KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

GAVI Alliance On Track To Immunize Quarter Billion Children By 2015, Report Shows

“The GAVI Alliance … has announced it is on track to immunize a quarter of a billion children against killer diseases by 2015,” VOA News reports (Schlein, 10/14). “That’s the conclusion of the Mid-Term Review report, a comprehensive and transparent assessment published [Monday] aimed at examining the progress GAVI has made midway through its current strategic period from 2011 to 2015, and the challenges it faces in meeting its commitments to developing countries and to donors,” a press release from the organization states, adding, “The report is being published two weeks before GAVI partners — including the [WHO], UNICEF, the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, implementing and donor countries, civil society organizations and vaccine manufacturers — meet in Stockholm for the Alliance’s Mid-Term Review” (10/14). “The organization said nearly four million children’s lives will be saved thanks to these additional vaccinations,” VOA writes, noting, “GAVI introduced pentavalent vaccines in 2001 with the aim of reaching all 73 GAVI-eligible countries by 2014” (10/14).

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Integrate Nutrition Into Development Programs To Curtail Child Malnutrition, IRIN Reports

Noting “[m]alnutrition among children under age five in the Sahel is expected to rise again this year,” IRIN examines efforts to curtail malnutrition among this population. However, “as specialists collect robust evidence on the most effective ways to save the lives of 1.5 million children in the region — going beyond food to tackle malaria, boost health care, increase vaccination coverage and improve access to clean water as part of integrated packages — donors remain cautious about commitments,” the news service states. The article examines how donors, international non-governmental organizations, and national governments can work together to address the major causes of malnutrition, which currently “are often not well integrated; instead they are ‘siloed’ in pilot projects or ‘vertical programs’ focusing on vaccinations, health care or nutrition, each run by a different organization” (10/14).

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Devex Interviews UNITAID Deputy Executive Director

Noting “[t]his year marks the seventh anniversary of UNITAID,” a global initiative “known for investing funds raised from solidarity airline ticket levies in medicines, diagnostics and prevention methods for HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in the developing world,” Devex President and Editor-In-Chief Raj Kumar interviews Philippe Duneton, deputy executive director of UNITAID, on the sidelines of the World Convergences Forum 2013 in Paris. Duneton provides an overview of the initiative, briefly discusses funding, and examines the future aims of the initiative (Villarino, 10/15).

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Cholera Outbreak Continues To Spread In Central Mexico

“A cholera outbreak in central Mexico has risen to 159 confirmed cases and spread to four states as well as the capital, the country’s health minister said on Monday,” Reuters reports. “One death has been attributed to the outbreak, the ministry said as it launched a nationwide public health campaign aimed at preventing further infections,” the news service writes, noting, “The east-central state of Hidalgo has been the worst affected with 145 confirmed cases, including the death of a 75-year-old woman.” The news service adds, “Also affected were the states of Mexico with nine, Veracruz with two, San Luis Potosi with one, and another couple in Mexico City, said Health Minister Mercedes Juan” (Garcia et al., 10/14).

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Clinical Trial Testing Hookworm Vaccine To Begin In Gabon Next Year

“The first African clinical trial of an experimental vaccine against hookworm is planned for next year,” the New York Times reports. Though rarely fatal, the worms are especially a concern among children who often go barefoot, the newspaper notes, adding, “By constantly draining their victims’ blood, the worms cause anemia, stunted growth and learning problems, and leave children too weak to go to school.” Sabin Vaccine Institute Director Peter Hotez “explained that the vaccine creates antibodies not against the parasites themselves but against two enzymes found in the worm’s own gut — one that detoxifies the iron in its blood diet, and another that digests blood proteins,” and “[w]ithout those enzymes the worm slowly dies,” the newspaper writes. “The trial will start on a few adults in Gabon, and children will eventually be enrolled,” according to the New York Times (McNeil, 10/14).

