Tuesday, 22 February 2011

MALNUTRITION: GM crops continue spread, passing 'billion hectares'

22 February 2011
Richard Black By Richard Black: Environment correspondent, BBC News

Anti-GM food demo in Budapest
Most European societies remain opposed to GM agriculture, despite advances elsewhere

The area of the world's farmland used for growing genetically modified crops increased by about 10% last year.
GM use grew fastest in Brazil but fell in the EU, says the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).
Virtually all GM strains used were engineered for just two traits, disease resistance and herbicide tolerance.
ISAAA is an organisation partly funded by industry that promotes biotechnology as a path to sustainability.
It calculates that more than a billion hectares have been cultivated with GM crops since their introduction in 1996 - the figure derived by adding together the areas cultivated with these varieties in all of the intervening years.
ISAAA estimates that more than 15 million farmers are involved in GM agriculture.
"We can recount a momentous year of progress in biotech crop adoption," said Clive James, the organisation's chairman and founder.
"During 2010, the accumulated commercial biotech plantation exceeded one billion hectares - that's an area larger than the US or China.
"And biotech crops registered double-digit growth over 2009, bringing the total global plantings to 148 million hectares. Biotech crops are here to stay."
However, critics point out that this is still just 10% of the world's arable land area as defined by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
About half of the global GM total is accounted for by the US - although overall, the developing world is adopting the technology faster than industrialised countries.
If current trends continue, developing countries will be growing more than half of the global total within a few years.
Scientists with GM potato plants
Potatoes are among the GM crops starting to become more widespread

During 2010, Pakistan and Burma took their initial steps into the GM world by growing cotton modified to be resistant to insect pests.
The EU, however, continues to buck the global trend, registering a slight fall in the land area under GM cultivation.
Germany and Sweden both supported small areas of a new potato variety grown not for food, but to produce high-quality starch for industrial use.
Greenpeace, meanwhile, has presented a petition bearing more than a million signatures to the European Commission, demanding that the executive stop approving new GM varieties.
Recently, the EU introduced the "European citizen's initiative", which allows more than a million citizens jointly to ask for a change in the law.
"Today's European data shows that GM crops are failing in the field and on the market; farmers and consumers are not falling for biotech industry propaganda," said Greenpeace EU agriculture policy adviser Stefanie Hundsdorfer.
"GM crops are not more productive and are less resistant to extreme climate conditions than normal crops. They do however present a serious risk for our environment."

Golden future
One of the principal criticisms of the biotech industry down the years is that companies have not commercialised crops that produce direct benefits to the public, such as those with improved nutritional content, or that allow farmers in poor countries to grow crops in land that is currently too hot, too dry or too salty.
Virtually all of the crops grown in 2010 were either engineered to be resistant to insect pests - typically, through insertion of a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene that produces a toxin - or tolerant to proprietary herbicides.
A significant and growing proportion - about 20% - carried both traits, reflecting the trend for companies to market varieties containing a number of introduced genes "stacked" on top of each other.
Up to eight genes are stacked in a single variety.
Another criticism is that just four crops - soya bean, cotton, maize and canola (a relative of rape) - dominate the market, with little attention paid to other important foods of the developing world poor, such as rice, millet or sorghum.
Dr James suggested this situation was about to change, with crops due to come into commercial use over the next five years, including many with enhanced nutrition, notably "Golden Rice" enhanced in Vitamin A.
"Golden rice is expected to be available in 2013 in the Philippines and thereafter in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam," he said.
"Also [we will soon see] potatoes modified to resist late blight - the disease that caused the Irish potato famine - as well as sugar cane, bananas, eggplant, tomato, cassava. sweet potato, pulses and groundnuts."
He claimed that the introduction of Golden Rice could save the lives of thousands of people afflicted with Vitamin A deficiency.


POVERTY: Migration, reasons, difficulties and benefits

LAHORE, 22 February 2011 (IRIN) -
In December last year Nazeer Sulaiman, 65, had open heart surgery in Pakistan.

“The cost of the operation I needed and of the medications I am now on are paid for by the money sent home by my son in Kuwait. Without this we could not have paid for the procedure, which has enabled me to start walking around much more rather than resting in bed,” said Sulaiman. A retired bank clerk, he is now hoping to take on some part time work.
“We were barely managing on an income of around Rs 25,000 [US$295] a month, brought in by my younger son, especially as I was sick,” Sulaiman said. “My eldest son’s migration changed our fortunes and doubled our income.”
The Sulaiman household is not alone. A new study by the International Organization of Migration (IOM) working with the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics investigates the impact - on 500 households in nine high-migration districts - of remittances from Saudi Arabia.
The study, commissioned by the Pakistan government, aims to compile empirical data on the social and economic impacts of remittances on receiving households. The study found average total remittances received per household from the time the migrants went abroad were Rs 1.05 million [$ 3,145] and that a large proportion of remittances were used in four areas - real estate and agricultural machinery, food, marriages and savings.
“It was also found the remittances decrease child labour, help with education, health and so on,” Saleem Rehmat, spokesman for the IOM in Islamabad, told IRIN.

The advantages to be gained by having a family member migrate are well established for many families. Indeed, the desperation to reach a country overseas has sometimes led to drastic measures being attempted.
In January this year, a man who had apparently attempted to reach Dubai after stowing away in the landing gear of a commercial plane died after falling to the ground soon after the flight took off. Tens of thousands of other people try to leave illegally each year sometimes attempting hazardous road journeys across international borders.
The IOM report recommends that given the developmental benefits of remittances, the cost of migration needs to be reduced by improving the recruitment system and clamping down on exploitative practices by middlemen. Such middlemen play an important role in lives in districts such as Gujranwala in Punjab Province, an area from where migration is high, according to the IOM study.
“I have paid an agent Rs 150,000 to arrange for me to get to Europe. Let’s hope I can go soon,” said Munir Ahmed*, 22. He hopes the money he plans to send home can help pay for the marriages of his sisters, aged 20 and 18. “It is a real concern for us. We do not know where we will find the money to pay for the weddings,” said Ahmed.

Making a “huge difference”
The remittances sent in from abroad have helped families educate children, build up savings and improve the quality of lives. “Money that comes in to households from overseas makes a huge difference to the quality of life people lead. Better schooling and higher education becomes possible. People have been able to build up savings and move into better housing. We have seen this happen right before our eyes,” Raja Amjad Gul, president of the Young Ittehad organization, which works for community welfare in the town of Kharian in the high-migration Gujrat district of the Punjab, told IRIN.
According to the Ministry of Labour, there are currently 4.5 million migrants from Pakistan in various countries. The money they send home has changed the lives of millions, and enabled families to climb up the economic ladder above subsistence level to a situation where money in bank accounts offers them more options and new opportunities.


BIOTERRORISM: Japan unearths site linked to Unit 731 human experiments

Justin McCurry: guardian.co.uk: 21 February 2011

Japan unearths site linked to human experiments
Former Tokyo medical school site is linked to Unit 731, branch of imperial army which used prisoners in germ warfare programme

Toyo Ishii, a former military nurse, broke her 60-year silence about Unit 731 in 2006
Toyo Ishii, a former military nurse, broke her 60-year silence about Unit 731 in 2006. Photograph: Itsuo Inouye/AP

