Taiwan accuses World Health Organisation of bowing to Beijing over invitation to top health meeting

Taipei again fails to gain entry to the WHO’s main international gathering of the year

Taiwan has accused the World Health Organisation of succumbing to political pressure from mainland China after the island failed to receive an invitation to a major international meeting.

Beijing sees self-governing democratic Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification and has used its clout to diminish the island’s presence on the world stage since Beijing-sceptic President Tsai Ing-wen took power in May 2016.

Last year was the first time in eight years that Taiwan was not granted access to the World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO’s main meeting.

This year’s assembly is to be held in Geneva from May 21-26 and the online registration deadline lapsed on Monday without Taipei receiving an invite.

“We believe the WHO is a non-political organisation pursuing the highest health standards for humanity and should not solely serve Beijing’s political will,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday it “regretted” that it had not been invited to the assembly.

“Health is a basic human right, as well as a universal value regardless of differences in race, religion, political beliefs, economic or social situations,” the ministry said in a statement.

It added that under the WHO charter, Taiwan should be allowed “equal participation” in all WHO events.

The WHO did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation it would not invite Taipei to this year’s assembly.

In Beijing on Monday, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang the island was only able to attend the assembly from 2009-2016 because the previous Taiwan government had a consensus with Beijing that there is only “one China”.

While the former administration touted the agreement as enabling cross-strait relations to flourish without compromising Taiwan’s sovereignty, Beijing saw it as meaning that Taiwan and the mainland are part of a single China.

Tsai and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party have refused to acknowledge the principle which Beijing sees as the bedrock for relations.

“This damaged the political foundation for Taiwan’s participation,” Geng said.

Beijing has also been trying to exert pressure on international companies to list Taiwan as a Chinese province on their websites, rather than as a separate entity.

The White House said on Saturday that China’s aviation authorities had sent letters to 36 foreign airlines including US firms demanding they refer to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau as Chinese territories.

“This is Orwellian nonsense and part of a growing trend by the Chinese Communist Party to impose its political views on American citizens and private companies,” the White House said.

source: http://www.scmp.com/


World Malaria Day 2018: We are ready to beat malaria

25 April 2018, Cairo - On World Malaria Day 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners are calling on all concerned parties to be ready to end malaria - a disease which can be fatal and which affects millions of people, claiming many lives annually.

This year’s World Malaria Day coincides with activities to commemorate the 70th anniversary of WHO. Over the last 7 decades, WHO has been providing support to countries to fight malaria. “Ready to beat malaria” is the theme of this year’s day. The theme underscores the collective energy and commitment of the global malaria community in uniting around the common goal of achieving a malaria-free world.

Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is a preventable and curable disease and yet the global burden of this disease is very high. According to the latest “World Malaria Report”, released in November 2017, there were 216 million cases of malaria in 2016, up from 211 million cases in 2015. The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 445 000 in 2016, a similar number to the previous year (446 000).

In areas with high transmission of malaria, children under 5 are particularly susceptible to infection, illness and death; more than two thirds (70%) of all malaria deaths occur in this age group. The number of under-5 malaria deaths has declined from 440 000 in 2010 to 285 000 in 2016. However, malaria remains a major killer of children under 5, taking the life of a child every 2 minutes.

In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, the number of malaria cases increased from 3.9 million in 2015 to 4.3 million in 2016with 8200 deaths.

Ninety-five percent (95%) of confirmed malaria cases are reported from 4 countries in the Region and 6 countries are at high risk of malaria but are at the stage of burden reduction.

On the occasion of World Malaria Day 2018, Dr Jaouad Mahjour, acting WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said that, “Although coverage of main interventions in endemic countries is increasing it falls short of universal health coverage targets. Humanitarian emergencies taking place in some countries are decreasing the capacity of malaria programmes and insufficient resources in high-burden countries are among the main challenges.”

Over the past few years, the Region has made some achievements towards eliminating malaria. The Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia are at the stage of malaria elimination.

