New York, Oct 26 (Canadian-Media): In a “historic achievement for humanity”, two of three wild poliovirus strains have been eliminated worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Thursday, following the conclusion by a group of experts that WPV3, type three of the disease, has been eradicated completely.
A nurse administers an oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) to a baby at the Kaloko Clinic, Ndola, Zambia. Credit: © UNICEF/Karin Schermbrucke
The deadly viral disease is “very close” to disappearing altogether, with the number of affected children having dropped by 99 per cent since 1988, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced on World Polio Day, marked each 24 October, positioning the world closer than ever to its total eradication.
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The number of recorded cases has fallen from 350,000 in 1988, to less than 40 today, and from a presence in 125 countries, to just two.
Afghanistan and Pakistan are the two remaining countries with reported cases, with Nigeria, a third polio-endemic country, having gone three years without a reported infection, placing it on track to be certified polio-free by 2020.
“Following the eradication of smallpox and wild poliovirus type two, this news represents a historic achievement for humanity”, WHO said, with only type one of the virus remaining.
18 million would have been paralyzed
All three strains are symptomatically identical, WHO explains, causing irreversible paralysis, and in cases when muscles become immobilized, the disease leads to death. Early on, other signs may include fever, fatigue, and stiffness in the neck and limbs, though most infected people (90 per cent) have very mild, or no symptoms at all.
Thanks to disease control efforts, including the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), comprised of WHO, UNICEF and other health partners, 18 million people are currently walking, who otherwise would have been paralyzed by the virus.
In addition, milestone polio eradication work has saved the world more than $27 billion in health costs in the last 30 years, with potential to generate $14 billion in cumulative cost savings by 2050, when compared to costs incurred in controlling the virus indefinitely.
Beyond Thursday’s milestone, eradication “will send a strong message” regarding the power of vaccines at a time when public trust has been undermined, WHO has said.
As the world faces a spread of misinformation over vaccine safety, eliminating polio will provide “irrefutable evidence” that they work.
UNICEF has stressed that seeing polio disappear means every child, in every household must continue to be vaccinated. The agency has managed to distribute over one billion doses annually, but thousands of children are still missing out.
Vulnerable children live in remote areas or in conflict-affected communities, making access a challenge. Marginalized and underserved communities, already lacking basic resources like water and health care, sometimes only received care through targeted polio vaccination campaigns.
UNICEF continues to lead efforts to increase acceptance and demand for the vaccine through community dialogue, trust-building and evidence-based communication on the effectiveness of the immunization.
New York: Although exposure to lead remains a key global health concern, particularly as it impacts childhood development, only 73 countries have legally binding controls for lead paint, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported.
Lead exposure killed more than one million people in 2017, according to data cited by WHO, which is why the UN agency and partners are this week urging countries to take action to ban lead paint.
Lead has devastating consequences on our health and in particular on the health of our children, causing lifelong intellectual disabilities,” said Dr, Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Public Health which deals with with social and environmental factors, at WHO in Geneva.
“Lead paint represents one of the most widespread sources of lead exposure to infants and children. Yet lead paint still lurks in homes, in schools and on toys.”
Decaying lead paint can contaminate soil or dust, meaning young children can ingest it while playing on the ground.
Lead is stored in the teeth and bones and accumulates over time, affecting multiple body systems. It is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones.
As young children’s nervous systems are still developing, they can absorb up to five times more lead than adults.
Dr. Neira explained that lead impairs childhood brain development, which could lead to reduced IQ.
“It will result as well in behavioural changes such as shortening of attention span, increased anti-social behavior, and sometimes even reduced educational attainment”, she added, noting that the impacts can extend into adulthood.
WHO is using International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action, 20-26 October, to mobilize for laws, regulations or enforceable standards to stop the manufacture, import and sale of paints that contain lead.
Many countries are currently establishing laws to reduce the level of lead in paint to below 90 parts per million (ppm): the lowest and most protective regulatory limit set.
United Nations, Oct 20 (Canadian-Media): The Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) officially remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, experts meeting in Geneva said on Friday.