Authorities in Japan have begun excavating the former site of a medical school that may contain the remains of victims of the country's wartime biological warfare programme.
The school has links to Unit 731, a branch of the imperial Japanese army that conducted lethal experiments on prisoners as part of efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.
The Japanese government has previously acknowledged the unit's existence but refused to discuss its activities, despite testimony from former members and growing documentary evidence. In 2002 a Japanese court said Tokyo was under no obligation to compensate victims.
The government agreed to launch a ¥100m (£741,000) investigation after Toyo Ishii, a former nurse, said she had helped bury body parts on the site as the US occupation forces moved into Tokyo at the end of the second world war. Officials said so far there was no evidence the site had been used for experiments.
"We are not certain if the survey will find anything," Kazuhiko Kawauchi, a health ministry official, told Associated Press. "If anything is dug up, it may not be related to Unit 731."
Experts believe that if the excavation yields physical evidence that Japan conducted experiments on live humans, the government would face pressure to discuss the country's wartime conduct. "If bones or organs with traces of live medical experiments are found, the government would have to admit a wartime medical crime," said Yasushi Torii, head of a group that has been investigating the case for decades. "This is a start, although we will probably need more evidence to prove Unit 731's involvement."
Ishii, 88, broke her 61-year silence in 2006, claiming that she and colleagues had been ordered to bury numerous corpses, bones and body parts in the grounds following Japan's surrender in August 1945.
The then conservative government met with Ishii five years ago over her claims and pledged to pursue the case.
However, authorities held off on excavation until residents had been relocated and their apartments demolished last year. The current left-of-centre administration, which took office in 2009, has shown greater willingness to examine the darker episodes in Japan's wartime history.
The site in Tokyo's Shinjuku district is close to another where the mass graves of dozens of people who may have been victims of wartime experiments was uncovered in 1989.
Investigators concluded, however, that the remains, which included skulls with holes drilled through them or sections removed, were not connected to Unit 731 and that there was no evidence of criminal activity.
The health ministry concluded that the remains were those of non-Japanese Asians that had been used in "medical education" or recovered from war zones for analysis in Japan.
Unit 731, based in Harbin in northern China, conducted experiments on tens of thousands of mostly Chinese and Korean prisoners, and a small number of Allied prisoners of war. Some historians estimate up to 250,000 people were subjected to experiments. The remains of some are thought to have been transported from China to Tokyo for analysis.
According to historical accounts, male and female prisoners, named "logs" by their torturers, were subjected to vivisection without anaesthesia after they had been deliberately infected with diseases such as typhus and cholera. Some had limbs amputated or organs removed.
Leading members of the unit were secretly granted immunity from prosecution in return for giving US occupation forces access to years of biological warfare research. Some went on to occupy prestigious positions in the pharmaceutical industry, health ministry and academia.

Human guinea pigs
Japan's push into China began in 1931, and had become an occupation of large areas of the country by 1937, the year of the notorious Nanking massacre, in which, by some historical estimates, between 250,000 and 300,000 people in the city were killed. Those figures are disputed by some Japanese historians, who say the death toll was lower.
Unit 731 began conducting germ warfare experiments from its headquarters in Harbin, north-east China, in the mid-1930s, using human guinea pigs to develop biological weapons to assist Japan's push into regions in the south-east.
In 2004, a Chinese survivor described to the Guardian how his home on Zhejiang province, south-east China, had been attacked by plague-inflected fleas dropped by Japanese occupation forces. Records show that hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians were infected with the plague and other diseases.
As Japan confronted defeat in the summer of 1945, the unit's leader, Lieutenant General Shiro Ishii, told researchers to take their secrets to the grave and ordered his troops to demolish the unit's compound in Harbin.
But some former members of Unit 731 have come forward to discuss the past. They include Akira Makino, a former doctor who in 2006 said he had been ordered to conduct experiments on condemned men while stationed on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines


Monday, 21 February 2011


Dominique Menvielle: 14 Feb 2011: Source: Le Progres

Starting 14 Feb 2011 at the Parc de la Tete d'Or in Lyon, the elephants Baby, Nepal, and Java have been
removed, as a precaution, from appearing in public. The exhibition of animals who are suffering from contagious disease is prohibited, leaving Circus Pinder, the owner, to decide their fate.
In a letter sent today to Gilbert Edelstein, the director of Pinder, the City of Lyon announces the termination of the agreement to retire Baby and Nepal to the Parc de la Tete d'Or [Java was entrusted to the
Parc by the Circus Amar]. The circus now has a maximum of 3 months to organize the transfer of the animals back to the circus or decide to euthanize them. Screening tests for tuberculosis, a contagious disease, were positive. The diagnosis between August and November last year [2010] is now final. 2 paths of the park bordering the elephants' enclosure are closed from today [14 Feb 2011]. The State veterinary
services demanded that the group be removed from public display.
How far can the miasma of an elephant sneeze travel? A long way, we think. David Gomis director of the zoo, however, plays down the situation: "Today the risk is zero. The elephants are not in the
clinical phase, they are not shedding [the bacteria]. They are carriers of tuberculosis without becoming ill. They could have been locked in their building while the talks are progressing with Pinder.
But this is hardly possible and I want them to enjoy the outdoors. The beautiful [spring] days are coming. People will see them from afar."
What happens to the elephants who have touched the heart of the Lyonnais [public], accustomed to their presence? Still, these animals leave a comical impression on those who see them repeating the same
gestures. When one wants to get rid of a dog you accuse it of being rabid, say the malicious gossips. That is to misunderstand the seriousness with which zoos that care for animals adhere to European
programs. It is far from the menageries of yesteryear. In Lyon, the facilities are changing, so that for the giraffe and many more [animals] they are creating an African plain, reflecting the attention paid to the conditions of exhibition. "There is an intellectual honesty test," defends David Gomis, veterinarian.
What decision will Pinder take knowing that to treat the animals is considered useless? "We reiterate our proposition from 1 Oct 2010, to allow us to euthanize your animals," reads the letter from the
municipality. What is certain is that there will be no more elephants in captivity in Lyon after Java, the dean of the group, dies.

Readers are encouraged to read the elephant tuberculosis (TB) FAQ at
which are excerpted here:

"Q: Do elephants with TB pose a danger to humans?
A: The greatest risk is probably to elephant handlers that have close daily contact. In one published report (Michalak 1998), 11 of 22 handlers had positive skin tests and one handler had active TB.
Several other reports discuss the zoonotic aspects of elephant TB (Davis 2001, Maslow 1997, Montali 2001, Oh 2002). There have been no published reports of casual public contact with elephants resulting in
TB. There is always a risk of disease transmission when there is contact with an infected animal or person. People who are immunocompromised are at greater risk.
The US Centers for Disease Control says:"To become infected, a person usually has to spend a relatively long time in a closed environment where the air was contaminated by a person with untreated tuberculosis who was coughing and who had numerous _Mycobacterium tuberculosis_ organisms (or tubercle bacilli)
in secretions from the lungs or voice box (larynx). Infection is generally transmitted through the air; therefore, there is virtually no danger of its being spread by dishes, linens, and items that are touched, or by most food products.

Q: Once treatment has begun, are there still dangers to others?
A: Once treatment is initiated it appears that elephants (like people) stop shedding [bacteria] within a few weeks and are probably not infectious to other animals or people.

Q: Can TB in elephants be cured?
A: We lack a good method to know for sure that elephants have been cured. X-rays are used in humans to evaluate lung lesions but we cannot x-ray elephants so serial cultures are used post-treatment.
There is evidence that the MAPIA(TM) (multi-antigen print immunoassay) changes with treatment and may be a method to monitor treatment response (Lyashchenko 2006). A few elephants that were treated have
died and most (but not all) appear to have been free of TB when they were examined postmortem."
French laws prohibit the display of animals with contagious disease. This would be a very sorrowful loss to the public. The elephants are planned to be moved from the circus to the African Plains section of the zoo inside Parc de la Tete d'Or, and therefore they will not be in
close contact to the visiting public. The elephants are also not in the active clinical phase, so they would not be shedding any bacteria, plus once medication starts shedding also stops. This should be adequate assurance for the safety of the public. In previous incidents of tuberculosis of zoo elephants in Australia and USA, many times the animals are still exhibited in open view to the general public.
The treatment for tuberculosis in elephants is through oral medication for one full year and cost estimates range from USD 5000 to USD 50 000. Should the management not be able to afford this cost, perhaps
some 3rd party or NGO will adopt or help subsidize the cost for treatment. It is also hoped that should French law not be able to accommodate these "contagious elephants", they be temporarily moved to
an off-exhibit sanctuary for one year until the treatment is complete and returned to the zoo afterwards. Euthanasia should always be of last resort and in this case, there are still other options.

