May 1, 2013
Syrian children are at greater risk of contracting measles, warns UNICEF because they are not receiving their routine vaccines due to the conflict. From VOA:
The U.N. Children’s Fund reports hundreds of cases of measles have broken out among children in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey over the past year. In the case of Turkey, UNICEF says some 3,000 to 4,000 measles cases have been reported across the country, including 300 among Syrian refugees.
UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said so far, no child has died from measles, but that could change at any time.
“The assessment is that these outbreaks have been contained thus far in Syria and across the region. In large part, also because of an immunization campaign last year that reached 1.3 million children with measles vaccination and 1.5 million children with polio vaccination,” said Mercado. “But the concern is very real. These are conditions that are conducive to the spread of disease and things are not getting any better for the Syrians either inside of the country or outside.”
The United Nations reports some four-and-one-quarter million people are displaced inside Syria and more than 1.4 million Syrian refugees have fled into neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. It says some 8,000 Syrians are fleeing the conflict in their country daily.
Mercado says nearly half of the displaced are children. She says large population movements and the breakdown of regular health services are making children susceptible to killer diseases like measles no matter where they are.
She says living conditions for displaced children in Syria are dreadful.
“The vast majority of whom are now living in camped, overcrowded, unsanitary conditions where diseases can rapidly spread,” said Mercado. “The routine immunization system has been hit hard. The comprehensive numbers on routine immunization coverage are unavailable because reporting has broken down. The last routine vaccination reporting available is from January and February this year from just six out of 14 governorates in Syria. The figures there show coverage to be around 60 percent compared with coverage of around 95 percent across the country prior to the crisis.”
Mercado says it is extremely difficult to run a mass measles campaign in a region already struggling to provide humanitarian assistance to millions of people affected by the Syrian crisis. She says UNICEF is working with the health ministries, the World Health Organization and other partners to protect children against disease.
Have you ever wondered how the public health research universities in Canada and the United States stack up?
Well, now we have a better idea. The student group Universities Allied for Essential Medicines sought to answer that question with its University Global Health Impact Report Card.
Who came out on top? Canada’s University of British Columbia was at the top with a grade of A-. It was followed by Case Western Reserve, Johns Hopkins University, University of California – Irvine, Harvard and Emory.
Beside the grades for the individual universities, the students found that the overall research into neglected tropical diseases fell short.
The report card points out that more than a billion people suffer from ‘neglected diseases’ – “illnesses rarely researched by the private sector because most of those affected are too poor to provide a market for new drugs”. Each year 10 million people die because they cannot get medicines that exist, often because the treatments are too expensive.
Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim announced a $100 million donation to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative as a part of the Global Vaccine Summit. From Forbes:
“We are excited to join the Gates Foundation and other partners in the effort to end this disease once and for all,” Slim said in a statement. Slim attended the vaccine summit, which was co-hosted by Bill Gates.
Five other billionaires also stepped up to donate to the polio eradication effort, according to the Gates Foundation: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hedge fund tycoon Ray Dalio, Saudi businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, investor Carl Icahn, Indonesian businessman Tahir and the foundation of the late billionaire Albert Ueltschi.
Bloomberg’s foundation is also donating $100 million; Dalio’s foundation is giving $50 million, Alwaleed’s foundation is giving $30 million, Tahir’s foundation is giving $25 million, Icahn’s Foundation for a Greater Opportunity is giving $20 million and the Albert Ueltschi Foundation is giving $10 million, according to an article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Polio is endemic in just three remaining countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan; in 1988 it was in 128 countries. It is a vaccine-preventable disease.
Bill Gates recognized Slim in opening remarks at the summit as an important new donor in the fight against polio, according to the Gates Foundation. “We now have a comprehensive plan to end polio, but we need it to be fully funded to succeed. Carlos’ generous commitment to support the GPEI plan is help the world prove that setting ambitions goals leads to big victories,” Gates said in a statement.