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Editorials and Opinions

Addressing Global Hunger Involves More Than Increasing Food Production Yields

“It’s been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy spoke of ending world hunger, yet on the eve of World Food Day, October 16, the situation remains dire,” New York Times columnist Mark Bittman writes in an International New York Times opinion piece. In the current system, “a third [of the calories produced globally] go to feed animals, nearly five percent are used to produce biofuels, and as much as a third is wasted, all along the food chain,” he states. It “is neither environmentally nor economically sustainable, dependent as it is on fossil fuels and routinely resulting in environmental damage,” he continues, discussing the differences between the “two food systems, one industrial and one of small landholders, or peasants if you prefer.”

“We might begin by ditching the narrow focus on yields,” Bittman writes, because “[b]etter, it would seem, would be to ask not how much food is produced, but how it’s produced, for whom, at what price, cost and benefit. We also need to see more investment in researching the benefits of traditional farming.” He continues, “If equal resources were put into reducing waste — which aside from its obvious merits would vastly prevent the corresponding greenhouse gas emissions — questioning the value of animal products, reducing overconsumption …, actively promoting saner, less energy-consuming alternatives, and granting that peasants have the right to farm their traditional landholdings, we could not only ensure that people could feed themselves but also reduce agriculture’s contribution to greenhouse gases, chronic disease and energy depletion” (10/14).

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'Informed Vigilance' Necessary To Prepare For Emerging Zoonotic Infections

In an International New York Times opinion piece, author David Quammen examines the origins of various infectious diseases, writing, “AIDS, SARS, Ebola virus and many other new diseases have one thing in common: they are zoonotic,” meaning “they came from nonhuman animals and made the leap to humans.” He notes “60 percent of human infectious diseases, including the worst of the old ones and the scariest of the new, are zoonotic,” and he adds, “Now disease experts wonder about the ‘next big one’: when will it come, what will it look like, from which reservoir host will it spill over, and how many people will it kill?” He continues, “Experts believe that the next global pandemic is likely to be caused by a virus with high ‘intrinsic evolvability,’ meaning that it mutates especially quickly or recombines elements of its genetic material during the process of replication.”

“Precise prediction may not be possible, but informed vigilance is,” Quammen writes, and describes some of these efforts. He states, “We can’t prevent another malign bug from entering the human population. But will it kill a few thousand people, or tens of millions?” He concludes, “The answer may depend not just on the nature of the virus, and on the density and abundance of Homo sapiens on this planet, but also on the particulars of how we respond” (10/14). In an accompanying New York Times article, Quammen “looks deeper at the symptoms, circumstances and fallout that characterized the Black Death, Spanish Influenza, Ebola virus, AIDS and SARS” (10/14).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

ONE, CSIS Event Examines Future Of Electrify Africa Movement

The ONE blog highlights an event hosted last week by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) with support from ONE, called Powering Africa’s Progress, during which panelists discussed the future of the Electrify Africa Act. The panel featured ONE CEO and President Michael Elliott; Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank; Tony Elumelu, chair of Heirs Holdings, an African investment company; and Darius Mans, president of Africare, according to the blog, which highlights four takeaways from the panel: transparency, creativity, collaboration and investment (10/14).

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IAVI, Partners Working To Prevent 'Brain Drain' In Developing Countries

In a guest post on the Global Health Technologies Coalition’s (GHTC) “Breakthroughs” blog, Elisabeth Wilhelm, senior media specialist at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), “writes about the need to invest in the next generation of researchers and scientists in sub-Saharan Africa,” according to the introduction. “Access to quality education not only can help prepare tomorrow’s HIV/AIDS scientists — it can also help them beat the odds of becoming tomorrow’s patients,” because “[t]he more education, the lower is the risk that young people will contract HIV,” Wilhelm writes. She discusses several programs spearheaded by IAVI and other organizations working to keep skilled researchers in their home countries to reduce “brain drain.” She adds, “We can help by promoting more in-country innovation, supporting robust [science, technology, and math (STEM)] education, and engaging young people earlier in academic settings throughout the Global South” (10/14).

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