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AHEAD IN 2015: VIRUSES, EPIDEMICS AND UNITED NATIONS HAGGLING—PART THREE: Racing To Meet The MDGs (And Create SDGs)

Posted on by Laurie Garrett

With fewer than 360 days left to meet the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, hundreds of UN agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), foundations, and governments are scrambling to reach the targets and prove with valid data that they have done so. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000, the eight goals include three that are directly related to global health: numbers four, five, and six. Combined, these three aim to dramatically reduce the number of babies and children dying; improve the health and survival of pregnant women; provide universal access to treatments for tuberculosis, malaria and HIV; and reduce the incidence of those diseases.

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AHEAD IN 2015: VIRUSES, EPIDEMICS AND UNITED NATIONS HAGGLING—PART TWO: Flu Strikes in Many Virulent Forms Across the World

Posted on by Laurie Garrett

The United States is now officially in the grips of an influenza epidemic, according to the CDC, caused primarily by a strain of H3N2 flu that is not akin to the form used in this year’s vaccine development. As a result, immunization is expected to offer protection against the other two or three strains in circulation, and may shorten the length and severity of disease for H3N2 sufferers, but will not prevent infection. Flu reports surged before Christmas across the Deep South and Mississippi Valley states...

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AHEAD IN 2015: VIRUSES, EPIDEMICS AND UNITED NATIONS HAGGLING—PART ONE: The Ebola Epidemic in West Africa

Posted on by Laurie Garrett

Since this is the dawn of a new year let us begin with the good news: Liberia has brought its epidemic way down from the hideous highs of late September to a manageable number of cases. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) worst-case scenario forecast1.4 million Ebola cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, with more than nine hundred thousand deaths—was not realized, as the forecast was predicated on the assumption that no global mobilization of assistance would materialize in 2014.

But none of the three hard-hit countries has managed to reach Ebola eradication targets set by their leaders. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia forecast elimination of new cases in her country by Christmas—a target that clearly has been missed. President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone predicted in October that his nation would be “containing the Ebola virus” by Christmas. Instead, group Christmas celebrations were banned nationwide amid an out-of-control epidemic, and many communities were on mandatory lockdown. Guinea’s President Alpha Condé, once optimistic that his government could contain the virus, now personally micromanages the national effort. Moreover, the late August World Health Organization (WHO) forecast for the size and horror of the epidemic was almost exactly correct: twenty thousand cases by mid-November with 50 percent mortality. By December 28, the cumulative case load officially topped twenty thousand with 7,842 deaths reported,according to the WHO. Given the cumulative death numbers do not include Liberia (see WHO chart below), it is safe to assume that the mortality toll has, as predicted, exceeded 50 percent. Assuming underreporting and delays in confirming and conveying data to the WHO, it seems the Geneva-based agency’s forecast was accurate, though off by about three weeks.

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Polio and the CIA

Posted on by Laurie Garrett

It may long be debated just how much the CIA’s use of a vaccination ruse to identify Osama bin Laden’s children contributed, but on May 5, 2014 the World Health Organization declared polio a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The WHO noted that by the end of 2011 only three countries still had endemic polio (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria), but by the end of April 2014 that number had soared to 10 nations. The world had been on the edge of polio eradication: It is now witnessing expansion of the virus’ territory and caseload.

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Why Japan Has Made Worldwide Access to Healthcare Coverage a Critical Element of Its Foreign Policy

Posted on by Laurie Garrett

From Thanksgiving to December 7, I was in Japan, a guest of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, marking my third visit to the country in 2013. The chief reason for multiple treks to Tokyo, and elsewhere in Japan, is Prime Minister Abe’s staunch support of universal health coverage (UHC) as the primary post-2015 aspirational target for global health. As Abe explained in the Lancet in September, “Global health is standing at a crossroads,” between more than a decade of powerful disease-specific achievements, and the dawn of a far broader, all-health approach, worldwide. Earlier this year, Abe launched his strategy on global health diplomacy, naming worldwide creation of UHC its primary feature.

Abe’s UHC gambit is part of an overall, marked shift in Japanese foreign policy that is at once far to the right of the country’s position eighteen months ago, under Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, and significantly more engaged in world affairs

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