Also In Global Health News: New U.N. Drug Czar; Measles Vaccinations in China; Pakistan Flood Endangers Pregnant Women; Campaign Against Rape In Haiti

New U.N. Drug Czar Pledges Public Health, Human Rights Focus

The new head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Yury Fedotov, took office on Monday and “pledged to focus on public health and human rights,” the Associated Press reports. A former Russian diplomat, Fedotov said in a statement, “Whether we talk of the victims of human trafficking, communities oppressed by corrupt leaders, unfair criminal justice systems or drug users marginalized by society, we are committed to making a positive difference.” He also said drug treatment programs should “promote the prevention of HIV.” Rick Lines, executive director of the International Harm Reduction Association, told the AP, “We certainly hope this sets the benchmark for the path he’ll be taking” (Oleksyn, 9/13).

Despite Public Distrust, Chinese Health Ministry Kicks Off 10-Day Measles Immunization Campaign

The Chinese Health Ministry on Saturday kicked off a 10-day measles vaccination drive that aims to reach 100 million children between the ages of eight months and 14 years, Xinhua reports (9/11). The Associated Press reports on how the news of the campaign “has set off a popular outcry that highlights widening public distrust of the authoritarian government after repeated health scandals. The campaign, “likely the world’s largest … is intended to include remote areas, migrant communities and other places where previous vaccination coverage has been spotty, ” the news service writes. The article details the history behind the public’s distrust of the health ministry, recent efforts by the government to assure the public the measles vaccines are safe and health care professionals’ questions “about the immunization drive’s broad scope, given that many children have previously been inoculated and thus would be vaccinated again” (Wong, 9/13).

U.N. Launches Campaign Against Rape In Haitian Relief Camps

The U.N. is training soldiers and running a public relations campaign to lower the risk of rape among Haitian earthquake victims living in relief camps, the Associated Press reports (Snow, 9/13). Edmund Mulet, head of the U.N.’s stabilization mission in Haiti, said that a U.N. police unit has a permanent presence in six camps and patrols 70 other camps, according to the U.N. News Centre. Mulet added that “it is impossible to assure complete security coverage in the 1,300 camps, given the available [Haitian police and U.N. peacekeeping] forces at hand,” and “stressed the need to carry out ‘credible and legitimate’ presidential and legislative elections” to ensure security (9/13). 

Pregnant Women At Increased Risk After Pakistan Floods

“[A] half million Pakistani women hit by the floods will give birth over the next six months, and about 32,000 of them will experience complications,” according to a WHO estimate, the Associated Press reports, noting that many women were malnourished before the disaster and now face increased complications. Some are getting aid, but “many pregnant women, such as those living along the road on the outskirts of hard-hit Multan, are forced to sleep on burlap rice sacks spread across gritty sand under tents propped up by bamboo poles. … Thousands of flies swarm the sweat-soaked women, most of whom have not bathed in a month because there is no water, toilet or privacy to escape men’s eyes in this conservative Muslim country. They are surviving on a daily handful of boiled rice and grains,” the AP writes (Mason, 9/11).

Alice Shackleford, country coordinator for the United Nations Development Fund for Women in Pakistan, said her organization has “serious concerns about the capacity of pregnant women to access distribution and services due to lack of presence of women in distribution,” MediaGlobal reports (Pitterson, 9/7).  

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