July 18, 2014 The Health Sector estimates that about 206,000 people in Darfur are unable to access health services due to the suspension of Red Cross activities and withdrawal of support to health facilities by NGOs. From OCHA: The suspension of ICRC activities has led to the disruption of support provided to two health centres in South Darfur (Sania Deleiba and Yara) and five health centres in Central Darfur (Gorni, Guldo, Galol, Abata and Fasi), affecting about 138,000 people. In addition, the disruption of returnee health services at four locations in Bileil locality in South Darfur (Um Gunya, Marla, Magarin and Hijair) after the withdrawal of the international NGO MERLIN in February 2014 has affected an estimated 20,000 people. The withdrawal of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – Belgium (MSF-B) from Shaeria locality in East Darfur has affected the delivery of health services in Khazan Jadid, where more than 20,000 people now have no access to healthcare. The national NGO Patient Helping Fund has announced that it is to close its health facility in Alsalam camp in North Darfur due to insufficient funding, affecting 28,000 people, according to the health sector. This comes at a time when the health sector is seeking an additional US ... Read more
July 17, 2014 A report from the UN says that global progress against AIDS means it may soon come under control and eventually end. From Al Jazeera: "More than ever before, there is hope that ending AIDS is possible. However, a business-as-usual approach or simply sustaining the AIDS response at its current pace cannot end the epidemic", the UNAIDS programme said in a global report issued ahead of a conference in Melbourne, Australia next week. It said the number of people infected with HIV was stabilising at about 35 million worldwide. The epidemic has killed 39 million of the 78 million people infected since the 1980s. "The AIDS epidemic can be ended in every region, every country, in every location, in every population and every community," Michel Sidibe, the director of UNAIDS, said in the report. "There are multiple reasons why there is hope and conviction about this goal." The human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS can be transmitted via blood, breast milk and by semen during sex, but can be kept in check with cocktails of drugs known as antiretroviral therapy. UNAIDS said that at the end of 2013, 12.9 million HIV-positive people had access to antiretrovirals - a dramatic improvement on the 10 million who were on treatment just one year earlier and the only five million who were getting drugs ... Read more
July 16, 2014 The emerging countries Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, also known as the BRICS, solidified an agreement to launch their own $100 billion development bank. From the BBC: The capital for the bank will be split equally among the five participating countries. The bank will have a headquarters in Shanghai, China and the first president for the bank will come from India. Brazil's president, Dilma Rouseff, announced the creation of the bank at a Brics summit meeting in Fortaleza, Brazil on Tuesday. At first, the bank will start off with $50bn in initial capital. The emergency reserve fund - which was announced as a "Contingency Reserve Arrangement" - will also have $100bn, and will help developing nations avoid "short-term liquidity pressures, promote further Brics cooperation, strengthen the global financial safety net and complement existing international arrangements". The creation of the Brics bank will almost surely create competition for both the World Bank and other similar regional funds. Brics nations have criticised the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for not giving developing nations enough voting rights. One of the goals for the bank - whose creation has been discussed for some time - would be to increase the amount of money loaned to developing ... Read more
July 15, 2015
A recommendation issued by the World Health Organization encourges the use of ARVs among sexually active gay men as a way to prevent the spread of HIV. From the Atlantic:
Worldwide, a man’s risk of HIV infection is 19 times greater if he has sex with other men than if he doesn’t. Taken regularly, the recommended pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP—a single daily pill containing two separate medications—is up to 92 percent effective in protecting its users from HIV. In an update to itsHIV prevention guidelines, the WHO estimated that the widespread use of PrEP among gay and bisexual men could prevent as many as one million new HIV infections over the next decade.
It’s a number worth celebrating, in theory, but how attainable is it? In the same guidelines released earlier today, the agency also noted that its recommendation may be easier said than fulfilled:
“Implementation may prove challenging, however, where access to services and provision of alternative prevention tools are limited or lacking. Issues of criminalization, stigma and discrimination, and violence should be considered during implementation, especially where same-sex behavior is illegal.”
And as the BBC reported in February, homosexuality is a capital crime in five countries and punishable with imprisonment in 70 more, leaving a sizeable chunk of the world’s high-risk population unlikely or unable to follow the WHO’s wishes.
In the U.S., PReP has already seen its fair share of controversy. The WHO’s announcement comes on the heels of a similar policy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommended in May that health workers offer PrEP, marketed in the U.S. under the brand name Truvada, to people at high risk of infection, including gay and bisexual men, injection drug users, and women who sleep with men of unknown HIV status. Long used by HIV-positive patients to stave off AIDS, Truvada sparked a bitter debate after it was approved as a prophylaxis in 2012. While some hailed its preventive properties, others—including many in the LGBT community—argued that it would quickly become a risky replacement for condom use.
“If something comes along that’s better than condoms, I’m all for it, but Truvada is not that,” Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation told the Associated Press in April. “Let’s be honest: It’s a party drug.”
