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Also In Global Health News: U.S. Ambassador To U.N.; Male Circumcision; River Blindness In Ecuador; Nursing Shortage In Caribbean; Maternal Health In Bolivia; Drug-Resistant TB In North Korea; Cholera Vaccine

U.S. Ambassador To U.N. In Geneva Assumes Position, Ending 13 Month Vacancy

Betty King reported to her new position as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. “Washington’s Geneva mission had been without an ambassador since Warren W. Tichenor left his post on Jan. 20, 2009 – when Barack Obama was sworn in as president,” according to the news service (3/3).

IRIN/PlusNews Tracks Progress Of Male Circumcision Programs In 13 African Countries

IRIN/PlusNews tracks the progress of efforts to scale-up male circumcision programs for HIV prevention efforts in 13 African countries. Kenya, Zambia, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi and Uganda were “identified as priority countries for male circumcision scale-up by the U.N. World Health Organization,” according to the news service (3/2).

Ecuador Becomes Latest Country In Americas To Stop River Blindness, Carter Center Says

The Carter Center, a nonprofit global health organization created by former President Jimmy Carter, announced Monday, that “Ecuador has become the second country in the Americas to stop the transmission of river blindness, a disease that afflicts the poorest of the poor, mostly in Africa and South America,” AOL News reports (Drummond, 3/2). According to a Carter Center press release, Colombia was the first to achieve this goal in 2008 (3/1). “The organization hopes to eliminate river blindness transmission across the Americas by 2012,” AOL New writes (3/2).

‘Chronic Shortage’ Of Nurses In English-Speaking Caribbean Countries Hindering Healthcare, Report Says

“A chronic shortage of nurses in English-speaking Caribbean nations is limiting the quality of healthcare and may be hindering development in the region, the World Bank said [in a report] on Tuesday,” Reuters reports. Loss of nurses through emigration to the Britain, Canada and the U.S. for higher salaries is a significant factor in the region’s nursing shortage, the report said. It also noted growing demands of aging populations as another contributing factor (Allen, 3/2). 

“These shortages have tangible impacts that may compromise the ability of English-speaking [Caribbean] countries to meet their key health care service needs, especially in the areas of disease prevention and care,” according to a World Bank press release. “In addition, the shortage of highly trained nurses reduces the capacity of countries to offer quality health care at a time when Caribbean countries aim to attract businesses and retirees as an important pillar of growth” (3/2).

IPS Examines Bolivian Subsidy Program To Promote Maternal Health

Inter Press Service examines a program aimed at reducing maternal mortality in Bolivia. “The ‘Juana Azurduy’ mother-child subsidy programme introduced eight months ago should reduce the maternal mortality rate in Bolivia, South America’s poorest country, by 80 percent in five years’ time, according to the driving force behind the new strategy, former health minister Ramiro Tapia.” According to IPS, women receive a total of $258 for health center visits. “The subsidy, paid in 17 instalments, is conditional on the mother attending a state health centre for four prenatal check-ups, receiving medical attention during childbirth, and attending 12 postnatal check-ups for the mother and baby until the child is two years old” (Chavez, 3/2).

U.S. Scientists Help North Koreans Establish Lab For Detecting Drug-Resistant TB

Scientists from Stanford University’s medical school recently helped North Korea establish “its first laboratory capable of detecting drug-resistant tuberculosis,” the New York Times reports. “The project began after John W. Lewis, an expert on Chinese politics at Stanford participating in informal diplomatic talks over North Korea’s nuclear threat, realized how serious a TB problem the country had. In 2008, doctors from North Korea’s health ministry visited experts in the San Francisco Bay area. Last month, a Stanford team began installing the new diagnostics lab at a hospital in the capital, Pyongyang,” according to the newspaper (McNeil, 3/1).

Producing Cholera Vaccines In Developing Countries Could Expand Coverage

Claire-Lise Chaignat, head of the WHO’s global task force on cholera control, said Monday that producing oral cholera vaccines in developing countries could help to ensure that more people are protected against the disease, Reuters reports. Chaignat “said infections continue to propagate in poorer countries that cannot afford vaccines made by Western companies,” adding that the WHO has “high expectations” for a vaccine made by Shantha Biotechnics, an Indian company. The vaccine is “in the pipeline for pre-qualification by WHO,” she said in the WHO Bulletin (3/1).

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