Health workers prepare to treat suspected Ebola patients in Bikoro Hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Credit: UNICEF/Naftalin
The World Health Organization (WHO) convened its Emergency Committee on the disease which concluded with a call for sustained political commitment and continued cross-border screenings, among other recommendations.
The outbreak began in August 2018 and there have been 3,114 confirmed cases and 2,123 deaths, according to latest figures.
It is occurring in an area long affected by armed group activity, making insecurity the greatest concern.
While Ebola risk remains “very high” at the national and regional levels, it is still low globally, WHO said in a statement following the meeting.
Cases have consistently declined in recent weeks: 15 new cases were reported during the period 7 – 13 October, compared with 128 confirmed cases per week during the peak of the outbreak in April.
Additionally, “hot spots” have shifted from urban settings to more rural, hard-to-reach communities across a more concentrated geographical area.
Currently, 10 “health zones” are affected and WHO said these areas pose “major” security challenges.
“When response activities are suspended, the likelihood of under-reporting and the potential for the disease to spread to new areas increases,” the agency said. “In addition, continued transmission in remote areas where access is difficult creates the possibility of transmission chains going undetected.”
An experimental vaccine known as rVSV-ZEBOV-GP is being used in the outbreak and has been shown to be effective in protecting people from the Ebola virus. So far, more than 230,000 people have been innoculated, including more than 60,00 health and frontline workers in the DRC, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi.
The meeting heard that a so-called “ring” strategy is also proving effective. This involves vaccinating all people who come into contact with a person who has Ebola.
Separately on Friday, WHO welcomed the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommending conditional marketing authorization for the vaccine: a key step before licensing and roll-out.
“This vaccine has already saved many lives in the current Ebola outbreak, and the decision by European regulator will help it to eventually save many more,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
#ObesityRatesSoar; #GlobalDietShift; #UNFoodAgency
New York, Oct 16 (Canadian-Media): Eating food high in starch, sugar, fats and salt; combined with a sedentary lifestyle, is a recipe for soaring global obesity rates, even in countries where many still suffer from hunger. On World Food Day, which falls on Wednesday, the UN’s food agency, FAO, is calling for action to make healthy, sustainable diets affordable and accessible for all, UN reports said.
The shift away from seasonal, mainly plant-based and fibre-rich food has occurred in recent decades, as a result of globalization, urbanization and growth in income, says FAO, as busy consumers in urban areas find less time to cook at home, and rely increasingly on fast-food outlets, street food vendors and take-away meals.
This has led to a situation whereby almost 800 million people are considered obese, and over 40 million children under-five are overweight. The health costs of unhealthy eating habits – blamed as the leading cause of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers – are estimated at around $2 trillion per year.
At the same time, some 821 million people are still suffering from hunger across the world, with numbers increasing over the past three years, and around one in three children are malnourished and not developing properly: in some parts of Africa, hunger has risen by almost 20 per cent.
Everyone can play their part in promoting healthy diets and achieving the UN’s goal of zero hunger by 2030, FAO urges. Farmers, and others who work in agriculture, can spread their knowledge, and traditional, sustainable practices. By promoting healthy living to their citizens, governments can make savings, by cutting food-related health problems; and the private sector can make a difference by reducing the amount of harmful ingredients in their products.
In a video statement released on Wednesday, UN chief António Guterres underlined the crucial need to transform food systems in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As well as impacting health, the way that food is currently consumed and produced is having a significant effect on climate change. Mr. Guterres announced that he hopes to convene a major Food Systems Summit in 2021, as part of the Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs.
New York, Oct 10 (Canadian-Media): Worldwide, 800,000 people die by suicide each year - one every 40 seconds - making it the second leading cause of death among young people (aged 15 to 29), the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday, spotlighting suicide prevention as the theme for this year's World Mental Health Day.
“Mental health has been neglected for too long,'' Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message for the Day, saying it needs to be addressed urgently, as a matter "that concerns us all.”
“We need stronger investments in services. And we must not allow stigma to push people away from the assistance they need. I am speaking my mind because I care deeply” he said, “there is no health, without mental health.”