Guidelines for the control of tuberculosis in elephants are available at

A list of 127 references for tuberculosis in elephants is available at


Drug-resistant M. tuberculosis more likely in foreign-born patients with TB Meningitis

 February 9, 2011

Vinnard C. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011; doi:10.3201/eid1703.101715.

Patients with tuberculosis meningitis born outside of the US were more likely to be infected with an isoniazid-resistant strain of Mycobacterium tuberculosis when compared with US-born patients, according to new findings from a cross-sectional study.
Christopher Vinnard, MD, of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and colleagues pooled data on tuberculosis meningitis cases between 1993 and 2005 from the US National Tuberculosis Surveillance System and assessed patient characteristics associated with isoniazid resistance.
Patients with a previous diagnosis of TB or with multidrug-resistant disease were excluded from the study.
Of 1,649 patients with tuberculosis meningitis, 14% were infected with isolates resistant to isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol, pyrazinamide, or streptomycin — 8% were infected with at least one isoniazid-resistant isolate. Isoniazid-resistance was uncommon in patients aged older than 64 years.
Foreign birth was the only characteristic independently associated with isoniazid-resistance on initial testing (OR=2.53; 95% CI, 1.66–3.88). Twenty of the 69 foreign-born patients with isoniazid-resistant disease resided in Mexico; seven of the nine countries with 2 or more cases of isoniazid-resistant disease were located in Asia. Although 53% of patients were HIV-positive, no association was observed between HIV and isoniazid resistance (OR=1.10; 95% CI, 0.70-3.65).
“Prospective studies are needed to determine whether individual patient characteristics can guide the selection of tuberculosis meningitis therapies and lead to an improvement in clinical outcomes,” the researchers wrote.

TUBERCULOSIS: Epidemiology of Anti-tuberculosis Drug Resistance in a Chinese Population: Current Situation and Challenges Ahead

Epidemiology of Anti-tuberculosis Drug Resistance in a Chinese Population: Current Situation and Challenges Ahead
Yan Shao , Dandan Yang , Weiguo Xu , Wei Lu , Honghuan Song , Yaoyao Dai , Hongbing Shen and Jianming Wang
BMC Public Health 2011, 11:110doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-110
17 February 2011

Drug resistance has been a cause of concern for tuberculosis (TB) control in both developed and developing countries. Careful monitoring of the patterns and trends of drug resistance should remain a priority.

Strains were collected from 1824 diagnosed sputum smear positive pulmonary TB patients in Jiangsu province of China and then tested for drug susceptibility against rifampicin, isoniazid, ethambutol and streptomycin. The prevalence and patterns of drug resistance in mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) isolates were investigated. Multiple logistic regression analysis was performed to identify the risk factors for multidrug resistant (MDR) bacterial infection. The strength of association was estimated by odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (95% CI).

The drug susceptibility tests showed that 1077(59.05%) MTB strains were sensitive to all the four antibiotics and the other 747(40.95%) strains were resistant to at least one drug. The proportions of mono-drug resistance were 28.73% for isoniazid, 19.41% for rifampicin, 29.33% for streptomycin, and 13.98% for ethambutol, respectively. The prevalence of MDR-TB was 16.61%, which was significantly different between new cases (7.63%) and those with previous treatment history (33.07%). Geographical variation of drug resistance was observed, where the proportion of MDR-TB among new cases was higher in the central (9.50%) or north part (9.57%) than that in the south area (4.91%) of Jiangsu province. The age of patients was significantly associated with the risk of drug resistance (P<0.001) and the adjusted OR (95% CI) was 1.88(1.26-2.81) for patients aged 35-44 years when compared with those 65 years or older. Patients with previous treatment history had a more than 5-fold increased risk of MDR-TB (adjusted OR: 6.14, 95% CI: 4.61-8.17), compared with those previously not having been treated.

The high prevalence of drug resistance has been a major challenge for TB control. Prevention and control of drug-resistant TB should be emphasized by the revised DOTS (direct observed therapy, short course) program through prompt case detection, routine and quality-assured drug susceptibility test for patients at high risk of resistance, programmatic treatment with both first and second-line medicines, and systematic treatment observation, with priority for high MDR-TB settings.


GLOBAL FUND: The corruption issue

BEING attacked on Fox News was probably the worst, but all the past month has been horrid for the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, backed by $20 billion and one of the world’s biggest do-gooding outfits. Set up in 2002, it is used to appreciative coverage of its efforts to stamp out three of the deadliest diseases.

The unexpected woes started with an Associated Press story entitled “Fraud plagues global health fund” on January 23rd. It claimed that up to two-thirds of some grants went astray, with “astonishing” corruption in some cases. It cited faked invoices, phoney training events and other abuses, chiefly involving health ministries in some African countries. For Fund insiders, that was nothing new: evidence of the misuse of $34m paid out in Mali, Mauritania, Djibouti and Zambia became public knowledge in October.
The fund’s staff argued that the source was their own investigations (albeit of a small chunk of the billions it has distributed). Perhaps self-servingly, the fund’s fans argued that a tiny loss to corruption counted almost as a success given the problems that beset other aid efforts.
In retrospect, that looks complacent. Some donors issued cross statements. Germany, Spain, Sweden and the European Union said they would freeze payments into the Global Fund pending their own inquiries. Germany had promised $272m each year in 2011-13; Sweden had yet to make a pledge for that period, but was expected to do so. Spain has paid less than it pledged. Cynics wonder if the furore now gives politicians in Madrid a useful excuse.
Other politicians may indeed use the scandal to justify cutting back on commitments, not just to the Global Fund but to aid in general. Most rich-country budgets are under huge strain, and poor people in foreign countries are not votewinners.
An important test will be what the British government decides to do. At the World Economic Forum in Davos last year, the then leader of the opposition, David Cameron, made a surprise appearance at a dinner to discuss malaria and said that as prime minister he would keep to the target of giving 0.7% of Britain’s GDP in aid. He also praised the Global Fund as one of the best users of aid money. His government has kept that promise, even as it has cut public spending at home. So far, at least.
Nor is it just rich-world taxpayers’ money that is at stake. The Global Fund was designed as a model for a new approach to development, dubbed in that world’s opaque lexicon as “multi-stakeholder”. This means that as well as government grants, the Fund relies on gifts from other sources. One is wealthy philanthropists (the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest donors, says it will continue to give the Global Fund its full support). Another is from businesses. A third is from the public, including an idea called Product (RED) created by Bono, a rock-star activist at Davos, an event much favoured by the Fund’s glitzy backers. (RED) is a brand attached to products and services from firms such as Apple, Gap and Starbucks; part of the revenues go to the Global Fund’s work on HIV/Aids. The $160m raised so far by this scheme is not touched by the scandal.
Mystification has belatedly given way to action. “The Global Fund has zero tolerance for corruption,” insisted Michel Kazatchkine, its executive director, as he announced tougher controls and monitoring. He highlights the kind of spending at risk of going astray. “In three of the four cases, the corruption took place in budgets for training, through travel expenses, hotels, per diems.”
All of the money distributed by the Global Fund is handed over to national governments, so the Global Fund is to spend more money on local controls. It is doubling the budget of the independent inspector-general. A panel of international experts will review procedures. In December Mr Kazatchkine had ordered a freeze on training in all of the 140 countries to which the Global Fund sends money. This is now being melted one country at a time. Whether these new procedures will cost more to administer than the money lost in the corruption scandal remains to be seen, as is their effects on the fund’s operations, which were hitherto relatively speedy and unbureaucratic.
Yet with luck the changes will reassure the critics and start the money flowing again. The Global Fund sits on a big pile of credibility after more than meeting expectations in previous years. Sceptics may quibble with its claim to have saved at least 7m lives, and exactly how many more millions of lives it has improved, but mortality rates in the diseases it targets have dropped sharply. The fund’s approach to allocating aid wins plaudits too: it makes countries compete for money based less on their needs than on their ability to get things done. That has brought a switch from laggards to leaders of some $1.1 billion of the $13 billion so far paid out.
Until the latest storm broke, the aid world was abuzz with talk about expanding the fund’s remit to include maternal and child health. It would be odd if that plan stalls as a result of the corruption worries and if the money went instead to other international agencies. These tend to be less efficient and more prone to fraud. Though they may also be less likely to claim corruption as a sign of probity.