Fourteen countries in the Region are free from indigenous malaria transmission and are at the stage of prevention of establishment of local malaria transmission.

Increasing insecticide resistance in many malaria-endemic countries of the Region is a threat for vector control as the main preventive measure for malaria.

Together with diagnosis and treatment, WHO recommends a package of proven prevention approaches, including insecticide treated nets, spraying indoor walls with insecticides, and preventive medicines for the most vulnerable groups: pregnant women, under 5s and infants.

Without urgent action, the major gains in the fight against malaria are under threat. On this World Malaria Day, WHO continues to call for greater investment from national resources and also donors from the Region and expanded coverage of proven tools to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria.

source: https://reliefweb.int/


Prescreening necessary before dengue vaccine use, says WHO expert advisory group

MANILA — The World Health Organization’s expert advisory group on immunization, or SAGE, is not halting the use of the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. But they stress the need for prescreen tests before its administration for safety reasons.

The group made the new recommendations following their two-day meeting last week.

While the new recommendation by SAGE is meant to maximize the public health benefits of the vaccine while minimizing risks, it poses limitations in terms of the vaccine’s widespread use. There are currently no rapid diagnostic tests at point of care available to know whether patients have previously been infected with the dengue virus.

“There are tests available, but these are not point of care tests, so their implementation would be cumbersome, and require that the person returns,” Dr. Joachim Hombach, SAGE’s executive secretary, said in a press conference.

“We see indeed a significant obstacle in using this vaccine that way. On the other hand, we are confident that this also spurs the development of rapid diagnostic tests that then could be readily used.”

There are several rapid diagnostic tests available in the market, but none have been validated or licensed when it comes to determining an individual’s dengue serostatus.

“Various ELISA-based assays exist such as the dengue IgG ELISA, and many countries actually have access to these diagnostic tests. The disadvantage of such laboratory assays are that they cannot be used at the point of care as blood sample needs to be taken, then it takes 1-3 days to receive the results, sometimes even longer,” Hayatee Hasan, WHO technical officer for Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals in Geneva, told Devex.

Asked whether the onerous recommendations could limit the vaccine’s long-term existence, the group said that’s something the manufacturer has to deal with.

“Whether this has repercussions on the manufacturer is something which is secondary. For us, it is very important that we signal in which way we think this vaccine could be used, even if ... the options for using it may not be available immediately. But maybe for the medium term. This is for the company to decide in terms of how they cope with this,” Hombach said.

Dengvaxia is currently the only vaccine licensed against dengue.

The vaccine came under scrutiny after Sanofi Pasteur, its manufacturer, revealed in late 2017 of the potential severe effects of the vaccine in seronegative individuals, or essentially those who’ve not been previously infected with the dengue virus.

The issue caused widespread uproar in the Philippines, in particular, where over 800,000 schoolchildren have already received the vaccine. A senate inquiry commenced after reports emerged that 14 children reportedly died from the vaccine. The Department of Health formed a panel of experts to probe this. Initial findings by the panel showed three of the cases have “causal association” to the vaccine, but they stressed the need for further tests before they can arrive to a final conclusion.

“The results of this evaluation are to be forwarded to the Pharmacovigilance Team of the DOH for further investigation and/or signal detection for possible new causal association. Only then can the investigation of these cases be completed and the results considered final,” it said in the report.

Following the controversies, the Philippine Department of Health has decided to suspend its dengue immunization program.

The WHO will be aligning its position on the use of the dengue vaccine with the SAGE recommendations, said Hasan. The U.N. body’s revised position paper on the subject will be published in September 2018.

source: https://www.devex.com/


World Health Organisation warns against dengue vaccine risks

Fresh concerns about the efficacy of the world’s first ever Dengue vaccine has come to light as the World Health Organisation (WHO) noted that there is an urgent need to describe the potential risks of the vaccine.

Therefore, it has advised the countries planning to use the vaccine to screen the population before vaccination. It has strictly directed the countries to vaccinate only seropositive (tested positive for dengue) individuals.

