quicker [abortion] procedure — the manual vacuum aspiration technique, which is significantly underused in India — and in how to better support women having abortions. The four-day training program is run by Ipas, an NGO focused on preventing deaths from unsafe abortion…” (Cousins, 3/9).

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More Than 2.3M People Worldwide Infected With Both HIV, Hepatitis C, Study Shows

International Business Times: HIV, Hepatitis C News: More Than 2 Million People Infected With Both Viruses, Study Finds
“More than 2.3 million people internationally are infected with both HIV and hepatitis C, according to estimates from a study released Tuesday at the University of Bristol and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. The study, which was the first to look at the simultaneous infection of HIV and hepatitis C, was published in the online journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases and sponsored by the World Health Organization…” (Salo, 3/8).

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Editorials and Opinions

President Obama Should Clarify Helms Amendment, Advance Reproductive Health Rights Of Women, Girls

Huffington Post: American Foreign Policy Must Focus on Women and Girls
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

“…Restrictive reproductive health laws in Latin America already pose great challenges to women. We must act quickly to ensure the Zika virus doesn’t make these problems worse. The United States can also be a global leader on women’s health by ensuring that women around the world who are raped, are victims of incest, or face a life-endangering pregnancy can receive the care they need in U.S.-supported programs. … By ensuring that those who seek abortions have access to safe services, the U.S. could help ease their burdens. Yet the [current interpretation of the] Helms Amendment forces these women and girls, who have already endured so much, to further risk their health and well-being. In August, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and I were joined by 81 Members of Congress calling on President Obama to issue guidance to clarify that Helms permits exceptions in the events of rape, incest, or danger to a woman’s life. I hope that the president, who has been so committed to the health and rights of women and girls, will fortify his legacy by issuing this critical guidance before the end of his term…” (3/8).

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Global Leaders Must Address Increasingly More Common Vector-Borne Diseases

VICE News: Zika Virus, ‘Ghostbusters,’ and the Strange New Normal of Tropical Disease Pandemics
Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, president and director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, Baker Institute fellow in disease and poverty at Rice University, and U.S. science envoy for the State Department and White House

“For the past 10 years, the world has seen extraordinary increases in viral and parasitic infections transmitted by insects and snails. … Epidemics of vector-borne diseases may become a new normal for areas of our planet where poverty, conflict and human migrations, temperature and rainfall alterations, or some combination of these factors are having their greatest impact. This year, the United Nations launched a new set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which touch on health, poverty, inequality, and the environment. Global leaders will need to … tackle these issues in future G7 and G20 summits if they hope to successfully battle these new disease epidemics. In addition, the world will need new technologies … while developing a new generation of safe and effective insecticides or other insect control measures. But this scientific innovation will require innovation in financing through public funds…” (3/8).

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Without U.S. Investment In Agricultural, Social Protection Programs, Ethiopia Risks Food Security Crisis

Huffington Post: Invest Now in Ethiopia to Sustain Progress, Save Lives
David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World

“…The shift from emergency assistance to self-sufficiency is important in order to meet the immediate needs of Ethiopians, as well as their long-term self-reliance. … We, at Bread for the World, urge our federal government and other partners to ensure that agricultural development aid is combined with social protection programs. These investments will help reach vulnerable women and children in the poorest countries. Ethiopia has made great strides in reducing hunger but the current drought puts this progress at risk. It is better to proactively deal with crises before conditions deteriorate further. By providing humanitarian and development assistance now, we will help the people of Ethiopia recover much more quickly and save more lives” (3/8).

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Global Community Must Accelerate Progress On Eliminating Preventable Child Deaths

Devex: 5 ways to stop 200,000 child deaths
Mathuram Santosham, chair of the Rotavirus Organization of Technical Allies (ROTA) Council, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, senior adviser for the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins University, and professor of international health and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University

“…The World Health Organization has recommended that every country introduce rotavirus vaccines into national immunization programs. So far, 80 countries have introduced the vaccines, but not enough countries in Asia or Africa have taken action — the regions where burden is highest. … [T]o accelerate the introduction of lifesaving, health-improving rotavirus vaccines, the ROTA Council recommends that key stakeholders in countries where these vaccines have not yet been introduced take action in the following areas: 1. Take a comprehensive approach to diarrheal disease control. … 2. Apply for Gavi support. … 3. Develop new, low-cost vaccines. … 4. Make sure vaccine prices are fair. … 5. Address vaccine program implementation challenges…” (3/9).

