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Also In Global Health News: Concurrent Partners And HIV; Disease Concerns In Pakistan; Mozambique’s Chronic Hunger Problems; Family Planning And Food In Niger; Maternal Health In Sierra Leone; Malaria In Myanmar

IRIN/PlusNews Examines Debate On The Impact Of Concurrent Partners On HIV Transmission

Researchers have begun to “explore concurrency as a possible explanation for why parts of the continent have been so hard hit by HIV,” however “not everyone in the scientific community accepts the theory,” IRIN/PlusNews writes in an article that explores the concurrency debate in Africa. “While most Africans report similar numbers of partners over a lifetime as their Western counterparts, having long-term simultaneous relationships is thought to put them at much higher risk from HIV by placing them in overlapping sexual networks,” the news service reports. The article quotes researchers on both sides of the debate as well as program implementers on the ground, who are “are mostly oblivious to or perplexed by the academic debate” (10/18). A separate IRIN/PlusNews article tracks the concurrent partner debate from 1982-2009 (10/18).

Pakistan Flood Victims ‘More Vulnerable’ To Disease As Winter Nears

PBS’ NewsHour reports on flood victims in Pakistan who, as winter nears, “will be more vulnerable to illness and disease.” Amin Ullah, a doctor working with a mobile medical team, said stagnant water and lack of shelter are contributing to diseases “becoming more common” as well as malnutrition. He also said skin infections, malaria and respiratory infections are “very much dominant” among the displaced, especially children. The report also quotes Akbar Shah, a refugee, Sajjid Ahmad, a Nowshera district hospital doctor, Islam Uddin, a farmer and Truls Brekke of the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization and examines the spoilage of “six million acres” of land (Kaye, 10/18).

NewsHour Looks At Chronic Hunger, Food Insecurity In Mozambique

“[T]he chronic problems of hunger and food insecurity remain in” Mozambique, despite the government’s efforts to reduce prices by reinstating food subsidies, PBS’ NewsHour’s blog “The Rundown” reports. The article notes that the country was rated “alarming” by the Global Hunger Index recently, “even while being cited for improvements.” The report looks at Mozambique’s dependence on imports for food, which means “price changes in the global market can have a swift impact” on the country. NewsHour adds that nutrition can “start to suffer” in households that “might spend half or three quarters of their income on food” (Miller, 10/18).

Niger Needs Better Family Planning To Avert Future Food Crises, U.N. Says

“Foreign aid covered 80 percent of Niger’s needs during this year’s food crisis, Nigerien officials say, but the United Nations has warned that the country must rein in its population growth to prevent further crises,” Reuters writes. “There are recurrent food crises, but there is also a very high growth in population, which could go from 15 million today to about 50 million in 2050,” Valerie Amos, the U.N.’s top aid official, said. The article notes that “birth control programmes are particularly controversial in mostly rural, Muslim states like Niger.” Abdoul Karim Goukoye, spokesman for Niger’s military junta, “said the newly-created Nigerien food security agency, known as HASA, would develop short-, medium- and long-term policies to improve the situation” (Massalatchi, 10/18).

IPS Examines Sierra Leone’s Promise Of Free Maternal Health Care

Inter Press Service reports on Sierra Leone’s “unfulfilled” promise of free maternal health care in an article that looks at resource shortages, high child mortality in the country, lack of staff in health facilities as well as the “first successes” of the program. “Samuel Kargbo, director of the reproductive and child health programme of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, admits that the unavailability of equipment and infrastructure as well as the extensive bureaucracy within his department has hampered health care provision throughout the country,” IPS writes. The article notes that the country has “only eight” obstetrician/gynecologists in the public health system, and eight more in the private sector. There have also been “serious allegations by civil society organisations that some patients are asked to pay” for services that are meant to be free. Kargbo also points out that the program has managed to boost utilization of health facilities, implement a monitoring team, and foster an overall drop in maternal and child mortality rates (Fofanah, 10/16).

AFP Examines Malaria In Myanmar

Agence France-Presse examines how Myanmar’s weak public health system is hindering the fight against malaria. “While some public healthcare – such as malaria tests and treatment – is supposed to be free, often clinics are not supplied with drugs and patients have to go to local pharmacies,” the news service writes of the situation in the country, which receives little overseas development aid even though five decades of army rule has made it one of the least developed countries in the world. “Many struggle to get the help they need, particularly in rural border states such as Kachin that are home to marginalised ethnic minorities. … ‘Almost 70 percent of healthcare is provided by the private sector, but this is of varying quality and not affordable for a big group,’ said a foreign aid worker in Myanmar, who declined to be named owing to political sensitivities.” The piece also includes information from Frank Smithuis, former Myanmar director of Medecins Sans Frontieres, who has been in the country for 16 years (10/15).

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