TUBERCULOSIS: Elephant as vector

Tim Ghianni: NASHVILLE, Tenn : Feb 17, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - Liz, an African elephant housed at a sanctuary for the animals, was the source of tuberculosis infections among eight workers at the refuge, an author of a report on the 2009 outbreak said on Thursday.
None of the infected employees at the Hohenwald, Tennessee, sanctuary for old, often abused, elephants, became ill. The workers were given preventive therapy, and 54-year-old Liz is in quarantine and undergoing treatment.
A report by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blamed pressure-washing of elephant barns for the spread of the tuberculosis bacteria, which enters through the lungs, said Dr. William Shaffner, who helped write the report and is an expert on infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
"Elephants can excrete the bacteria through their trunks and even in their feces," which can become an aerosol mist when hit by pressurized water, said Shaffner, who is also president of the sanctuary that is 85 miles South of Nashville.
The mist exposed the workers inside the barn and drifted into an adjacent administrative building where three other employees inhaled it, the report concluded.
This should serve as a warning to handlers that even those with indirect contact with elephants can be infected, Shaffner said.
An estimated one in eight captive elephants are infected with tuberculosis, he said. There are as many as 600 captive elephants in the United States.
Workers at the sanctuary who deal directly with the elephants now wear more elaborate protective clothing and use lower-pressure hoses to clean the barns, and steps were taken to seal off vulnerable buildings.
The Tennessee sanctuary was created in 1995 and houses 14 African and Asian elephants where they can wander on 2,700 acres.
While elephants can spread the bacteria among themselves and to humans, Shaffner said the first elephant to get tuberculosis likely got it from an infected person.


TUBERCULOSIS: Canada fails indigenous peoples of Nunavut in fighting TB

 February 14, 2011 CBC News Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Canada's efforts to fight tuberculosis in Nunavut, where infection rates hit a record high last year, has been called a "century of failure" by a leading medical journal.
In an editorial released Monday, the Canadian Medical Journal Association says last year's tuberculosis outbreak in Nunavut — the worst since the territory was created in 1999 — is a problem for all of Canada.
"We are a rich, developed nation that has the resources to solve the problem in Nunavut if we choose to employ them," said Dr. Matthew Stanbrook, a respirologist at Toronto Western Hospital.
"The fact that we have failed to do so, not just once but over a century, should be an embarrassment to every Canadian."
The editorial reports that Nunavut had 100 new and active cases of TB in 2010. That's the highest number in the territory's history and represents an infection rate 62 times the Canadian average.
Meanwhile, 14 new tuberculosis cases have emerged so far in 2011. Nunavut health officials told CBC News they could use more help to screen and track new infections.

Similar to developing world
Stanbrook and the editorial's other authors say most of the new TB cases in 2010 occurred in younger patients, suggesting the disease is being actively spread.
"This is happening at rates we see in the developing world," Stanbrook told CBC News on Monday.
"As the people of Nunavut are Canadians too, they deserve the same degree of effort that we have successfully exerted in the rest of Canada."
Tuberculosis is a germ-borne infection that most commonly attacks the lungs. It can cause shortness of breath, coughing, fever and death.
It has been largely eliminated in the south — although it is present in some aboriginal communities — but it has never left the North since it arrived with whaling crews in the 19th century.
Sociologists say the disease took firm root among the Inuit after the Second World War, when they were moved from hunting camps on the land into communities.
Government-provided, one-room houses with no bathrooms, or cramped shacks cobbled together from construction debris, provided ideal conditions for the disease to spread.

TB legacy remains
Records show that between 1953 and 1961, a total of 5,240 Inuit were sent south to be treated. The entire population of the Eastern Arctic at the time was about 11,500.
Many of those never returned or lost contact with their families, a memory that makes treating the current outbreak even harder, Stanbrook said.
"That legacy persists in the minds of the community in Nunavut today, especially among the elder generation who are the people who are most likely to reactivate the tuberculosis disease…. If you don't trust the public health officials, you're not going to disclose symptoms that seem like TB," he said.
"That really has frustrated efforts to address this epidemic."
The editorial notes that Nunavummiut add to the problem with unhealthy behaviours. More than half of them smoke at least once a day.
But the editorial says governments should do what they can to alleviate the problem. It calls for more emphasis on early diagnosis, testing and screening as well as for education programs to rebuild public trust. Overcrowded, substandard homes must go, it adds.

Aglukkaq defends Ottawa's response
But federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq insisted that her government is dealing with Nunavut's TB problem, having spent money to fight the outbreak itself and build more houses in Canada's North.
"I would say we have reacted, we have responded. We have invested in Nunavut alone, $100 million to construct 1,000 units. We know TB is a direct result of overcrowding," Aglukkaq told CBC News.
Last month, Aglukkaq announced $800,000 for Taima TB, a new program in which teams will go door-to-door in Nunavut communities to test people for signs of latent tuberculosis infection.
Stanbrook said Ottawa needs to do even better if it wants to lead the fight against tuberculosis, no matter what it costs.
"When we have the wealth that this country has, there's no excuse for not using all our resources to cure a curable epidemic disease," he said.
Stanbrook added that it's not good enough to accept poorer health in the North simply because the region is far away and thinly populated.

TUBERCULOSIS: Canada: TB deaths in homeless not improving: study

Nathan Denette/Canadian Press Feb 21, 2011
Inadequate housing complicates TB treatment.
Inadequate housing complicates TB treatment. About 20 per cent of homeless people with tuberculosis die within a year of diagnosis, a new Toronto study finds.
The 10-year study published in Wednesday's issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases also found some key recommendations made by a provincial coroner's inquest in 2001 have not been implemented.
"Ten years ago we had a lot of problems with TB in our shelters with roughly about 20 per cent of patients dying [within] one year of diagnosis," said Dr. Michael Gardam, medical director of the tuberculosis clinic at Toronto Western Hospital and one of the study's authors.
A decade later, that figure hasn't changed, the researchers found.
The inquest into the death of Joseph Teigesser, a homeless man who died of tuberculosis in Toronto in 2001, made 13 formal recommendations. These included provincial funding for a centralized clinic system to provide specialized care for people with TB and improvements to shelter ventilation — two recommendations that have fallen short, the study's authors said.
Despite several reports on how to fight the treatable, airborne disease, timing is often a problem, said Dr. Elizabeth Rea, a study co-author and associate medical officer of health with Toronto Public Health.
"If someone is diagnosed relatively early with TB, even if they're homeless,even if they have a slew of other problems we can get them safely through treatment. But there are still a lot of people who are diagnosed late," said Rea.
Inadequate housing, substance dependence, language barriers, mental health problems and stigma complicate TB treatment, the researchers noted.
The team also found tuberculosis among homeless persons born outside of Canada is on the rise — nearly 40 per cent of homeless tuberculosis cases were in immigrants.
That change in patients increases the risk of introducing a drug-resistant strain of TB into the shelter system, Gardam said. If so, it could set off an outbreak that could possibly spread to the general population, he added.

Worldwide, TB claimed the lives of 1.7 million people in 2009, according to the World Health Organization.