The total cost of the plan is estimated at $5.5 billion, all but $1.5 billion of which has been pledged.
This is the second time this year that Gates and Slim have gotten together to announce a joint charitable initiative. In February, Bill Gates went to Mexico and together with Slim announced a philanthropic partnership aimed at improving agricultural research with the aim of reducing hunger. Neither man disclosed how much his foundation was spending on the effort. In 2010, the two tycoons’ foundations partnered on a Mesoamerican health initiative aimed at improving the health of the poor in southern Mexico and Central America.
When a woman is in charge of her reproductive destiny, she is healthier and more resilient. And the benefits for a sustainable world ripple on. Empowering women is a powerful achievement. Fast Company’s Ben Schiller highlights the findings of the study noting the negative impact of care-giving on economic participation.
A report from Booz & Company shows that employing women in equal numbers to men could raise the United States’ GDP by 5%, Japan’s by 9%, the United Arab Emirates’ by 12%, and Egypt’s by a jaw-dropping 34%. “Even small increases in the opportunities available to women, and some release of the cultural and political constraints that hold them back, can lead to dramatic economic and social benefits,” it says.
Read the full report here.
NPR provides a post mortum on the recent failure of yet another HIV vaccine trial. Richard Knox reports:
After an oversight committee took a preliminary peek at the results this past Monday, they concluded there was no way would show that the vaccine prevents HIV infection.
Nor would the vaccine suppress the wily virus among people who get infected despite being vaccinated.
So they on HVTN-505, as the study is called.
“It was a huge disappointment,” says study leader , who learned the bad news at 1:45 Monday afternoon.
Hammer tells Shots the blow was all the more crushing because just a month earlier the had met its goal for participants.
“It was a big traumatic event to put all this effort in and then have the vaccine trial stop because of futility a month after we completed enrollment,” Hammer says. He’s chief of infectious diseases at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and a leading AIDS researcher who’s been fighting the virus since the pandemic’s beginning.
Participants are being notified that no more shots will be given. They will be followed for up to five more years to glean as much insight as possible from the $77 million, federally financed project.
It’s another swerve into the ditch for AIDS researchers’ on the long road to devise a vaccine that can prevent HIV infection, or at least blunt it, in a significant proportion of people at risk.
The following is the introduction to an interactive story from the Global Fund that tells of a community in South Sudan that is addressing the problem of malaria. The work highlighted is the result of cooperation between the Global Fund, PSI, the government of South Sudan and other partners. Read below to learn more and go here to see immerse yourself into the story.
On returning to their homeland after surviving two decades of war, the people of Morobo County in the new nation of South Sudan realized that they still had another battle to fight.
Malaria was killing many of their children.
Determined to save their babies, parents walked for dozens of kilometers to the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or Uganda to seek treatment. Others didn’t have the money to make the trip or pay for treatment, so they turned instead to traditional healers. Time and again, the children would die in their mothers’ arms because the herbs traditional healers administered to their hapless little patients couldn’t cure malaria.
By Bongiwe Zwane, PR Coordinator for PSI/Swaziland
Mbabane, Swaziland – “When two people love each other and are faithful to each other, taking an HIV test together feels right,” says Nothando, wife to Correctional Services Commissioner Mzuthini Ntshangase. She made these comments after taking a public HIV test with her husband as part of a couples testing public awareness drive.
They both agreed that although it was not an easy step to take, it was imperative that couples communicate openly on issues of HIV and further get tested together regularly. The Ntshangase family pledged to return for another test soon and also to encourage their friends, relatives, colleagues and members of the public to do the same.
Leaders at the Global Vaccine Summit agreed to a six-year plan to eradicate polio by 2018.
The new plan capitalizes on the best opportunity to eradicate polio, with the number of children paralyzed by this disease at the lowest level ever: just 223 cases in 2012 and only 19 so far this year. The urgency is linked to the tremendous advances made in 2012 and the narrow window of opportunity to seize on that progress and stop all poliovirus transmission before polio-free countries become re-infected.
