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Also In Global Health News: Infectious Disease; Aid Money Needed For Afghanistan, Haiti; Increasing Rice Production; Family Planning In Rwanda

Species Extinction Could Lead Humans To Become More Vulnerable To Infectious Diseases

“[T]he loss of biodiversity may make humans more vulnerable to infectious diseases,” according to a review article published Thursday in the journal Nature, VOA News reports (DeCapua, 12/6). “The review analyses studies of 12 diseases, including West Nile fever and Lyme disease, in ecosystems around the world,” Nature News reports. “In every study, the diseases became more prevalent as biodiversity was lost. For example, three studies showed that a decreased diversity of small mammals in an area causes the prevalence of hantaviruses – which induce fatal lung infections in humans – in host animals to rise, thereby increasing the risk to humans,” the news service writes (Gilbert, 12/1). “Why this is the case remains a mystery, the authors added. What isn’t a mystery is the need to counter the extinction scenario by working to closely monitor the potential spread of infectious disease while preserving natural habitats,” HealthDay News/BusinessWeek reports (Mozes, 12/1).

U.N. Launches $678M Humanitarian Appeal For Afghanistan

The U.N. on Saturday “launched a $678 million humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan, where despite inflows of millions of foreign aid dollars, the world body said about a quarter of the population goes hungry,” Reuters reports in an article that tracks where some aid funding to the country goes (Nichols, 12/4). The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also recently “launched an appeal for $89 million for Afghanistan, its largest humanitarian operation for the second year in a row,” Reuters writes in a separate article that includes comments from U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg (Nichols, 12/5). “More than 7 million Afghans are food insecure, and many millions rely on food assistance, a statement from U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Sunday,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (12/5).

U.N. Secretary-General Calls For International Community To Increase Aid To Fight Cholera Outbreak In Haiti

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday called for the international community to increase aid to Haiti to fight an ongoing cholera outbreak “that has claimed more than 1,800 lives,” CNN reports. Of the $164 million the U.N. requested in mid-November, “Ban said only 20 percent had materialized,” according to the news service (12/3). “‘Clearly, [cholera] will continue to spread [in Haiti], unfortunately,’ [Ban] told an informal meeting of the General Assembly, noting that the epidemic could affect as many as 650,000 people in the next six months, and that the current toll may already be twice as high as the over 1,800 deaths and nearly 81,000 cases reported so far,” U.N. News Centre adds. “Ban cited the urgent need for more cholera treatment centres, both large and small, and more trained medical and non-medical personnel to run them to minimize the fatality rate, which he noted had decreased over the past six weeks from 7.6 percent to 3.6 percent in a country that is still reeling from an earthquake in January that killed 200,000 people and rendered some 1.3 million others homeless,” the news service adds (12/3).

IRRI Reports Examine Ways To Bolster Rice Production

With an estimated “75 percent of the world’s rice grown in flooded, lowland conditions … [r]ice production faces the threat of a growing worldwide water scarcity,” USAgNet/Wisconsin Ag Connection reports in an article describing the efforts by scientists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to create a rice crop that is drought-resistant and high-yielding in low-water conditions. Researchers describe such a crop, which was developed with the support of the Asian Development Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in the November-December issue of the journal Crop Science, according to the news service (12/3). Meanwhile, IRRI and the Asia Society on Friday released a food security report (.pdf) for Asia, “calling for increased investment in rice research,” according to an IRRI press release. “Existing global efforts to combat hunger and achieve food security are evaluated in the report, which also recommends more research on: climate change mitigation for farming, farming infrastructure, and market price stability,” the release states (12/3).

GlobalPost Examines Family Planning Efforts In Rwanda

GlobalPost reports on recent efforts taken by Rwanda’s government to “ma[ke] family planning a top priority, aware that high fertility is driving poverty and hunger.” According to the news service, “Across the country, according to the ministry of health, authorities are committed to giving all women access to modern contraception – including short-term methods such as condoms, pills and injectables and long-term methods like implants and male vasectomy. Though clients are now served at hospitals and health centers, the government has recently trained a network of 3,000 community health workers who provide door-to-door counseling and services in the most remote areas – all free of charge.” The article details how high population levels impact the economic growth of a country and contribute to maternal and child health challenges (Rosen, 12/2).

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