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How Political Turmoil Can Threaten Global Health

Armen Hareyan's picture

Recentviolence and unrest in Kenyaand Gazademonstrate how political turmoil can threaten public health, Margaret Chan,director-general of the World Health Organization, said Monday at a meeting of WHO'sExecutive Board, Reuters reports. The 34-member WHOExecutive Board is meeting this week to address key global health issues aheadof the World Health Assembly in May (MacInnis, Reuters,1/21). Chan said that political unrest can disrupt "routine healthservices and compromise special initiatives, as we have seen repeatedly withpolio eradication." She added, "I am concerned, in particular, aboutthe situation in Kenya,where support is urgently needed to ensure the continuity of routine healthservices and programs for HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and otherdiseases" (Schlein, VOA News, 1/21).

Although TB prevalence appears to have stabilized worldwide, the spread ofdrug-resistant strains of the disease in China,parts of Central Asia and Eastern Europe is aserious concern, Chan said. She added that extensively drug-resistant TB, whichis resistant to the two most potent first-line treatments and some of theavailable second-line drugs, also is a concern. The emergence of XDR-TB"reminds us to be prepared for setbacks arising from the constantlychanging microbial world," Chan said (Reuters, 1/21).

Chan noted that although more people have access to antiretroviral drugs, bothHIV/AIDS and TB "impose their greatest burden on Africa."She added that the "same is true for malaria." According to Chan,progress will be measured by "how well we improve the health of theAfrican people" and not by global averages. "For malaria, we havemany reasons for optimism following better coverage with"insecticide-treated nets and the "use of the newer strategy for home-basedmanagement," she said (VOA News, 1/21). Chan cited findingsthat suggest Africa could see the healtheffects of climate changes as early as 2020. She said health experts need toaddress climate change issues, including waterborne and vectorborne diseases (Reuters,1/21).

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