Dengvaxia (CYD-TDV), the vaccine in question is produced by the Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur. The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) formulated by WHO is examining the concerns caused by the vaccine.

“Furthermore, although the efficacy against dengue infections in seropositive individuals is high, it is still not complete. Hence, the limitations of CYD-TDV will need to be clearly communicated to populations offered vaccination,” warned WHO.

SAGE also looked at the population seroprevalence criteria (percentage of population affected by dengue) to ensure that only those affected by dengue get the jab.

“SAGE noted that the evidence of the absence of a safety issue in seronegative individuals aged 9 and above was based on the limited data set of 10%-20% of the trial population, and highlighted the urgent need to better describe the long-term benefit-risk ratio of CYD-TDV in seronegative individuals,” said a spokesperson.



Face of Defense: Doctor Builds Partnerships Through Global Health Engagement

Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Elizabeth Erickson’s experiences in military health outreach around the world allows her to build strong partnerships, and her position as a female officer and physician has given her the unique opportunity to work with and learn from inspiring women around the globe.

The Air Force Medical Service participates in international medical outreach efforts, called global health engagements, to strengthen relationships with partner nations that bear fruit diplomatically and medically.

Building Strong Relationships With Allies, Partners

GHEs include a broad range of international medical activities undertaken by the U.S. military. These activities help to build strong relationships with allies and partners, increase military medical interoperability between nations and build global capacity to address health security threats.

“For example, we work with some partner nations on biosurveillance in order to better detect and respond to outbreaks, so they do not become larger health security crises,” Erickson said.

Erickson, a family physician and currently a preventive medicine resident at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, always had an interest in working and studying abroad. Before joining the Air Force, she studied and volunteered in India and Africa.

In the Air Force, after assignments in Turkey and Germany and a deployment to Afghanistan, she was an international health specialist at Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Pacific Command.

“I was always interested in having a global perspective on care, so I gravitated towards these unique opportunities,” Erickson said. “As an international health specialist, I planned and executed GHEs, coordinated Department of Defense health activities across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and developed strategies to use health engagements to achieve national security objectives.”

Service in Afghanistan

Erickson’s GHE experiences allow her to apply and expand intercultural, medical and military skills. As a female officer, she had opportunities to support the health and empowerment of women in multiple countries, specifically in Afghanistan.

From July 2009 to March 2010, Erickson served as senior medical officer and director of Women’s Affairs on the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan. She and her team executed programs that supported the local government and improved the health and well-being of the local population, especially women and children. The team engaged with the local Ministry for Women’s Affairs representatives, female health care providers at local hospitals and the province’s only girls’ school.

“It was a priority for our commander to find sustainable ways to improve the lives of Afghan women,” Erickson said. “One project provided women with solar stoves. We found that women were inhaling harmful smoke while cooking with charcoal and wood, and we wanted to provide an alternative cooking method that would ultimately improve their health.”

The three medical Air Force women on the PRT met regularly with local female health care providers.

“We developed strong relationships with them and learned about their challenges,” Erickson said. “We conducted training on basic life support in obstetrics to help them recognize potentially life-threatening events that happen during childbirth and prepared them to manage those events.”

International Women’s Day Event

While in Afghanistan, Erickson participated in an International Women’s Day event. Local women -- including the female nurses and physicians she had worked with so closely -- gave speeches, performed music and recited poetry.

“It was special to see our friends, these women we became so close with, share their hopes for peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Erickson said.

Erickson’s experiences serve as an important reminder that female military leaders and medical personnel are vital for full-spectrum global health engagement, and she encourages other female medical airmen to pursue opportunities in GHE.

“There are some really inspiring women in our partner nations, and it was a rewarding experience to meet and work with them,” Erickson said. “Many times, my female counterparts and I built a special bond and we worked together to move health cooperation between our militaries forward.”

She added, “We should encourage more women to become leaders on both sides of the GHE community to improve our engagements with our partner nations and the global military medical community.”

source: https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1496686/face-of-defense-doctor-builds-partnerships-through-global-health-engagement/ 


Australia to join global health and climate change initiative

The Lancet Countdown report on health and climate change was published in October 2017 by The Lancet and will be updated annually through to 2030.

