WHO and Red Cross urge action from world leaders on pandemic preparedness

The secretary-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Gro Harlem Brundtland, and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Elhadj As Sy, are urging world leaders to avert the next pandemic. Today, no country's authorities have fully funded or implemented International Health Regulations, the foremost international health security agreement that all countries have signed.

The authors of the opinion piece state that the world is unprepared if a fast-moving airborne pandemic should occur. The world's leaders are not doing enough to make vaccines, diagnostics, and medications available at the necessary scale. Should a pandemic break out, there are not efficient funds to avert serious social harm.

The two authors urge state leaders to think further into the future and increase funding at the local, national, and international levels needed to strengthen health systems, improve our response capacity in crises, and counteract outbreaks.

Op-ed – Bistandsaktuelt (in Norwegian)

Norway Global health Global health R&D

New members appointed to Korean Global Disease Eradication Fund operating committee

The Korean ministry of foreign affairs appointed four new civil members to the operating committee of the Global Disease Eradication Fund (GDEF) on October 31, 2019. The committee members are from civil society organizations, the health sector, media, and academia. They include a representative on gender equality and women’s empowerment, a government official in charge of communicable disease control, a journalist covering health and medical issues, and a medical school professor.

The GDEF aims to prevent and eradicate infectious diseases in partner countries. Through GDEF, South Korea has supported several projects by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) and more, and it has provided contributions to the Global Fund, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and UNITAID. The GDEF raises funds by charging a levy on international flights departing from Korea. 

Press release – MOFA (in Korean)

South Korea Global health

Norway increases support for humanitarian relief in South Sudan

Norway is increasing its humanitarian assistance by NOK 30 million (US$4 million) to help save lives and meet basic needs in South Sudan. 7.2 million people are suffering in humanitarian crises, according to the UN, now exacerbated by heavy rains and flooding. 

This contribution brings Norway’s total allocation to humanitarian assistance in the country and support for South Sudanese refugees in neighboring countries to a total of NOK 172 million (US$21 million). In addition, Norway has provided around NOK 11 million (US$1 million) through the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).   

Norway’s support will be channeled through humanitarian actors that are present in South Sudan and can respond to the humanitarian needs rapidly and effectively. 

Press release – Norwegian government  

Norway Global health Nutrition

US Senators claim US effort to remove sexual health from UN agreements violates law

Four United States Senators, all democrats, have raised concerns that the Trump administration -- by lobbying countries to remove “sexual and reproductive health” from United Nations agreements -- may have violated federal law.  In the lead up to the UN meetings this fall, the US sent a letter to 70 countries, urging that such language be dropped from an agreement on universal health coverage. In a letter, the four Senators wrote that the US efforts to persuade countries to remove the language was not only harmful to women and families but that it "violates the Siljander Amendment, which prohibits use of foreign assistance in lobbying ‘for or against abortion’."

Although the US failed in its efforts in September, it continues to push for the removal of “sexual and reproductive health” from international agreements. During recent consideration of a resolution on women, peace, and security, the US ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, said the US “could not accept” the resolution because it included the phrase.

News article - The Guardian

United States Global health

German development bank invests €25 million in Sustainable Ocean Fund

The German development bank, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), holds €25 million (US$28 million) of fiduciary holdings in the Sustainable Ocean Fund on behalf of the German federal ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation. This anchor investment will enable increased mobilization of co-investments of up to US$150 million.

KfW seeks to improve global food security, decrease oceanic plastic volume, and fortify coastline protections through private small- and medium-sized companies by investing in sustainable fishing practices, circular economies, and protections for biodiversity.

Press release - KfW (in German)

Gavi seeks additional €100 million in German contributions

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is seeking €700 million (US$789 million) from Germany for its upcoming 2020 replenishment in London. If confirmed, this would be a €100 million (US$112 million) increase from the contribution previous confirmed by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Gavi had vaccinated 760 million children as of reporting in late 2018, with the highest rates ever of vaccinations in low-income countries, and an estimated 13 million lives saved.

News article – Focus (in German)

Germany Global health

Canada's IDRC helps sponsor the World Veterinary Vaccine Congress

Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) will join 600 veterinary vaccine experts and specialists in Barcelona from October 28- 31, 2019 for the World Veterinary Vaccine Congress where the latest developments in veterinary vaccine research and development will be discussed.  IDRC is a sponsor of the World Veterinary Vaccine Congress.

IDRC will specifically be involved in sessions at the conference that highlight how their Livestock Health program is focused on improving the health of livestock and protecting small farmers. IDRC-funded research on the African Swine Fever vaccine will be presented and IDRC's Senior Program Specialist, Musa Mulongo and IDRC's Program Leader of the Livestock Health program,  Kevin Tiessen, will show how IDRC delivers innovations to low-income beneficiaries through building strategic and appropriate public and private sector partnerships. 

Press release - IDRC

USAID pandemic identification program is latest budget-cut casualty

A United States Agency for International Development (USAID) program called 'Predict', which was researching animal viruses that evolve into human pandemics, is quietly being shut down.

The program, established in the aftermath of the H5N1 bird flu, has cost about US$207 million since 2005.  Experts whose organizations received funding from Predict called the program's shut-down a major loss, describing Predict's work as a crucial approach to identify and proactively address pandemics, rather than waiting for their emergence and scrambling to respond. They say ending this program increases global vulnerability to diseases such as Ebola or MERS, and as-yet-undiscovered zoonotic viruses that can originate from unexpected places in the animal world and devestate human populations.

Predict had collected 14,000 biological samples over its ten years active, and identified 1,000 new viruses, including a hitherto unseen strain of Ebola. The initiative had also trained approximately 5,000 people in Asian and African states, and founded or supported 60 laboratories for medcial research in low-income nations.

News article - The New York Times

UK development minister pays tribute to polio campaigners

The UK secretary of state for international development, Alok Sharma, marked World Polio Day by thanking fundraisers, campaigners, and polio survivors for their advocacy in the fight against polio. He commended members of the world-wide Rotary Club who have contributed almost US$2 billion to the fight against polio, including more than US$40 million from UK members. Through its development assistance budget, the UK government has helped to immunize more than 45 million children around the world against the debilitating disease. 

The number of people contracting polio has fallen by 99.9% since 1988 and only three countries in the world have not been declared polio-free. Eradicating polio entirely will, however, require sustained funding to immunize children.

Press release - UK government

Trials begin for new scabies medication developed by Australian nonprofit pharmaceutical

The Melbourne-based pharmaceutical company, Medicines Development for Global Health (MDGH), is planning clinical trials to assess moxidectin as a new treatment for scabies. The scabies parasite disproportionately affects indigenous Australian communities, as well as poorer populations and tropical areas around the world.

MDGH focuses on developing treatments for neglected tropical diseases. The company has already developed the drug moxidectin as the first new treatment in 30 years for onchocerciasis, sometimes referred to as river blindness. In 2018 the US Food and Drug Administration awarded the company a priority voucher for moxidectin and approved the drug for the treatment of onchocerciasis.

News article - Australian of the Year