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Also In Global Health News: Disasters In Indonesia; Maternal Health In Pakistan; Gates Grand Challenges Grants; Development Innovation Ventures; Dengue Fever Treatment

Death Toll Rises From Two Disasters In Indonesia; Minister Says Aid Not Needed Yet

The death toll from two recent disasters in Indonesia – a tsunami and volcano eruption – “rose to more than 340 Thursday” and hundreds were reportedly missing, the Associated Press reports. According to an official, “a warning system installed after a deadly ocean wave in 2004 had broken from a lack of maintenance,” the news service writes (Ibrahim/Riyadi, 10/27). “Relief workers struggled to overcome rough seas in order to assess damage and deliver aid to islands smashed” by the tsunami, according to the Wall Street Journal, which adds that some relief boats were forced to turn around after reaching affected areas because of bad weather (Yuniar/Barta, 10/27). IRIN reports on the “increased health risks” of people displaced by the volcano, including respiratory illnesses caused by volcanic dust (10/27). Reuters reports that the volcano, Mount Merapi, erupted for a second time on Thursday (Sari, 10/28).

“[D]espite the death and destruction of the last 48 hours, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said today that he doesn’t yet see a need for foreign aid or rescue assistance,” the Atlantic writes, adding that both the U.S. and the Philippines have offered aid (Weingarten, 10/27).

NewsHour Reports On Maternal Health Among Flood Victims In Pakistan

PBS NewsHour reports on maternal and infant health among flood victims in Pakistan. The report follows the Pakistan Medical Association, which has set up tents in camps and provided midwives to monitor pregnancies. “The U.N. estimates half-a-million women will give birth in the flood-affected zones in the next six months. Those that make it to the camps are relatively lucky. They should get some medical assistance. Others are still wading in the water, with no access to even basic health care, the unseen and the unlucky,” according to NewsHour. The report includes interviews with Nagina Ilyas, a midwife, Shershah Syed, a doctor with the medical association, and women who were displaced by the floods (Mohsin, 10/27).

Gates Foundation Awards Nine Projects In Grand Challenges Program

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will award nine grantees “up to an additional $1 million over five years” in the next phase of its Grand Challenges Explorations program, according to the Canadian Press. Projects that will receive new money “to take their ideas to the next level,” include the development of “light barriers to stop mosquitoes from reaching humans,” examining proteins to destroy gene mutations created by HIV, adding gold particles to infectious disease drugs to “help treatments withstand drug resistance,” and studying the structure of malaria parasite genes to prevent drug resistance. The initial phase of the program awarded seed money to 340 projects (Blankinship, 10/27).

SciDev.net Examines USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures Fund

SciDev.net examines the Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) fund, “a major new initiative to link its aid agency USAID to the private and entrepreneurial sectors in a bid to promote technological innovation in the developing world” that was launched earlier this month. The venture has invested $1 million so far in eight projects including “an affordable, clean, fuel-cell bike, solar lighting in rural Uganda” and Dimagi, Inc., which received $100,000 to test its mobile phone disease diagnosis software in India. The article quotes Neal Lesh, CEO of Dimagi, Rajiv Shah, USAID administrator, Cathy Campbell, the CEO of the U.S. Civilian and Research Development Foundation and Maura O’Neill, chief innovations officer at USAID, who said over 100 projects have requested funding so far (Tatalovic, 10/26).

Roche Explores Possibility That Drug Initially Developed For Hepatitis C Could Aid Patients With Dengue Fever

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the drugmaker Roche in July began testing “a drug initially developed for hepatitis C to see if it helps patients with dengue fever,” a disease the WHO estimates infects 50 million people annually. According to the news service, “[a]s many as 100 patients may potentially be recruited for the study, sponsored by Basel, Switzerland-based Roche, [Jeremy] Farrar [one of the researchers involved in the Roche trial] said. It’s the first of three stages of clinical trials that regulators usually require to approve a new medicine. Doctors will also look to see whether by using an antiviral to fight the infection, patients can avoid bleeding complications linked to an exaggerated immune response, he said.” The article notes the relationship between the hepatitis C and dengue viruses, the growing number of dengue cases globally and the annual dengue-related productivity and health care costs (Gale, 10/26).

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