MALNUTRITION: London, Yemen, and Plumpy'nut

William Lambers : Feb 16, 2011
London has hosted many important conferences over the years. Herbert Hoover received an invitation to one of them almost immediately after arriving in Britain in April 1946. His invitation was to an emergency conference on European food supplies in the aftermath of World War II.
Hoover, then serving as the U.S. food ambassador, made a speech at the conference. He urged action, particularly child feeding for the war-torn countries. Hoover said, "The rehabilitation of children cannot wait. It cannot be postponed until some other day. They are not like a bridge or a factory. They lose ground every day that is lost."
Infant children, without proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days, can suffer lasting physical and mental damage. That is a key theme of an upcoming conference in London which will focus on malnutrition in Yemen.
Yemen is often in the headlines because of the terrorist elements that plague their society and threaten the United States. More recently, Yemen has also been in the news because of protests by the citizenry against their government.
Less often, though, do you hear of the terrible malnutrition that afflicts the population, with its greatest impact on infants. The UN World Food Programme says that "half of Yemen's children are chronically malnourished."
The Yemen malnutrition conference will analyze the crisis at hand, what is being done, and the way forward to ending malnutrition in Yemen. It is problem-solving for the greatest of all threats to Yemeni society: hunger and malnutrition.
ABC News recently presented a special highlighting the miracle food plumpy'nut and how it can save children from dangerous levels of malnutrition. Well, plumpy is something Yemen is in dire need of, and it would not cost very much, relatively speaking, for them to get it.
UNICEF and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), with enough funding, could treat severely and moderately malnourished Yemeni children. Dr. Wisam Al-timimi of UNICEF said late last year that "about $31 million will be needed to address both moderate and severe malnutrition country-wide."
WFP needs about $23 million for its plumpy plan to feed small children. Georgia Warner of WFP says, "270,000 children (6-59 months) would receive targeted supplementary feeding (supplementary plumpy) and 412,000 children (6-24 months) would receive blanket supplementary feeding (plumpy'doz)." This is part of an overall WFP operation aimed at increasing food security amidst high food prices, feeding displaced war victims, and rehabilitating agriculture.

Getting these supplies is the first step, but then you have to also look toward long-term solutions. Minds have to meet, but cooperation between the Yemeni government and the international community must also be forged. There must be political will. With that will come some much-needed funding.
When Hoover spoke in London in 1946, there was a threat of millions of Europeans facing starvation. Food supplies were mustered and a European reconstruction program, the Marshall Plan, started in 1948. The organization UNICEF was formed during this time period. Child feeding and rehabilitation became a top priority.
The Yemen malnutrition conference is being hosted by UNICEF and the Yemen Forum on February 22nd at the Chatham House in London.

 Feb 17, 2011 Stephanie Springer
FITZGERALD, GA (WALB) – A brand new plant in Ben Hill County will soon start producing a product that will help feed starving children across the world. It's called MANA, and not only will it help children, but it will also help boost the local economy.
MANA stands for Mother Administered Nutritive Aid and in the past, clinics and hospitals had to mix up a product to give to children. This product can be given by the mother herself to her starving child.
Every six seconds a child dies from malnutrition related causes, but thanks to this new factory, more starving kids around the world will survive. "We have people around the world who cannot feed themselves so we have to step in a do something," said Mike Salza, Mana Operations.
It's called Mana, and each pouch contains peanut butter mixed with fortified milk. "On average we are seeing children gaining a pound per week," said Salza.
If a starving child eats three packets a day, for six weeks, he will get back to normal nutritive levels. "Typically, reports are showing us that once a kid recovers from severe acute malnutrition any of the 'Ready to use therapeutic foods' they never experience malnutrition again," said Salza.
It's the only Mana facility in America. The reason the plant is in Fitzgerald is because of Allen Conger. He is the only one who took a chance on the Non-profit company.
Conger says he's been to Africa a handful of times, and has seen with his own eyes just how bad the situation is. "Some of these kids look like a watermelon with four sticks stuck in them," he said.
He invested 1.7 million dollars in his own funds to build the facility, and design the system. "Hopefully we will be producing somewhere around 30 million pounds in the next year," said Conger.
His company, American Blanching is located adjacent to the new plant and will be instrumental in the production of Mana. "They are going to bring product over from next door, and they are going to mix that with a milk product and mix it with minerals," said Conger
This up and coming plant will also help out the local economy adding about 60 jobs over time and help the trucking industry. "It will put Mana on the map but also Fitzgerald on the map because we will be helping people worldwide, said John Flythe, Executive Director Fitzgerald Ben-Hill Co. Development Authority.
Next up, the hope plan to open up a smaller facility in Rwanda.
American Blanching has also been asked to make a product to help feed disaster victims who may not have any electricity or access to food in the case of an emergency. These products will be made with different ingredients, and they wont need refrigeration and will last for about two years.
They hope to start production on April 6th.

MALNUTRITION: Ghana: nationwide food fortification project

The Food and Drugs Board has started a nationwide food fortification project to address the problem of malnutrition among children.

For starters, cooking oil and wheat flour are to be fortified with essential nutrients.
The Project Manager, Richard Odum Nyumuah said the primary target of the project are children between the ages of 2 – 5 and women.
Explaining the rationale for targeting this category of people, Mr Nyumuah said “the idea is that children are very active and because they are now growing, they need nutrients and vitamins to grow well. Women through their activities and life cycles lose a lot of blood” and need to replenish that.
He said the FDB is working to ensure manufacturers of the products stated fortify them with the requisite nutrients.

MALNUTRITION: ECUADOR: Child Malnutrition Down, Education Up

Gonzalo Ortiz

QUITO, Feb 16, 2011 (IPS) - Major progress has been made in Ecuador over the last few years in reducing child malnutrition and expanding educational coverage.
This was one of the conclusions reached at civil society forums organised in Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca, Ecuador's three largest cities, by the Observatory for the Rights of Children and Adolescents (ODNA), a social monitoring body founded by a coalition of non-governmental organisations.
Now, responsibility for protection of children and adolescents will no longer fall only to municipal governments, but will be expanded to the provincial level.
There is concern that the change in jurisdiction might reverse the positive results of recent years, which show a clear decline in malnutrition and child labour and increased educational coverage, according to the First Civil Society National Survey of Childhood and Adolescence, carried out by ODNA in 2010.
Chronic malnutrition, measured as low height-for-age or stunting, fell from 33 percent of children under five in 1998 to 22 percent in 2010. For the same age group and time period, the incidence of malnutrition measured as low weight-for-age or wasting dropped from 11.4 to 6.1 percent.
The survey found that 38 percent of Ecuador's population are children and teenagers. Three out of four live in urban areas, while 51 percent live in the coastal region, 43 percent in the Andean highlands and the remaining six percent in the Amazon jungle region. According to the study, 83 percent of respondents under 17 described themselves as mestizo (of mixed ancestry), 10 percent as indigenous people and six percent as Afro-Ecuadorian.
The proportion of children aged 11 to 12 not attending school dropped from 7.5 percent in 2004 to 3.4 percent in 2010.
The survey, carried out to assess the results of the Social Agenda for Children and Adolescents 2007-2010, was funded by a group of organisations including Save the Children, Care, Plan International, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
The study's results and the challenges it identified were analysed at the forums, along with the changes introduced by the new code on Land Use, Autonomy and Decentralisation (COOTAD), which grants powers at provincial level for protecting children and teenagers, whereas formerly only the municipalities had this responsibility.
"The local level of government is close to citizens, and therefore it is in a position to back the strong Ecuadorian movement for children's rights," ODNA technical secretary Margarita Velasco told IPS.
ODNA has been active in lobbying and proposing public policies for 20 years.
Ecuador has 226 municipalities and 24 provinces. "Approval of the 2008 constitution strengthened the state, which was fragmented and in retreat," Santiago Ortiz, coordinator of the course on local territorial development at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), told IPS.
Although Ortiz acknowledged that the municipalities have not in fact lost jurisdiction, he said COOTAD has restricted their potential expansion because the provinces have been granted powers to plan, develop and regulate land use, formulate policies and boost the economy. The defence of children's rights is included within this new authority.
Children's rights were already enshrined in the 1998 constitution, but now they have been expanded and given higher stature in the legal system," said Ortiz, who believes that there are more opportunities today for organising, managing and influencing public policies and planning with a focus on human rights.
However, he warned that the "citizen councils" created for protecting children and adolescents "are at risk of losing their identity, because their role is limited to consultation and making proposals," while there is no law to support their role in holding the authorities accountable for public policies.
According to UNICEF's representative in Ecuador, Christian Munduate, the country has made remarkable progress. "When we compare indicators, some of my colleagues in the region are envious of me," she said, attributing the improvement to "a sustained civil society movement on behalf of children, together with considerable public spending over the last four years of the leftwing government of (President) Rafael Correa."
However, the country still has some pending issues in terms of protecting the rights of children and adolescents, she said.
Velasco, who presented the results of the national survey, spelled them out.
"Now that coverage has been extended, it is essential to improve the quality of education, in terms of content, which must be relevant to life, as well as methodology, so that children and young people can become active learners; and in terms of the atmosphere in the classroom, where the value of each of the students and their diversity must be recognised," she said.
The survey found that the percentage of five to 17-year-olds complaining of harsh treatment from teachers increased from 20 to 32 percent between 2001 and 2010.
Patricia Sarzosa, national head of the government Institute for Children and Families (INFA), told IPS: "The proportion reporting good treatment also increased, from 47 to 56 percent, and what shrank was the group reporting neutral answers, but a lot of work needs to be done on the way children are treated.
"The fact that the proportion of respondents who said that when a child misbehaves, the teacher responds with corporal punishment, rose from 20 to 30 percent between 2004 and 2010 is a serious concern," said Sarzosa, adding that the subject has been raised with the Education Ministry.
The mistreatment is marked by discrimination: while 23 percent of indigenous children and 17 percent of Afro-Ecuadorians reported being hit by their teachers, only seven percent of white or mestizo children made this complaint.
"As a society, we need to ensure we treat children better, at school, among peers (bullying of children who are 'different' is frequent), at home within families, and in public spaces," Sarzosa said.
As for the institutions involved, it has been clarified that the municipal Councils on Children and Adolescents (CCNA), in operation since 2002, will continue to function. However, at the forum in Guayaquil it was highlighted that the municipality of Ecuador's largest city has never permitted the formation of the local CCNA.
"There is a good argument in favour of letting the provincial governments take a hand in the process: in Guayas (the province where Guayaquil is located) it is the provincial governor who has led the cause," Velasco told IPS.
"But the provincial governments can play a lesser role where there are strong, active municipal CCNA," she added.
The issue still requires further discussion, participants at the forums in the three major cities concluded.

