MSF issues 'Top Ten' most underreported humanitarian stories of 2006

New York - The staggering human toll taken by tuberculosis (TB) and malnutrition as well as the devastation caused by wars in the Central African Republic (CAR), Sri Lanka and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are among the Top Ten Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2006, according to the year-end list released recently by the international humanitarian medical aid organization Mdecins Sans Frontires (MSF).

Children Suffer When Mother Lacks Input, UNICEF Says

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Children are likely to be undernourished in households where women are denied a voice in family decisions like doctor visits, food expenditures and trips to see friends and relatives, says a report by the U.N. Children's Fund, UNICEF, released on Monday.

Keeping track of patients and drugs in rural Haiti: electronic system is practical

An internet-based medical record system is proving practical and reliable in one of the worlds poorest countries and should be considered as an essential part of treatment scale-up, according to researchers from Partners in Health and Harvard Medical School reporting in the November 13th edition of the British Medical Journal.

Pharmaceutical interests versus AIDS in Africa

5 days before boarding a plane to Africa, US President George W Bush announced his nomination of Randall Tobias to serve as Global AIDS Coordinator. If confirmed by the Senate, Tobias will head up an AIDS bureau in the State Department to oversee the global AIDS initiative, and will therefore coordinate all of the USA's international HIV/AIDS activities for all their government departments and agencies. Tobias' job description was laid out in the State of the Union address given on Jan 28, in which Bush announced his plan to commit US$15 billion over the next 5 years to AIDS relief in Africa and the Caribbean (see Lancet 2003; 361: 539). As coordinator of the President's emergency plan for AIDS relief, Tobias' remit is to turn the tide in combatting the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. He has specific targets: prevention of 7 million new infections through voluntary testing and counselling; treatment of 2 million people with antiretrovirals; and support and care for 10 million HIV-infected individuals and AIDS orphans. He has also been told where to spend most of his budget - on the 14 countries in Africa and the Caribbean that between them have nearly 20 million HIV-infected people (Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, South Africa, Haiti, and Guyana). Tobias will have to deal with threats to the initiative from US abortion politics (see Lancet 2003; 361: 887) and also with likely substantial underfunding by US Congress. Tobias will have ambassadorial rank and will report directly to the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. As retired chairman and chief executive officer of Eli Lilly & Company, and as ex-vice chairman of AT & T, Tobias clearly has top-level management experience. He is also a substantial donor to the Republican Party. However, critics have already questioned his knowledge of AIDS and Africa. Rapid appointment of a team behind him with proven African public-health and HIV experience would help him gain credibility in his new role, as would announcement of a detailed plan of how the Bush AIDS initiative will work with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. His connections with the pharmaceutical industry have led to concerns about whether Tobias is committed to providing access to low-cost generic AIDS drugs, or whether he will purchase patented versions so protecting the interests of US drug companies. Bush and Tobias together could, with the backing of Congress, change the nature of HIV/AIDS in Africa. If all Tobias' targets are met, which is likely only if the full US$15 billion is appropriated by Congress, then he will have proven himself a worthy Global AIDS Coordinator. Tobias' task then, surely, as befits his job title, will be to combat the emerging HIV pandemic in Asia. (Source: Editorial, The Lancet, Vol 362, Nr 9378, 12 July 2003)

African Nations Applaud Bush Plan to Fight AIDS Epidemic

Astonished officials here and across southern Africa cheered today as they learned that the Bush administration planned to spend a further $10 billion on AIDS drugs, education, specialized laboratories and doctors in 12 African nations ravaged by the disease. The initiative, which was announced by President Bush on Tuesday, is intended to provide AIDS drugs for two million people, care for 10 million AIDS patients and orphans and provide education to prevent the epidemic. The plan will also cover AIDS projects in Haiti and Guyana. Stephen Lewis, the United Nations envoy for AIDS in Africa, hailed the new spending as a dramatic signal from the U.S. administration that it is ready to confront the pandemic. He said he hoped other wealthy countries would follow suit. The international delinquency that has haunted the response to AIDS in Africa is hardly that of the United States alone; it extends, without exception, to all the wealthy donor nations, said Mr. Lewis, who was visiting Johannesburg as part of fact-finding mission in the region. The Bush administration said the program would focus on South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Ivory Coast. Southern Africa has the world's highest rates of infection. In Botswana, for instance, nearly 40 percent of all adults are believed to be infected.(Source: Rachel L.Swarns, The New York Times, 29 January 2003)

SA receives grant to fight Aids

Moving rapidly for a brand-new bureaucracy, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Thursday awarded its first batch of grants - worth $378 million - to fight the world's deadliest diseases in 31 countries. The total is a small fraction of the need, but could have swift impact on stricken nations such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Haiti, which received some of the largest of the 40 grants. Eighteen other proposals from 12 countries were earmarked for fast-track approval if conditions are met, raising the expected total of grants to dlrs 616 million over the next two years. Africa, where Aids is most rampant, will get 52 percent of the money; the rest is scattered among other regions. Advocacy groups will be closely monitoring the grants. Aids activists worry that too much money will be spent on prevention programs rather than treatment of patients, and they question the fund's willingness to promote low-cost, generic drugs at the expense of costlier, patented drugs. Activists also have accused donor nations of moving too slowly to support the fund, which was created last year. The fund's directors acknowledged that the initial grants are modest compared with the scope of the global AIDS crisis. They hope the new programs will report rapid success, inspiring donors to accelerate the pace of contributions. (Source: Business Day, 26 April 2002)