The World Health Organization (WHO), supporting this year’s international Day, has said that each year, the proportion of suicides accounts for more deaths than war and homicide combined.
A well-established link exists between mental health and suicide in developed countries, and the trauma from experiencing disaster, violence and abuse, are also strongly associated with suicidal behavior, according to the agency’s latest figures, published last month, ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day.
In the past, the United Nations and partners have drawn attention to different aspects of mental health on the World Day, from mental health in relation to children, the workplace, stigmatization of issues, and psychological first aid - or ways in which to lend support to the distressed.
This year, WHO and global partners are echoing the call of September’s World Suicide Prevention Day through promotion of the “40 seconds of action campaign”, aimed at raising awareness of suicide around the world, and methods of prevention.
To date, only a few countries have included eliminating suicide among their health priorities, and only 38 report having a national prevention strategy, WHO reports. Though suicides are preventable, stigma and taboo surrounding mental health have not been addressed in many societies.
Reducing access to the means of suicide.
In a move to ensure a healthy work environment for its staff, the United Nations implemented a framework of mental health resources best practices for its thousands of staff, in 2018.
WHO’s Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP), launched globally in 2008, serves as an evidence-based guide to scale up services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders.
It’s 2013-2020 action plan sets a global target of reducing suicide rates by 10 per cent by 2020, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which sets a target of cutting suicide rates by one third up to 2030.
In a joint mission targeting youth, WHO in partnership with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) will convene a global conference on child and adolescent mental health next month, on 7 November.
World experts and young advocates are set to gather for a three-day consultation in Florence, Italy, to address growing gaps in mental health services for children and young people. Worrying data shows suicide as the leading cause of death among youth aged 15 to 19.
#WomenMistreated; #Childbirth; #WHO
United Nations, Oct 10 (Canadian-Media): More than a third of women surveyed across four lower-income countries, reported being mistreated during childbirth, a new study led by the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed.
A mother and her new born baby at the National Health Center for Mother and Child, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. (4 September 2015). Image credit: UNICEF/Jan Zammit
The study, published on Wednesday in The Lancet - an influential peer-reviewed science journal - was carried out in Ghana, Guinea, Myanmar and Nigeria, and found that 42 percent of the 2,016 women observed had experienced physical or verbal abuse, stigma or discrimination during labour and childbirth.
According to WHO, quality support, particularly from midwives for women in labour, can make the difference between life and death. Midwifery has been shown to reduce maternal and newborn mortality and stillbirth rates, by over 80 per cent, and reduces pre-term labour and birth by 24 per cent. Yet, more than 800 women still die every day during the process.
Younger, less-educated women were found to be most vulnerable to mistreatment, in the form of stigmatization, discrimination, undergoing medical procedures without consent; the use of force in procedures; or abandonment or neglect by health workers.
Some 14 percent of women experienced physical abuse in the form of being slapped, hit or punched, while others experienced non-consensual caesarean sections, and episiotiomies (surgical cuts to the vagina during childbirth) and vaginal examinations.
Interviews were also conducted with 2,672 women after giving birth, which indicated similar levels of mistreatment.
Researchers observed 35 cases of caesarean births conducted without the mother’s consent, along with 190 of 253 episiotomies reported, and 2,611 vaginal examinations, comprising 59 per cent of the total.
Some 752 (38 per cent) of the women in the study experienced some form of verbal abuse, whether being shouted at, scolded or mocked. Eleven women were targets of discrimination or stigma, on the basis of their race or ethnicity.
Strategies for prevention
The health agency recommends a framework of strategies to ensure women are treated with compassion and dignity - from holding health systems accountable, to ensuring enough resources are available for quality health care, and clear policies on women’s rights:
Last year the agency put forward recommendations on intrapartum care, highlighting the importance of a woman-centered approach in optimizing expecting mothers’ childbirth experiences.
An integral part WHO’s support in fast-tracking progress toward achieving universal health coverage (UHC) is the quality design of maternal and newborn health, in line with SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) 3, the target to ensure healthy lives and well-being for all.