MALNUTRITION: Tanzania: Call to teach primary school pupils farming

Angel Navuri : 14th February 2011

The government has been advised to re-introduce the teaching of agriculture in primary schools to equip pupils with knowledge which they can apply towards the realisation of Kilimo Kwanza.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Guardian during a conference on Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health, the Director General for International Food Policy Institute, Shenggen Fan said by introducing the subject in primary schools it will help to create the foundation for future experts who will make the Kilimo Kwanza initiative reality.
“We need to have agriculture experts in future and the subject has to be introduced to the individuals from primary school level,” he said, noting that the subject is currently taught mainly in colleges and universities.
Fan also advised the government of Tanzania to come up with a new paradigm for agricultural development whereby agricultural growth will not only increase production and reduce poverty but also improve nutrition.
He said agricultural experts in the country should link agriculture with health and nutrition as a way of reducing malnutrition.
The question facing Tanzania is how to set priorities and sequence interventions to maximise the benefits from the dynamic and nonlinear relationship between growth and nutrition while also paying attention to the role of conditional factors, he said.
“Experts should not influence farmers on increasing production without linking it with health and this is how we will reduce malnutrition for many children and women who have been affected,” Fan added.
He said as part of overall economic growth, agricultural growth has an important role to play in reducing and preventing under nutrition through a number of channels.
He said its impact extends from increased household ability to purchase and produce more nutritious food to economy-wide effects, such as increasing government revenues to health, infrastructure and nutrition intervention programmes.
According to the DG other factors, such as infrastructure, the status of women including their educational level and land distribution, may contribute to how well agricultural growth translates into nutritional improvements.
He said: “The question we face now is to what extent can agricultural growth and growth in particular sub-sectors of agriculture can be a springboard for nutritional improvement through such channels as increased agricultural production and lower food prices.”
Opening the conference, India Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh said malnutrition remained a serious problem in many parts of Africa and other developing countries. Globally, nearly 1 billion people still go hungry daily.
“Nearly one in four children under age of five is underweight. The problem of hidden hunger that is, deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron, Vitamin A and iodine is also severe. Nutrition is therefore, a serious challenge that has not received the attention it truly deserves,” explained the PM
According to him, malnutrition is not only a consequence of poverty; it is also a cause of poverty. A malnourished child is more vulnerable to diseases and less able to earn a living. The complexity of causes that underlie malnutrition calls for a multi-sectoral strategy to address the three key issues of availability, access and absorption.

MALNUTRITION: Chickpeas: Homespun Response To Malnutrition Deployed In Pakistan

17 Feb 2011 An innovative new food product made entirely in Pakistan is helping to protect the youngest of that country's flood victims from malnutrition. Made from locally grown chickpeas, Wawa Mumshows that supplying technical knowhow can be the key to finding local solutions to malnutrition. Watch video
 As Pakistan recovers from the floods which forced millions of people from their homes last summer, thousands of affected children are receiving the nutrition they need thanks to rations of a nutritious chickpea paste produced at factories within their own country.
The paste, designed by WFP nutritionists and called Wawa Mum, is the latest addition to WFP's toolbox of specialised food products. It wraps a day's worth of vitamins and nutrients into a single 50-gram serving and can be eaten straight from the packet.
"Wawa Mum has a number of advantages during emergency situations like the floods in Pakistan," explained Dominique Frankefort, Deputy Director of WFP's operations in Pakistan. "It's light, you can eat it immediately and it's made right here in Pakistan from an ingredient that people know and like."

Growing demand
According to Frankefort, the idea for Wawa Mum arose out of the growing demand and tight supply of other ready-to-eat foods (RTFs) already on the market.
"At the onset of emergencies, we often have problem getting as much of these products as we need," said Frankefort. "They're also expensive and have to be shipped, which adds to the cost and to the amount it takes to get them where they're needed."
Rather than see that as a problem, Frankefort saw it as an opportunity. "The other RTFs we use are mostly peanut pastes. So it occurred to me that if we could find a similar ingredient more available in places like India and Pakistan, then we could develop our own product right where we needed it."

"That's tasty, mom!"
That ingredient Frankefort was looking for turned out to be the chickpea, an energy-rich legume which forms the basis of countless South Asian dishes from chana masala to humus. Roasted, ground and fortified with vitamins and minerals, the final product was a nutrition-packed baby food custom tailored to local palettes.
Its very name testifies to its popularity among the Pashtun children of northwestern Pakistan, who were fed Wawa Mum when violence along the Afghan border forced their families from their homes.
In Pashto Wawa means 'good food', and wawa mum is what the children would say to their mothers when they wanted some more of this tasty new food.

A bright future
Just after Wawa Mum was developed, the catastrophic flooding across Pakistan gave rise to an urgent need for ready-to-eat foods. Six months on, three factories are now pumping out over 200 metric tons of Wawa Mum per month. That translates to around 4 million highly-nutritious meals.
But Frankefort says it's still not enough. "We hope to raise that number to 500 metric tons by June and to 1,000 metric tons by the end of the year. In order to that, we'll be contracting two more factories between now and December."
That has obvious benefits for Pakistan's food processing industry, which is creating jobs at the height of an emergency when the country needs them most.
And because Wawa Mum is produced close to where it's needed, from an ingredient cheaply available on local markets, it costs WFP around 10 per cent less than other RTFs.

Source: United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)


MALNUTRITION: 2.4 million in Somalia face drought

 Somali women load water containers on camels near the Wanlaweyn district in the lower Shabelle region

UNITED NATIONS — Somalia, home to one of the world's largest population of displaced people, is teetering on a crisis with drought now threatening some 2.4 million people, a UN official said Thursday.
"Somalia... is on the brink of a much larger disaster due to the threat of a country-wide drought," said UN under secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Valerie Amos.
"Malnutrition has increased in the last six months in Southern Somalia and 2.4 million, 32 percent of the population, remain in crisis," she told a press conference, after returning from a trip to Somalia and Kenya.
"Families are set to start selling their assets, including their houses and land to get by."
Some of the people at risk are in areas controlled by armed groups of Islamist insurgents, who are complicating the situation, Amos warned.
"I cannot stress enough the importance in Somalia of finding a political solution. Only that would enable people to live in peace and dignity."
Somalia has lacked an effective central government since the ouster of president Mohamed Siad Barre 20 years ago unleashed bloody violence there.

