KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

U.N. Urges Sudan To Address Polio Outbreak; Researchers Discuss Eradication Strategies In Journal

“Alarmed by the imminent threat posed by the spread of polio through South Kordofan, the United Nations Security Council [on Friday] called on the Sudanese Government to carry out a vaccination campaign immediately to stop the spread of the disease,” which is threatening the province and the Horn of Africa, the U.N. News Centre reports. “They called on the Sudanese Government and the militant group of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) to urgently resolve differences over the technical plans necessary … to implement the polio vaccination campaign,” which is scheduled to begin on November 5, the news service notes (10/11). VOA News discusses two articles published last week in PLOS Medicine that propose “a different strategy to eradicate polio in countries where the disease remains endemic, namely, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.” In particular, the researchers “say greater community involvement and stronger health systems are needed,” including support for female health workers, the news service notes (DeCapua, 10/11).

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News Outlets Report On Outbreaks Of Dengue In India, Cambodia

Two news outlets examine outbreaks of dengue fever in India and Cambodia. An outbreak of dengue fever in India “has killed more than 100 people, inundated hospitals with patients and triggered school closures” since February, BBC News reports. “The government says 109 Indians have died from the tropical illness in the first nine months of this year and 38,179 cases have been recorded in total, more than double the number for all of 2011,” the news service writes, adding, “Experts say this year’s early and prolonged monsoon has provided more breeding grounds for disease-carrying mosquitoes, who lay their eggs in stagnant water.” The news service notes, “But some have blamed the government for not doing enough to tackle the spread of the disease despite fresh cases being reported year after year” (10/13).

In similar news, GlobalPost reports that in Cambodia, where flooding is perennial, “[m]ore than 100 are dead, roughly 850 square miles flooded and more than 60,000 evacuated from their homes, according to situation reports prepared by United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations.” The news service writes, “To varying degrees, two-thirds of Cambodia’s provinces have been hit by a flooding crisis,” adding, “Severely flooded zones now appear threatened by a rash of diseases, namely dengue fever (borne by mosquitoes, which lay eggs in fetid water), as well as respiratory illness (such as the flu) and … diarrhea” (Winn, 10/13).

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Harvard, GlobalPost Panel Addresses Path To Reducing Child Mortality Globally

“The Forum at the Harvard School of Public Health, in collaboration with GlobalPost, hosted a panel on Wednesday to address the path to reducing child mortality on a global scale,” the news service reports in its “Rights” blog. The discussion — moderated by Charles Sennott, GlobalPost co-founder and editor-at-large — “explored what works in the global effort to fight child mortality, and what doesn’t work,” the blog notes, adding, “Panel experts covered issues ranging from malaria prevention to dirty water to maternal health; but they continued to circle back to one central theme: global health is directly related to human rights.” The blog quotes a number of panel participants, including Elizabeth Gibbons, senior fellow and visiting scientist at the FXB Center at Harvard and a former director at UNICEF; Jacqueline Bhabha, director of research at the FXB Center; and Regina Rabinovitch, ExxonMobil malaria scholar in residence at Harvard (Sanchez, 10/11).

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Saudi Health Ministry Says No MERS Cases Detected So Far Among Hajj Pilgrims

“Saudi Arabia has so far recorded no cases of the deadly MERS coronavirus among pilgrims in the holy city of Mecca for the annual hajj season, the Ministry of Health said on Saturday,” Reuters reports. “The death toll from the respiratory virus in the kingdom, where the strain emerged last year, has reached 51, and some health officials had feared there could be a large outbreak in a huge congregation of pilgrims from the Muslim world,” the news agency notes (Bakr, 10/12). “But the authorities have said they are optimistic the hajj will pass without incident, given Muslims also go on lesser pilgrimages at other times of the year and there has been no problem,” Agence France-Presse writes. “The [health] minister said up to 600 public health employees wearing face masks were deployed at Jeddah international airport to screen arriving pilgrims,” and “Riyadh has also urged the elderly and chronically ill, who are particularly susceptible to MERS, to avoid the hajj and have advised pilgrims to wear face masks,” according to the news service (Hasan, 10/11).

