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Also In Global Health News: Uganda’s Crop Production; Boosting Immune System To Fight HIV/AIDS; Polio In Angola; Maternal Health In India; HIV/AIDS In Kenya; Drought, Food Shortages In Kenya, Somalia; NGOs In Haiti

Uganda Launches Program To Attract Farmers To Produce Staple Food Crops

Uganda recently launched a program aimed at attracting farmers in the country to produce staple food crops, the East African reports. The strategy, contained in the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) Implementation Guidelines, will offer “[e]ach farming household … $50 for crop-based commodities,” including “cassava cuttings, sweet potato vines, Irish potato, seed crops like maize, beans, sorghum, millet,” according to the newspaper. “NAADS will implement the programme that will also provide the farmers with planting and stocking materials for increased production to enable the farmers to sell the surplus and increase their incomes,” according to the East African (Abdallah, 2/7).

Boosting Immune System Clears HIV-Like Infection In Mice

“For the first time, an HIV-like infection has been cleared from an animal without the use of antiviral drugs,” according to a study published Thursday in the journal Cell, New Scientist reports (Zukerman, 2/4). The research team, “led by Dr. Marc Pellegrini from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, showed that a cell signaling hormone called interleukin-7 (IL-7) reinvigorates the immune response to chronic viral infection, allowing the host to completely clear virus,” according to a press release by the research institute. Pellegrini “said the finding could lead to a cure for chronic viral infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, and bacterial infections such as tuberculosis, which are significant economic and global health burdens” (2/4). However, he cautioned “it could still take 10 to 15 years before IL-7 could be approved for broadscale use to combat HIV,” AAP/News.com.au reports (2/4).

AFP Reports On Efforts To Stop The Spread Of Polio In Countries Where Virus Was Once Thought To Be Eradicated

Agence France-Presse reports on the return of polio to Angola, where between 2002 and 2005 the virus was believed to be eradicated. In 2010, 32 new cases of polio were reported in the eastern part of Angola, as well as its “two neighbouring countries where it had been considered eradicated – 93 cases were reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and 50 in Congo,” according to the news service. The article describes current efforts underway to once again eradicate polio, such as a vaccination campaign that will target “Angola’s 5.6 million children under the age of five by the end of the year.” The piece also describes the need for improved access to clean water and sanitation to help reduce the spread of polio (de Comarmond, 2/4).

India’s Court Orders Government To Build Shelters So Poor, Homeless Can Access Proper Care During, Following Pregnancy

The Guardian examines both the incidence of maternal mortality in India – where according to the paper, “one woman dies every five minutes from preventable, pregnancy-related causes” – and the recent efforts the government is taking to tackle this issue following the deaths of several homeless women who died from complications of delivery. Following the deaths of these women, “the Delhi high court, in a landmark judgment, ordered the government to build ‘at least two shelter centres meant for destitute pregnant women and lactating women so that proper care can be taken to see that no destitute woman is compelled to give birth to a child on the footpath,'” the newspaper writes. Additionally, the court ordered the Delhi government to pay the families of the women who died “as compensation for denying the women their reproductive rights. The judgments are a major achievement for maternal health activists.” The article includes quotes by several reproductive rights advocates (Bhowmick, 2/3).

Kenyan Minister Issues Apology For Statements Regarding Isolating People Living With HIV/AIDS

Kenyan Special Programmes Minister Esther Murugi on Thursday issued an apology for her comments regarding isolating people living with HIV/AIDS as a way to prevent the spread of the virus, Capital News reports. She did, “however defen[d] the statement she made at a HIV/AIDS meeting for lawmakers in Mombasa saying her statement was merely to provide examples of what other countries had done to control the spread of the virus and provoke leaders ‘to start thinking outside the box,'” according to the news service (Karong’o, 2/3). Kenya Broadcasting Corporation adds that “[t]he Minister is expected to issue a statement next week in Parliament to shed light on what she meant by her statements. The statement was sought by Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara who also wants the government to state its policy on HIV/AIDS” (Kalekye/Wanja, 2/3).

U.N. Emergency Relief Chief Highlights Concerns About Drought, Food Shortages In Kenya, Somalia 

The international community needs to focus more on worsening drought and food shortages in Somalia and Kenya, Valerie Amos, the U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said at the conclusion of a visit to both countries, VOA News reports (Onyiego, 2/3). “Somalia hosts one of the largest populations of displaced people in the world,” Amos told journalists on Thursday, Agence France-Presse reports. The country “is again teetering on the brink of a much larger scale disaster due to the threat of a countrywide drought,” she said. “Two million people, about 27 percent of the population, are in crisis,” she added, noting that situation would become clearer after the rains expected in April take place (2/3). “An estimated 1.6 million Kenyans, mostly inhabitants of the arid and semi-arid areas in the northern and eastern regions of the country, are experiencing drought-related hardship,” the U.N. News Centre notes (2/3). Another drought in Somalia “is also likely to increase the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), something aid agencies are keen to avoid,” IRIN writes, adding that there are currently about 1.4 million IDPs in the country, according to U.N. estimates. The article looks at aid groups’ concerns about the situation (2/3). 

Washington Post Reports On Growing Skepticism Over NGOs’ Effectiveness In Haiti

The Washington Post explores the growing skepticism over the effectiveness of the hundreds of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that flocked to Haiti following the Jan. 12 earthquake. “Haitian leaders … complain that NGOs have become a parallel government hobbled by poor coordination, high turnover and a lack of transparency,” and “[i]n the squalid camps where 800,000 people still languish, many Haitians routinely say their misery is exploited by NGOs to raise funds rather than raise them up from poverty,” the newspaper writes. While helping to improve some conditions on the ground, the article describes ways that the international community has “sidelined” the people of Haiti. “Of 1,583 contracts given in Haiti from the U.S. government totaling $267 million, only 20, for a total of $4.3 million, went to Haitian-owned companies, according to a review by the Associated Press,” the newspaper writes (Booth, 2/2).

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