MALNUTRITION: Malnutrition Plagues Guatemala's Children

BY TALEA MILLER: Feb. 16, 2011 Guatemala has the highest rate of chronic malnutrition among children in Latin America, and the health consequences continue on through adulthood.

Children ages 3 and 4 in Guatemala; Photo by Talea Miller
Children ages 3 and 4 in Guatemala; Photo by Talea Miller

Kayla is months away from her fifth birthday and weighs just 18 pounds, about half what a girl her age should by World Health Organization standards.
She suffers from chronic malnutrition and can barely move. Even breathing appears difficult. During a recent visit to Hospitalito Atitlan in rural Guatemala, she was cradled in her mother's arms and whisked from examination room to examination room.
 Kayla's brain development is not progressing, her physical development is stunted,and she can't do simple tasks for herself, said her physical therapist Andrea Maria Sojuel.
Sojuel works for a small non-profit called ADISA, serving disabled patients in the indigenous community of Santiago Atitlan. She sees quite a few children with the same condition. Another patient of hers, a 20-month-old, weighs just eight pounds.

Kayla with her mother at Hospitalito Atitlan.

Kayla with her mother at Hospitalito Atitlan.
About 49 percent of children in Guatemala are chronically malnourished according to the World Food Program—the fourth highest ratein the world. In indigenous communities the rate is closer to 70 percent.
While most won't manifest symptoms as grave as Kayla's, they will all suffer health consequences because of the condition. Chronic malnutrition causes stunted growth, the most obvious and widespread indicator in Guatemala, but also increases the chances of children developing heart disease, diabetes and kidney damage down the line. It can cause anemia as well, greatly increasing the risk of a woman dying in child birth.
Infections that cause diarrhea play a big roll in malnutrition of infants, but for many families the root problem comes down to numbers—too many mouths to feed, not enough food.
"Sometimes it's a question of too many children. The boys will sometimes preferentially get food over the girls, I have seen that," said Mark Lepore, a visiting physician working at the hospital.
Asuncion Don Diego, from Alotenango, near Antigua, knows just how difficult these choices can be. She and her husband have seven children. He plants corn for a living, she took a job washing clothes to help pay for food.
"We would at least try to have tortillas, even if that is all we could feed them," she said through an interpreter.
Jose Andres Botran , who helped create an office in the Guatemalan government specifically to address the problem of food security, said a lack of education on what foods are important for children is part of the problem.
"A person can have 12 tortillas and a Coke and will not be hungry but they won't be well nourished," he said.
Awareness about malnutrition has grown, but necessary monitoring has not been put in place to see if the situation is improving, Botran said. The food security office has helped connect stake holders and runs initiatives to provide fortified foods and educate the population.
USAID also contributes between $16 to $18 million a year in food assistance to the country, including some higher protein commodities like beans and grains fortified with soy.
Still, says Chessa Lutter, regional advisor for the Pan American Health Organization, Guatemala continues to have some of the poorest nutrition indicators in the region and once a child has been malnourished through crucial early development, it has long-lasting implications.
PAHO reports that Guatemala has the highest rates of obesity among poor countries in Latin America, linked to malnutrition. Once a person is stunted and below-average height, it is much easier for them to become overweight.
"The same type of diet, that is heavy in carbs and cheap fats, which makes kids short and anemic also makes adults fat," Lutter said.
For Kayla, the road ahead holds more immediate concerns. She has sores in her throat that make her not want to eat, and she is actually losing weight instead of gaining. It's hard to imagine that she will ever be able to attend school.
"What I worry about most [with these children] is education, the ability to learn" said Lepore, her doctor.

BIOTERRORISM: Antiviral drug to treat smallpox

February 16, 2011

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A $24.8 million federal contract will support development a new antiviral drug to treat smallpox. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, will fund the contract with Chimerix, Inc., of Durham, N.C. The contract can be renewed for up to four additional years for a five-year total of up to $81.1 million.
“In the event of a smallpox outbreak, a smallpox antiviral could augment our plans to use a vaccine because an antiviral medication can treat people who get the vaccine too late for the vaccine to be effective. An antiviral can save lives.”
“A critical component of the U.S. strategy for protecting the public against intentional or unintentional release of the smallpox virus is having two smallpox antiviral drugs,” said BARDA Director Dr. Robin Robinson. “In the event of a smallpox outbreak, a smallpox antiviral could augment our plans to use a vaccine because an antiviral medication can treat people who get the vaccine too late for the vaccine to be effective. An antiviral can save lives.”
Routine smallpox vaccination ended in the United States in the early 1970s so people born after routine vaccination ended are not immune to the disease. The World Health Organization declared the disease eradicated worldwide in the 1980s. The variola virus, which causes smallpox, is kept only at the two WHO-approved repositories in the United States and Russia for limited use in research. If the virus were used in a bioterrorism attack, the U.S. government estimates that up to 1.7 million people or more could need treatment before the disease could be controlled through vaccination.
Although the Strategic National Stockpile includes smallpox vaccine, vaccines only protect against disease if a person is vaccinated before or very soon after being exposed to the virus. If further development efforts are successful, CMX-001 could be available to treat people who already have smallpox symptoms. In addition, the medication potentially could be used to treat other virus infections, such as adenovirus, cytomegalovirus, and BK virus, in people with severely weakened immune systems.
The contract uses the federal government’s new approach to producing medical countermeasures – the medications, vaccines, medical equipment and supplies needed for a health emergency. On Aug. 19, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released an examination of the federal government’s system to produce medical countermeasures, along with recommendations for a better approach. The recommendations included developing dual-use drugs – drugs that can be used for bioterrorism as well as for other illnesses – and to develop more countermeasures that are safe for children, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations such as those with compromised immune systems.
Under the contract, Chimerix will continue developing CMX-001, conduct studies to show that the drug is safe and effective and that the manufacturing process is adequate to ensure the quality of the drug. This work is required for the company to apply for approval of the drug through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
BARDA provides a comprehensive integrated portfolio approach to the advanced research and development, stockpile acquisition, innovation, and manufacturing infrastructure building of the necessary vaccines, drugs, therapeutics, diagnostic tools, and non-pharmaceutical products such as ventilators for public health medical emergencies including chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats, pandemic influenza, and other emerging infectious diseases.
For more information about BARDA and ASPR preparedness efforts for public health and medical emergencies, including the medical countermeasure review, visit www.phe.gov.
The Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), operated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has large quantities of medicine and medical supplies to protect the American public if there is a public health emergency, such as a terrorist attack or flu outbreak, severe enough to cause local supplies to run out. Once federal and local authorities agreed that the SNS supplies were needed medicines could be delivered to any state in the United States within 12 hours. Each state has plans to receive and distribute SNS medicine and medical supplies to local communities as quickly as possible. To learn more, visit http://emergency.cdc.gov/stockpile/.

