What Role for UN Peacekeepers in Tackling Ebola?

Image: NIAID/Flickr

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 8 September, 2014.

The spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa is “racing ahead” of efforts to control it, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). On Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued an “ international rescue call” for a surge in assistance, including doctors, beds, supplies, and vehicles needed to halt the spread of the outbreak in West Africa. Of all the countries affected by the virus, Liberia is one of the hardest hit, with 1,698 reported cases and 871 deaths as of  August 31. » More

Health or Defense

Obama signs health care act

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House. Photo: Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons.

Obamacare, now in its awkward early stages of implementation, is the American military’s ticket home. The completion of the last element in America’s welfare state –the last strand of the social safety net—is likely to end the security welfare system America provides for its allies.

There are four basic components to the welfare state: workman’s compensation (which covers job caused disability), unemployment insurance, old age insurance, and health care insurance.  Workman’s compensation in the US was accomplished early in the 20th Century by the states. Retirement (known as Social Security in the US) and unemployment insurance were enacted in the 1930s as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms. Opposition from the American Medical Association, the physicians’ lobby, prevented President Roosevelt from including health care in his reform package, and its enactment became an enduring Democrat Party quest. » More

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South Africa’s Winnable AIDS Battle

Sign in Zambia, Africa, courtesy of Jonrawlinson /Wikimedia Commons

ERFURT – In the battle against HIV/AIDS, South Africa was for many years the perfect example of what not to do. Until recently, the government’s response to the epidemic, which threatened the country’s very lifeblood, was lackluster and foolish. But rising pressure over the past two decades – from civil-society groups, the media, and more enlightened politicians – is finally showing results. A disease that has inflicted profound social and economic pain, and dramatically reduced life expectancy, appears to be in retreat.

But a new UN report suggests that South Africa’s battle against the virus is far from over. The country has the world’s most severe HIV problem, with some 5.6 million citizens – more than 10% of the population – currently living with the virus. Every year, around 300,000 new infections, and 270,000 AIDS-related deaths, are recorded. HIV/AIDS patients are also prone to other infections: an estimated 70% of South Africans with AIDS also contract tuberculosis, while half of those carrying the HIV virus are expected to do so during their lifetime. Worse, a third of pregnant women – a highly AIDS-prone demographic – have been diagnosed with the virus, which can be passed on to their babies during childbirth. » More

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Food for All

Tetra Pak School Milk in Indonesia, courtesy of Tetra Pak/Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – With food prices having doubled in the past decade, food security is back on the international agenda. How can the world produce more to feed the next billion people? How can agricultural yields be raised? What is the best way to develop aquaculture?

Unfortunately, this focus on the supply side misses half the problem. The world already produces more than twice the number of calories that the human population requires. An estimated one-third of global food production is wasted. In poor countries, food is lost due to inadequate storage and gaps in the supply chain (for example, a lack of refrigeration); in rich countries, food is also wasted in the supply chain, and consumers throw a lot of food away. » More

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Diagnostics for Global Health

Measles Vaccination in Merawi Province, Ethiopia, courtesy of DFID/Flickr

CORVALLIS, OREGON – In developed countries, most people take for granted that when they are sick, they will have access to timely diagnosis and treatment. Indeed, while the diagnostic process – which typically involves sending a sample of blood, urine, or tissue to a laboratory for analysis – may be cumbersome and expensive, health-care providers and sophisticated laboratories remain widely available. As a result, the disease burden in the developed world has declined substantially.

By contrast, in the developing world, millions of people die each year from treatable diseases like malaria, owing to the lack of sophisticated laboratories and alternative diagnostic tests. But there is reason for hope: Advances in the field of microfluidics have the potential to transform health care by allowing “gold standard” laboratory-based testing to be transferred to the point of care (POC). » More

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