“After millennia battling polio, this plan puts us within sight of the endgame. We have new knowledge about the polioviruses, new technologies and new tactics to reach the most vulnerable communities. The extensive experience, infrastructure and knowledge gained from ending polio can help us reach all children and all communities with essential health services,” said World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan.
The Polio Eradication & Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018 was developed by the GPEI in extensive consultation with a broad range of stakeholders. The plan incorporates the lessons learned from India’s success becoming polio-free in early 2012 and cutting-edge knowledge about the risk of circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses. It also complements the tailored Emergency Action Plans being implemented since last year in the remaining polio-endemic countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria – including approaches in place to vaccinate children in insecure areas.
At the Summit, held today in Abu Dhabi, global leaders announced their confidence in the plan’s ability to achieve a lasting polio-free world by 2018 and pledged their financial and political support for its implementation.
“Ending polio will not only be an historic feat for humanity, but also a huge part of our efforts to reach every hard-to-reach child with a range of life-saving vaccines,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
The plan addresses the operational challenges of vaccinating children, including in densely populated urban areas, hard-to-reach areas and areas of insecurity. The plan includes the use of polio eradication experience and resources to strengthen immunization systems in high-priority countries. It also lays out a process for planning how to transition the GPEI’s resources and lessons, particularly in reaching the most marginalized and vulnerable children and communities, so that they continue to be of service to other public health efforts. It is estimated that the GPEI’s efforts to eradicate polio could deliver total net benefits of US$40-50 billion by 2035 from reduced treatment costs and gains in productivity.
In remarks made at the Summit, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, underscored the numerous benefits of ending polio and the need to provide health and development interventions to the hardest-to-reach children. He also called on additional donors to come forward with long-term commitments to fully fund the GPEI plan.
“This plan isn’t just a polio eradication plan, it’s a global immunization plan with the goal of ending polio while improving efforts to protect all children, including the most vulnerable, with life-saving vaccines,” said Gates. “Successful implementation of the plan requires a significant but time-limited investment that will deliver a polio-free world and pay dividends for future generations.”
By Suzanne McCarron, President, ExxonMobil Foundation
Malaria is preventable, treatable and curable. Yet it continues to have a devastating impact across Africa. For more than a decade, ExxonMobil has been working to help drive lasting change and build a better future for communities in the region by investing in the fight against malaria.
Through our longstanding work in Africa, we’ve seen first-hand the huge toll malaria takes. Despite progress in recent years, malaria continues to kill more than 660,000 people a year, many of them children living in sub-Saharan Africa. That means an African child dies from malaria every minute.
We also recognize that this disease doesn’t just affect the person who gets sick – it also places enormous burdens on families, communities and nations, helping to perpetuate the cycle of poverty. By tackling malaria, we can help improve health and development outcomes across Africa.
That’s why ExxonMobil has prioritized combatting this disease. We focus on identifying important issues in the prevention and treatment of malaria, and funding solutions to address them. We also leverage our internal expertise to promote results-focused programs at global and country levels. And through our efforts, we’ve had the opportunity to partner with some of the best and most effective malaria organizations in the world to help meet malaria reduction and elimination goals.
The Co-Chairs of the Congressional Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases announced on Tuesday that they were to introduce a House Resolution highlighting the goals of today’s World Malaria Day. Congressmen Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY) shared their support for today for ending malaria.
“Through the comprehensive partnership of many United States program, agencies, and organizations, our nation is playing a key role in bringing health and stability to other nations through the eradication of malaria. Witness the results we’ve helped achieve between 2000 and 2010: a 26 percent decrease in malaria mortality rates around the world; a 33 percent reduction in mortality rates in the African Region of the World Health Organization, and an estimated 1.1 million fewer deaths averted globally due to increased intervention,” said Congressman Crenshaw in a press release.
Crenshaw continued by stressing the importance of partnerships between governments and the private sector.