It tracks progress on health and climate change across 40 indicators divided into five categories: climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerability; adaptation planning and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance; and public and political engagement.

Dr Ying Zhang, a senior lecturer in the University of Sydney's School of Public Health, and Associate Professor Paul Beggs, from Macquarie University, wrote in the MJA that, from an Australian perspective, "with our high level of carbon emissions per capita, it will be important to reflect on our progress and how it compares with that of other countries, especially high-income countries".

"A group of Australian experts from multiple disciplines is commencing work on our first national countdown report," Zhang and Beggs wrote.

"The project recognises the importance of the climate change challenge in Australia, including its relevance to human health, and also the unique breadth and depth of the Australian expertise in climate change and human health.

"The Australian countdown will mirror the five domain sections of the Lancet Countdown, adopt the indicators used--where feasible and relevant to Australia--and include any useful additional indicators.

"The inaugural Australian report is planned for release in late 2018 and is expected to be updated annually. We hope to raise awareness of health issues related to climate change among Australian medical professionals, who play a key role in reducing their risks," the authors concluded.

"The Australian countdown is also envisioned as a timely endeavour that will accelerate the Australian government response to climate change and its recognition of the health benefits of urgent climate action."


The University of Sydney appointed Dr Tony Capon as the world's first professor of planetary health in 2016. Learn more about the mission and activities of the University of Sydney's Planetary Health Platform.

source: https://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-04/uos-atj041218.php


World Health Day : Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa empowers Health Care Professionals

As people across the globe joins World Health Organisation to celebrate World Health Day on April 7, Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa (NNIA) commemorated the Day in collaboration with the Ogun State Ministry of Health by training primary healthcare professionals in Abeokuta on Friday April 6, 2018.

With the 2018 year theme, “Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere,” NNIA in observance of the organisation’s vision which focuses on ensuring that all people can get quality health services, where and when they need them, without suffering financial hardship embarked on the training of healthcare professionals to key into the mandate.

The one day training held at Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) house in Abeokuta by experts from NNIA witnessed various primary healthcare professionals from 110 Primary Health Care Professionals from Abeokuta North local government area of Ogun state who participated in the training on Malnutrition in the First Years of Life: Its Assessment and Management.

Giving a welcome address at the flag-off of the training, the NNIA representative, Dr. Omotayo Omoteso shed light on the objectives of the training. He said, “Global studies have shown that malnutrition is an underlying factor in 55 percent of all child deaths, with Nigeria largely affected by the scourge. Each year, about 1 million Nigerian children die and more than half of these deaths are traceable to malnutrition.”

According to him, this situation calls for urgent multi-stakeholder action. “Nestle Nutrition Institute Africa is therefore happy to collaborate with the Ogun State Government in its efforts to address malnutrition in the first 1000 days of life. This is in line with our commitment to bridge the gap between science and the practical application of nutrition to ensure a healthier, brighter future for children. We therefore welcome this opportunity to contribute through the development of the capabilities of Primary Health Care Professionals here in Ogun State.”

Addressing the press at the Ogun State Secretariat where the training took place, Ogun State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Babatunde Ipaye said it is sad to note that millions of people across the globe suffer financial hardship in obtaining essential health services due to poverty.

“Currently, about 800 million people, which constitute 12 per cent of the world’s population, spend at least 10 per cent of their household budget on health needs. Of this number, about 100 million suffer financial hardship because of out of pocket health expenditure and half of the world’s population is unable to obtain essential health services, due to poverty.” Ipaye stressed.

Dr. Ipaye said that the World Health Day 2018 celebration and intervention programme provided another opportunity for strengthening the health care system in Ogun State which was made possible by the partnership with stakeholders like Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa (NNIA) who supported the state’s efforts by delivering a capacity building training to primary Health Care Professionals (HCPs) on Friday.