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IRIN Examines Debate Over FAO's Data Calculation Methods

IRIN examines the debate over the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) “methods of calculating the number of hungry people in the world in its annual report, the State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI).” According to the news service, “The 2013 SOFI is an improvement over the 2012 report, say experts, but there are still problems with the quality of data.” Writing, “At issue is the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) — the main indicator FAO uses to calculate the global numbers,” IRIN includes comments from Timothy Wise, director of the research and policy program at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University; Piero Conforti, FAO’s senior statistician; Carlo Cafiero, senior statistician and economist with FAO; Ellen Messer of the Friedman School of Nutrition and Science Policy at Tufts University; and José Luis Valero Pol, an anti-hunger activist with Université Catholique de Louvain (10/14).

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Editorials and Opinions

U.N. 'Should Acknowledge Responsibility' For Haiti Cholera Outbreak, Increase Response

Haiti’s cholera epidemic “is a calamity, … a man-made disaster, advocates for Haitian victims contend, asserting the epidemic is a direct result of the negligence of United Nations peacekeepers who failed to keep their contaminated sewage out of a river from which thousands of Haitians drink,” a New York Times editorial writes. The U.N. “has refused to accept blame, though the evidence of its peacekeepers’ recklessness is overwhelming,” the editorial states, highlighting a class-action “lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan last week by an advocacy group seek[ing] financial reparations from the United Nations on behalf of thousands of sickened Haitians.” The editorial continues, “The United Nations’ response — as it has been the last three years — was to claim immunity from litigation while expressing sympathy for the dead and infected, and promising to keep working to eradicate the epidemic.”

“The lawsuit’s chances of success are unclear, given the United Nations’ strong claims to diplomatic immunity, a principle embedded in its founding documents to enable the work it does across the globe. But even a body immune to legal claims cannot shed accountability,” the New York Times states. “There is no disputing that the United Nations has saved and improved lives in Haiti since the quake; its peacekeepers and humanitarian workers need to stay as the country struggles to recover. And the broad principle of its immunity is important,” the newspaper continues. “But the lives lost and blighted because of United Nations negligence are important, too,” the editorial writes, adding, “It should acknowledge responsibility, apologize to Haitians and give the victims the means to file claims against it for the harm they say has been done them. It can also redouble its faltering, underfinanced response to the epidemic, which threatens to kill and sicken thousands more in the coming decade” (10/12).

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Editorials Address Prospect Of Malaria Vaccine

“The Sixth Pan African Multilateral Initiative on Malaria, the world’s largest conference on malaria, took place in Durban, South Africa, [last] week, where results from the most clinically advanced trials showed that over 18 months of follow-up, the RTS,S vaccine almost halved the number of malaria cases in young children and reduced by about a quarter the number of malaria cases in infants,” IRIN reports, noting GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which has spent three decades developing the vaccine, intends to apply for regulatory approval with the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The following summarizes several editorials addressing the potential malaria vaccine.

  • The Economist: “In children (aged five to 17 months when vaccinated) it reduced the number of cases by 46 percent. In infants (aged six to 12 weeks) it reduced them by 27 percent. And its effect seems to wane,” the editorial notes, adding, “These figures compare with the aspiration, set by a consortium of malaria experts in 2006, to have by 2015 a vaccine that was more than 50 percent protective. RTS,S has not reached that desideratum, but its effects are not negligible.” The editorial concludes, “The big questions, then, are whether RTS,S is effective enough to win approval from the [EMA], whether the WHO will recommend its use, and whether donors will pay for it” (10/12).
  • Financial Times: Noting GSK’s work on the vaccine and the pharmaceutical industry’s so-called “10/90 gap” — “that only 10 percent of research is devoted to treatments for diseases that affect 90 percent of the world’s population,” the editorial states, “[A] glance at Big Pharma’s pipelines shows a distinct bias towards ‘western’ diseases. Yet it is unfair to accuse the industry of not caring.” The editorial highlights work by several other drug companies on neglected diseases and notes “GSK will barely cover its costs on RTS,S.” It concludes, “By persevering with RTS,S, GSK shows that drug companies can do well and do good simultaneously” (10/11).
  • New York Times: “While [the vaccine’s] efficacy is modest, it is nonetheless a significant advance in the long struggle to control a disease that kills some 600,000 people a year, mostly children under the age of five,” the editorial states. Noting the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped fund the clinical trials through the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, the editorial writes, “There are still scientific and practical hurdles to surmount — a final judgment on safety and efficacy and an analysis of the public health impact and cost-effectiveness of using this vaccine. With no other broadly tested vaccine on the immediate horizon, we can hope Glaxo’s passes muster” (10/13).