Project Syndicate: Empty Promises and Dead Children
Kevin Watkins, director of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

“…If governments are sincere about delivering on the SDGs’ promise on child mortality, they must get serious about ensuring equity in health care. … Any strategy for achieving the 2030 target for child mortality must go beyond the health sector and focus on the wider inequalities — for example, in nutrition, education, and access to clean water and sanitation — that fuel child mortality. Girls will need added protection, so that they are not forced into early marriage and child bearing. Children worldwide face a lethal combination of inequality, injustice, and gender discrimination. They deserve better. The promise to eliminate preventable child deaths by 2030 is our chance to ensure they get it” (3/9).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

CGD Blog Post, Podcast Discuss MCC's New Strategic Plan

Center for Global Development’s “Rethinking U.S. Development Policy”: A Big, Bold Plan for MCC’s Future
Sarah Rose, a CGD senior policy analyst, discusses MCC NEXT, the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s new strategic plan. “MCC should be applauded for its vision, and indeed there are a number of things to like about the plan. But the new strategy also raises questions, including some deeply fundamental questions about how key parts of the new vision fit with MCC’s core model,” she writes (3/8).

CGD Podcast: A New Strategy for the MCC — Podcast with Nancy Lee and Sarah Rose
CGD Vice President of Communications and Policy Outreach Rajesh Mirchandani speaks with MCC Deputy CEO Nancy Lee and CGD Senior Policy Analyst Sarah Rose about MCC’s new strategic plan (3/8).

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Blog Post Discusses PEPFAR 2016 Report To Congress

Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks”: PEPFAR Report to Congress reviews advances, accomplishments, opportunities, cites challenge of growing populations among most at risk
Antigone Barton, senior writer and editor of “Science Speaks,” discusses PEPFAR’s 2016 Annual Report to Congress, released this week. “Improved data collection and use, the beginnings of strengthened links with local civil society, and increased emphasis on evidence for programming all are referenced as reasons that the third iteration of PEPFAR, which has evolved from an emergency to a sustainable response to a public health crisis, to a response that controls and ends a public health crisis, can succeed,” she writes (3/8).

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Blog Posts Recognize International Women's Day

U.S. Department of State’s “DipNote”: Millennium Challenge Corporation Launches ‘Smart Aid’ Series on International Women’s Day
Leigh Stapleton, lead for public engagement and outreach at the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), discusses the MCC and the Society for International Development’s launch of a new “Smart Aid” series in celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. Stapleton writes, “The ‘Smart Aid’ series brings together development practitioners, thought leaders, and MCC experts for a roundtable discussion of best practices, innovative approaches, and lessons learned across a range of development topics to foster greater collaboration…” (3/8).

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists”: Immunization: A Powerful Piece of the Equality Puzzle
Anuradha Gupta, deputy CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, discusses the role of gender equality in global immunization coverage and writes, “Gender barriers [are] standing in the way of better immunization coverage” (3/8).

Friends of the Global Fight Blog: For International Women’s Day, Invest in Health and Well-Being for Women and Girls
Katie Broendel, senior communications manager at Friends of the Global Fight, highlights initiatives by the global health community to improve the lives of women and girls, including efforts by UNICEF, the Gates Foundation, ONE’s Poverty is Sexist campaign, PEPFAR’s DREAMS partnership, the U.K. Department for International Development’s Girl Effect, and the Stop TB Partnership’s new gender assessment tool (3/8).

Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs”: Innovative health tools put the power of protection in women’s hands
In recognition of International Women’s Day, Kat Kelley, GHTC’s senior program assistant, discusses “two novel, female-initiated health technologies [– the woman’s condom and dapivirine ring –] that have the potential to give women and girls greater control over their sexual and reproductive health, empowering them to make informed decisions about whether and when to have children and to protect themselves and their families from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)” (3/8).

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