Dr. Babatunde Ipaye also revealed some of the measures the state has put in place to improve maternal and child health. One of these according to him is a state funded social insurance scheme popularly called “Araya”. He disclosed that since its inception in 2014, the scheme has enrolled over 23,000 people. The commissioner expressed his appreciation to Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa (NNIA) for providing support towards the delivery of the health mandate of the administration. He also thanked the HCPs for making themselves available for the training and encouraged them not to keep the knowledge to themselves, but also to do well to transfer the same to their family members and colleagues who did not have the opportunity to participate in the training.

Meanwhile, Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa, NNIA is an institute that shares leading science-based information and education with Health Care Professionals. It was founded on the credo that good nutrition begins before birth, continues through the lifecycle and is nurtured by the knowledge and consumption of a nutritionally adequate and appropriate diet. It aims for a future across the African continent where individuals are nourished healthier and live longer lives.

Furthering the understanding of the science of nutrition of the HCPs is envisioned to go a long way in bridging the gap between the science of nutrition and its practical application. Right now, there are over 20,000 Health Care professionals who have registered and benefits on the Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa’s website.

Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/04/world-health-day-nestle-nutrition-institute-africa-empowers-health-care-professionals/ 


Tuberculosis services in Moscow extend “health for all” even to the most vulnerable

Karam is a 23-year-old from the Khatlon region of Tajikistan. He came to Moscow in 2015 to work in construction, and 2 years later fell ill with a high fever and headache. He felt as though he had no strength, but nevertheless tried to carry on. When his condition became so severe that he was barely conscious – a state described by his doctors as the edge of life and death – Karam’s uncle, with whom he lives, called an ambulance.

At the hospital, Karam was diagnosed with tuberculous meningitis. Up until that point, he knew nothing about tuberculosis (TB). He felt afraid and unsure, wondering how he would pay for the treatment he needed to get well. But then he learned that his treatment would be completely free, provided by the Moscow Research and Clinical Center for Tuberculosis Control. This was part of an initiative undertaken by the city of Moscow to ensure that all people, including migrants like Karam, have access to the TB services they need.

A new model of TB services

The city launched the initiative in 2012. Though at that time the TB rate among the resident population of Moscow was declining, increasing numbers of migrants, who are often more susceptible to the disease, made it necessary to change the traditional approach to TB control efforts.

The city created a new organizational model in the spirit of providing universal health coverage to everyone, without causing financial hardship. It based the model on key components that include:

  • providing people-centred care;
  • strengthening human resource capacity for TB; and
  • monitoring the epidemiological situation.

The Chief TB Specialist of the Moscow City Department of Health oversees these activities.

In 5 years, the new model resulted in significant changes to TB care in Moscow. Most importantly, it allowed the city to provide quality services to all vulnerable populations, including migrants and homeless people.

Intensive work with latent TB infection and TB contacts has helped to reduce TB notification rates among permanent residents in Moscow by 11.7% (to 12.8 per 100 000 population) and among children by 23.8%. New approaches to treating multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) have also been applied, with positive outcomes.

In 2016, an increased focus on prevention among the migrant population in Moscow contributed to the detection of an additional 1605 TB cases. Since 2012, the number of TB deaths in the capital has decreased by 22%, and the number of registered patients with MDR-TB has decreased by 44% (to 3.4 per 100 000 population), making it the lowest in the country.

The benefits of Moscow’s new approach to TB services are perhaps felt most deeply on the individual level. For Karam, the news that his treatment would be provided free of charge came as a great relief. It took 2 months of intensive therapy before his condition stabilized and began to improve. He was treated and observed by several specialists over the course of 11 months.

Today, Karam has made a near-complete recovery. He appreciates the work of the doctors who have treated him, supported by the city of Moscow. “When I got here, I felt very bad. I had no strength at all,” he says. “After the treatment started, gradually I became better. I believe I will one day have enough strength to return to work.” When he is well, he hopes to return to his native Tajikistan and his large extended family still living there. He plans to work in his family’s lemon grove.

source; http://www.euro.who.int/