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Also In Global Health News: India’s Right To Information Law; Flu Treatment Study; Haiti Food Aid; U.S. Commits $88M To Zambia; Measles In Africa

New York Times Examines India’s Right To Information Law

The New York Times examines India’s Right to Information law and how it has “newly empowered” the country’s poor. The law enables citizens to file requests for information on pending housing stipends, government pensions or “almost any information from the government,” according to the newspaper. “The law has not, as some activists hoped, had a major effect on corruption. … Still, the law has become part of the fabric of rural India in the five years since it was passed, and has clearly begun to tilt the balance of power, long skewed toward bureaucrats and politicians.”

The article cites one village in which a local clinic was supposed to be staffed by a salaried trained medical worker who did not show up regularly. After a resident filed a request for her attendance records, she became accountable to the village and no longer misses work. The law has become “wildly popular,” the article states, “in the first three years the law was in effect, two million applications were filed. … Simply filing an inquiry about a missing ration card, a wayward pension application or a birth certificate is nowadays enough to force the once stodgy bureaucracy to deliver, activists here say” (Polgreen, 6/28).

New Study Tests Rare Antibody For Flu Treatment

Tests on mice suggest that rare antibodies in the human body “might be boosted to design a better universal flu treatment,” according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Reuters reports. Researchers treated mice with the antibodies then infected them with deadly doses of the H1N1 (swine) and H5N1 (bird) flu (Fox, 6/28). Sixty to 80 percent of infected mice treated with the antibody survived, compared with 10 percent or less of untreated mice, according to a press release (6/28).

NPR’s ‘Plant Money’/Frontline Looks At How Distribution Of Free Rice Is Affecting Haiti’s Rice Economy

NPR’s “Planet Money”/Frontline features its latest story, “The Problem With Giving Free Food To Hungry People,” in a series about Haiti’s post-earthquake economy. The report examines a side effect of aid groups distributing free rice – people stop buying from local vendors. The situation, according the report, “is exactly the kind of thing that can turn a one-time disaster into a crisis that lasts years. … Sometimes the way well-intentioned aid groups respond to a disaster can so disrupt local economies that it can cause more harm than good. We wanted to know, is that what’s happening here?” One alternative aid groups may try: “Rather than giving people free rice, give them money or vouchers to buy rice from local vendors” (Davidson, 6/27).

U.S. Commits $88M Over 5 Years To Bolster Zambia’s Health System

“The U.S. government has committed U.S. $88 million to strengthen Zambia’s health care system through a five-year programme that entails capacity building in the sector,” Times of Zambia/AllAfrica.com reports. Michael Koplovsky, Charge d’affaires at the U.S. embassy, said he hopes the partnership will help Zambia “reduce the need for outside development assistance and create a Zambian-driven future” (6/26). The U.S., through a contract with Abt Associates “will work with the Ministry of Health, focusing on HIV/AIDS, family planning/reproductive health, malaria, and maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition, according to a press release (6/25).

Measles Surges In Africa

Eighty-two people have died of measles and more than 17,000 have been infected in Malawi in the past six months, according to the department of health, Reuters reports. The country’s government has secured around $117,000 for to step up vaccination efforts in rural areas where 80 percent of the population lives, said Storn Kabuluzi a director at the department of health (Lilongwe, 6/25). Cases have also been reported in South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia and more than 500 people have died in Zimbabwe in the past year, according to Times Live/Sapa (6/28).

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