Also In Global Health News: Food Shortages In Eritrea; Kenya HIV Testing; Aid In Malawi, Nepal; U.S. Agriculture Appointment

BBC Examines Eritrea’s Response To Food Shortages

BBC examines Eritrea’s decision to pass on international food aid in an effort to produce enough food for its population. According to Girma Asmerom, Eritrea’s ambassador to the EU, “foreign food aid demonises the local people and makes them lazy.” The government’s strategy for addressing food shortages, includes distributing food from some areas in the country that had a bumper harvest, he said. “But Eritreans who have fled across the border to a refugee camp in northern Ethiopia [said] their government’s policy was causing widespread hunger.” The article includes quotes from a former Eritrean health ministry employee and John Holmes, the U.N.’s under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief (Harter, 12/24).

Door-To-Door Voluntary HIV Testing Campaign Reaches 1.5M

PlusNews examines the results of a door-to-door voluntary HIV testing and counseling campaign that was launched in Kenya in November. According to Nicholas Muraguri, director of the National AIDS and Sexually transmitted infections Control Programme (NASCOP), preliminary results show 1.5 million were tested – a number he said may rise as the records from the campaign are compiled. “The campaign was part of the government’s initiative to have at least 80 percent of Kenyans tested for HIV by end-2010; according to NASCOP, 40 percent of Kenyans have been tested at least once,” the news service writes. The article includes information on local efforts in Kenya to increase the rates of male circumcision, as part of a larger national goal (12/24).

Aid Agencies Respond To Earthquake Survivors In Malawi

U.N. officials on Wednesday said that aid agencies have started distributing relief supplies in Malawi to assist people who have been injured or displaced after a series of earthquakes hit this month, Xinhua reports. UNICEF has given out about 2,200 survival kits, which include mosquito nets, blankets and other basic items. “UNICEF has also issued plastic sheeting, buckets, chlorine and other water purification materials, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs” (12/23). On Tuesday, Malawi’s president, Bingu wa Mutharika, said the situation was a national disaster, which came after Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management Affairs made an international appeal for assistance, Reuters reports (12/23). “Besides immediate temporary shelter materials, water treatment tablets, toilet construction material and new boreholes, were a priority,” according to IRIN (12/24).

WFP Suspends Food Aid To Over Half-Million Due To Funding Shortfall

A World Food Program (WFP) official announced Wednesday that the organization has been forced to suspend food aid to over a half a million people living in Nepal due to a funding shortfall, believed to be the result of the global financial situation, Reuters reports. “The U.N. agency says it needs $20 million to continue feeding 600,000 people – more than a quarter of the total number it was assisting – in the impoverished Himalayan nation over the next three months,” the news service writes. Unless aid money comes soon, the WFP representative said the group may have to stop food aid to an additional 250,000 people in Nepal (Bhalla, 12/23).

Vilsack Appoints Special Representative To U.S. Mission to U.N. In Rome

“Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday reassigned Michael Michener, administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service, to serve as his special representative at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations Agencies in Rome,” reports. In an e-mail announcing his Dec. 31 departure, Michener said “he was ‘honored’ to take on the new role because the U.N. agencies with which he would be coordinating – the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Program and the International Fund for Agricultural Development – ‘are playing an influential role'” in leading global food security programs and other efforts, the publication writes (Hagstrom, 12/23).

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