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Opinion Pieces Address Need For Inclusion Of Women, Girls In Post-2015 Development Agenda

The following is a summary of opinion pieces calling for the inclusion of women and girls in the post-2015 development agenda, published in recognition of the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11.

  • Eliza Anyangwe, The Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network” blog: Anyangwe, content manager for the blog, reports on how “[p]lacing adolescent girls at the heart of development programs can benefit entire communities.” A number of experts weigh in on “how best to implement the ‘girl effect'” (10/11).
  • Christy Turlington Burns, Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog: “Adolescent girls are not children, but they’re not quite adults,” making “them particularly vulnerable, powerless and at risk of different forms of exploitation,” Burns, founder of Every Mother Counts, writes. “They are a category on their own with very specific needs that global policy makers and the international humanitarian community must identify, understand and tackle appropriately,” she continues, adding, “It’s time for the international development community to identify them as a priority target, one that must be consulted when implementing and evaluating new programs and services” (10/11).
  • Jeni Klugman and Matthew Morton, Thomson Reuters Foundation opinion piece:  “The costs associated with gender-based violence, like the scale of the problem itself, are indeed staggering — in both individual suffering and lost productivity and earnings. And that creates unique obstacles to tackling poverty in many of the world’s poorest, most vulnerable countries,” Klugman, director of gender and development at the World Bank Group, and Matthew Morton, a social scientist and gender expert at the bank, write. “To address these issues, the World Bank Group, with its twin corporate commitments to ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity, has made gender equality a top priority, including tackling gender-based violence,” they continue, and outline some of the bank’s work.
  • Babatunde Osotimehin, Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog: “With just over 800 days remaining to the [Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)] deadline, we must combine our efforts to tackle the top causes of maternal death and prevent unintended pregnancies,” Osotimehin, executive director of UNFPA, writes. “Increasing access to basic medicines and clean health supplies, for instance, could save the lives of tens of thousands of women every year. And many more deaths could be averted if women and girls could access contraceptives to plan their pregnancies. Yet, over 200 million women still lack access to this basic need,” he states, adding, “However, commodities alone cannot solve the problem of maternal death. Substantial investment will also be required to ensure that these supplies can actually reach the women who need them” (10/10).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Secretary Kerry, Melinda Gates Recognize International Day Of The Girl Child

In a statement marking the International Day of the Girl Child, recognized on October 11, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the day “is a chance for us to reaffirm our commitment to girls’ rights, to celebrate their value to society, and to address the unique challenges they still face. It is a call to action for everyone to build on the progress we have made on global women’s rights. If we heed that call, if we keep faith with the enormous potential and promise of young women, the dreams of our daughters will one day be just as viable as the dreams of our sons” (10/11). In a post on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Melinda Gates writes the day “reminds us that girls everywhere have the same ambitions for their futures. Girls everywhere want more for themselves than their societies tell them is reasonable to expect. And girls everywhere — when they have a chance to be themselves — make the world around them better” (10/11).

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GAVI Alliance Releases Mid-Term Review

The GAVI Alliance released its 2013 Mid-Term Review, which reports on the organization’s 2011-2015 strategy. The report, including an overview and sections on results, challenges, prospects and key indicators, is available online (October 2013).

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PAHO Interviews NTD Special Envoy Arzú, Former President Of Guatemala

The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ (NTDs) “End the Neglect” blog provides a transcript of an interview of NTD Special Envoy Álvaro Arzú, mayor of Guatemala City and former president of Guatemala, conducted by PAHO earlier this month at the organization’s 52nd Directing Council. According to the transcript, Arzú “was asked to comment on the challenges of controlling and eliminating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in the region of the Americas” (10/11).

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