July 14, 2014 Obtaining healthy food is difficult in the Central African Republic capital city of Bangui, where conflict has caused prices to soar, while across the country many peasant farms lie barren. From AFP: The landlocked nation has become more dependent than ever on food supplies from Cameroon and its Atlantic port of Douala, which lies about 1,400 kilometres (900 miles) from Bangui by road. On CAR territory, truck drivers risk being ambushed and robbed by gunmen. "Uncontrolled armed individuals are rampant," said Charles Mandjao, a Bangui trader who obtains his supplies via the dangerous road. "When they fall upon you, you lose everything." The latest conflict in a highly unstable nation pits mainly Muslim ex-rebels of the Seleka alliance, who took power in a March 2012 coup for 10 months, against "anti-balaka" vigilantes formed among mostly Christian communities to avenge brutal attacks. Human rights watchdogs accuse both sides of atrocities against civilians at a cost of thousands of lives. France and the African Union deployed about 8,000 peacekeeping troops as of last December to try to tamp down on the violence. Some of these international forces watch over the food corridor. "They ask us to drive in convoy, but we carry perishable goods and waiting ... Read more
July 10, 2014 More than half of China's foreign aid of over $14 billion between 2010 and 2012 was directed to Africa, the government said on Thursday, underscoring Beijing's interest in the resource-rich continent to fuel its economy. From Reuters: Some Chinese projects have attracted attention for China's support of governments with poor human rights records and lack of transparency, such as Zimbabwe, Sudan and Angola. It provided no breakdown of aid recipients or any yearly figures. In 2011, China put its total foreign aid over the past six decades at 256.29 billion yuan ($41.32 billion). While the number pales in comparison with the United States' foreign aid, which is about $46 billion for fiscal 2015, China says its aid has no political strings attached, unlike many Western countries. “China adheres to the principles of not imposing any political conditions, not interfering in the internal affairs of recipient countries and fully respecting the right to independently choose their own paths and models of development,” the government said in a policy paper. Aid was given in the form of grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans, the policy paper said, and nine countries, including Equatorial Guinea, Mali and Zambia had been forgiven a total of 1.24 billion yuan ... Read more
July 10, 2014 Leaders of the BRICS nations will launch their long-awaited development bank at a summit next week and decide whether the headquarters should be in Shanghai or New Delhi, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Wednesday. From Reuters: The creation by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa of a $100 billion bank to finance infrastructure projects has been slow in coming, with disagreements over its funding, management and headquarters. "The (headquarters) issue will be decided on the level of the heads of the countries," Siluanov told journalists, adding that the choice is between China's Shanghai and India's New Delhi. BRICS leaders will meet July 15-16 in the Brazilian coastal city of Fortaleza. The launch of the bank will be the group's first major achievement after struggling to take coordinated action following an exodus of capital from emerging markets last year, triggered by the scaling back of U.S. monetary stimulus. The new bank will symbolize the growing influence of the BRICS, something that Russia has hoped for after the West imposed sanctions on Moscow in the spring for annexing part of Ukraine and its continued involvement in the country's crisis. Capitalisation of the new bank has been a major sticking point, but Siluanov ... Read more
July 9, 2014 The United Nations is trumpeting the limited successes of the MDGs 17 months before their end – but with guarded optimism. From IPS: “Global poverty has been halved five years ahead of the 2015 time frame,” says Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the latest status report released Monday. In 1990, almost half of the population in developing regions lived on less than 1.25 dollars a day. “This rate dropped to 22 percent by 2010, reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty by 700 million,” the study claims. Still, the overwhelming majority of people living in extreme poverty belong to two regions: Southern Asia and sub-Saharan African, according to the 56-page Millennium Development Goals Report 2014. But some of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) closely tracking trends in social and economic development in the developing world are sceptical of the claims. Roberto Bissio, director of the Uruguay-based Social Watch, told IPS the global average the United Nations celebrates is almost exclusively due to China – and most of that poverty reduction in China happened before the year 2000. “Thus the MDGs are credited with outcomes that happened before they existed,” he said. “This is because the target is defined as lowering to half the 1990 global poverty line, ... Read more
July 7, 2014 The UN warns that progress towards achieving the MDGs on maternal and child mortality is "slipping away" in the run up to 2015. From the Guardian: In its annual assessment of where the world stands on meeting the eight millennium development goals (MDGs), set in 2000, the UN urged governments to intensify efforts on areas where little or no improvement had been made, in the final push towards next year's deadline. According to the MDG 2014 report (pdf), which was published on Monday, the number of children dying before they reach five has almost halved in the past 20 years; the global maternal mortality ratio has dropped by 45%; an estimated 3.3 million deaths from malaria have been averted and the global target to improve access to safe water has been met. More goals were within reach if current trends continue, the report said. Despite these achievements, however, the report, which draws on data compiled between 2010 and 2014 by more than 28 UN and international agencies, emphasised that only half of pregnant women in developing countries get the recommended four antenatal checkups; diarrhoea and pneumonia continue to be the main killers of under-fives; and 162 million children were experiencing preventable ... Read more
July 7, 2014 The New York Times reports on the foreign couples that are heading to the US so that someone can carry out a pregnancy on their behalf. An excerpt: While babies through surrogacy have become increasingly common in the United States, with celebrities like Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jimmy Fallon openly discussing how they started a family, the situation is quite different in Portugal — as it is in most of the world where the hiring of a woman to carry a child is forbidden. And as Paulo and João have discovered, even bringing home a baby born abroad through surrogacy can be complicated. In an era of globalization, the market for children crosses national borders; witness the longtime flow of Americans who have gone overseas to adopt babies from South Korea, China, Russia and Guatemala. Other than the United States, only a few countries — among them India, Thailand, Ukraine and Mexico — allow paid surrogacy. As a result, there is an increasing flow in the opposite direction, with the United States drawing affluent couples from Europe, Asia and Australia. Indeed, many large surrogacy agencies in the United States say international clients — gay, straight, married or single — ... Read more