BIOTERRORISM: South African Charged With Making Bioterrorism (Foot and Mouth disease) Threat

14 February 2011  Masood Boomgaard

A South African man was arrested this weekend on suspicion of threatening to attack the United Kingdom and the United States with foot and mouth disease, the Associated Press reported today (see GSN, June 30, 2010).
Brian Roach, the owner of a Johannesburg-area engineering company, was apprehended on Saturday and brought into court today. The 64-year-old man allegedly warned the British government through e-mail and written communication that he planned to release the biological agent in the United Kingdom and the United States if he was not paid $4 million.
"We have the expertise and resources to do this very effectively and will be able to devastate the industry in the U.K. which will cost billions to the economy," Roach said in an e-mail message sent to the British government. "We will devastate your farms and then we will then take the problem to your co-conspirator the USA."
A prosecution spokesman, though, dismissed Roach's ability to make good on his warning.
Foot and mouth disease can be lethal to cattle and other animals, though it is not able to infect humans. The animal-borne disease has been categorized by the United States as a "select agent" that can pose a serious threat. Scientists have warned that terrorists could with relative ease release the disease in multiple areas of the United States (see GSN, Oct. 8, 2009).
The reported threats set off a six-month probe involving agencies from South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. In the end, Roach was charged with terrorist activity and money laundering.
"This biological agent, if deployed, would have caused the destruction of property and resulted in major economic loss," a South African police statement said. "This was therefore regarded as a very serious threat."
Roach seems to have been motivated by anger toward London and Washington for not doing enough to assist white Zimbabwean farmers who lost their land in 2000 at the order of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who then awarded much of the land to his political allies.
"We are not habitual criminals but have been victim of a situation which was entirely out of our control and attributed to corrupt and incompetent politicians," Roach said in an October 6 e-mail message.
South African authorities examined Roach's residence and other locations but did not discover anything that would indicate he had the ability to release foot and mouth, AP reported (Jenny Gross, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, Feb. 14).
The threats were said to date back to July of last year. Authorities arrested Roach after tricking him into traveling to a warehouse with the understanding that he would be given his $4 million payoff, the South African Sunday Tribune reported yesterday.
Police spokeswoman Sally De Beer said officials did not yet know if Roach was acting alone or whether he had ties to any foreign extremist organizations. More apprehensions are possible in the case, she said on Saturday.
"The investigation is still going on. At this point we have only arrested one person and since the arrest was only made this morning (Saturday) police are still busy searching premises," the spokeswoman said.
"We need to know if he did in fact have the capability to carry out the attack. It would be premature at this point to rule out the possibility that he did," De Beer continued http://www.zimdiaspora.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5050:south-african-charged-with-making-bioterrorism-threat&catid=38:travel-tips&Itemid=18

BIOTERRORISM: Biodefense Scientists Fight Lassa Fever

Simon Akam, Reuters/Yahoo!News,  Feb. 15, 2011

Scientists are at work in Sierra Leone studying the rat-carried Lassa fever with the aim of developing a speedy and uncomplicated process for diagnosing the virus in the event of a bioterrorism attack, Reuters reported yesterday (see GSN, Nov. 23, 2010).
A laboratory in Sierra Leone's southeast is conducting U.S.-funded research on Lassa fever, which is classified as a "category A" pathogen, a designation given to biological agents such as botulism and anthrax that can produce significant health threats.
The disease is found in a particular species of rat that is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa and regularly consumed for protein. It is estimated to cause between 300,000 and 500,000 infections annually and roughly 5,000 deaths.
"There's been a renewed emphasis on those tropical diseases that (government health officials) consider biothreats," said U.S. scientist Matt Boisen, who is studying Lassa fever in Sierra Leone.
Tulane University is participating in the Lassa fever research effort with the West African state. Researchers in the $40 million diagnostic initiative would like to see their new testing strip method one day ready for use in the field and in the United States.
"There's a recognition that this is a higher level threat agent," one-time U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases researcher Thomas Geisbert said. "It would be naive not to think some terrorist group could use one of these things to create terror"

MALNUTRITION: Rapid growth in agriculture is not sufficient

By Jimoh Babatunde

India Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi, said that rapid growth in agriculture, though necessary, is not sufficient to produce desirable nutritional and health outcomes among the socially and economically disadvantaged groups of the community.
Speaking at the inaugural session of the International Conference on Improving Health and Nutrition through Agriculture organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Dr. Manmohan Singh noted that malnutrition remains a serious problem in India and many developing countries.

Dr. Manmohan Singh

“Globally, nearly 1 billion people still go hungry. Nearly one in four children under age of five is underweight. The problem of hidden hunger—that is, deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron, Vitamin A and iodine — is also severe.”
While noting that the issue of nutrition is a serious challenge that has not received the attention it truly deserves, the Indian PM said malnutrition is not only a consequence of poverty, it is also a cause of poverty
“A malnourished child is more vulnerable to disease and less able to earn a leaving. The complexity of causes that underlie malnutrition calls for a multi-sectoral strategy to address the three key issues of availability, access and absorption.”
The Prime Minister added “experience has also shown that rapid growth in GDP in general and, even agriculture in particular, though necessary, is not sufficient to produce desirable nutritional and health outcomes among the socially and economically disadvantaged groups of the community.”
He said the fight against malnutrition must incorporates the issues of absorption of nutrition, health and hygiene, which in turn depend on many other factors such as the availability of clean drinking water, sanitation and also on the education and status of women in society.
“The Integrated Child Development Services is probably one of the oldest and largest programmes in the world to address the problem of child malnutrition.
“We have been looking at how to improve this programme and have recently added an element of direct cash transfers for pregnant and nursing mothers.”
Dr. Manmohan Singh disclosed that their first priority in India has been to ensure food security which in turn requires a high order of self sufficiency. “Cereals and pulses are the staple food of the people of India. We have naturally focused attention on ensuring adequate production of these products to meet the needs of our population.”
He added “Food grains however are only one part of the solution. With economic growth and changing dietary habits, demand for fruits and vegetables, milk and milk products, meat and fish, is steadily increasing. This is entirely natural. Good nutrition requires a balanced diet through multiple food sources.”
The Indian PM said agricultural diversification in food requires back up support in terms of viable delivery and marketing chains because much of the agricultural produce is perishable.
“Rapid growth in agriculture, particularly that which diversifies the food basket while ensuring adequate availability of energy and other basic nutrients, combined with other activities and initiatives in health, hygiene and women’s education will help overcome poor health, hunger and malnutrition.”
Speaking earlier, Shenggen Fan, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) said agriculture is much more than just producing food and other products.
“It is linked to people’s well-being in many ways, and it has the potential to do much more to improve their nutrition and reduce their health risks. “
To work toward this goal, IFPRI organized the conference, “Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health.” The event will bring experts together from all three sectors to take stock of current knowledge, share information and best practices, and build consensus on the actions most needed to move forward.
Agricultural scientists have traditionally focused on developing more productive crops and livestock and on reducing their susceptibility to disease. But the conference organizers contend that by incorporating nutrition as a goal, researchers and breeders could provide farmers with a wide range of healthier products. For example, breeding crops with higher levels of micronutrients like vitamin A and iron can potentially reduce death and disease, especially among women and children.
“Increasing crop productivity overall is not enough. A new paradigm for agricultural development is needed, so that agricultural growth leads also to improved nutrition and health,” said Fan.
Research suggests that agricultural growth, if done right, is the engine to reduce poverty in developing countries. But according to “The Nexus between Agriculture and Nutrition,” a paper released at the conference, individual subsectors within agriculture, such as staple crops or livestock, have different effects on development outcomes, including on nutrition and health, and policymakers need to pay attention to these differences.
Improvements in other factors such as land distribution, women’s status, rural infrastructure, and health status, can have a positive effect on nutrition, the paper contends. Complementary investments in rural roads, nutrition programs, and other targeted interventions can make a huge impact.

MALNUTRITION: Empowered farmers cultivate a new hope for Benin

10 February 2011 [MediaGlobal]Toni Bacala

 Successful farming practices in Benin. (Photo Credit: Christoph Herby)

 In the fields of Benin, a green revolution has placed local farmers at the forefront of the battle against malnutrition. With the establishment of Association Béninoise du Moringa (ABM), Beninese farmers have expanded the production and promotion of moringa to nourish the ailing West African nation.
Widely acclaimed as a “miracle tree,” moringa is fast-growing and possesses multiple benefits, from nutritional leaves, flowers, and seeds, to drought-resistant roots and bark. Moringa leaves are usually consumed fresh in green salads, or sautéd. In health programs, leaves are dried and ground into powder, then sprinkled on any dish for instant nutritional boost.
It has been traditionally used in South and Central Asia, India, and the Middle East as livestock feed, biofuel, medicine, water purifying agent, and soil fertilizer, among many other uses.
In the mid-1990s, the US Peace Corps initiated moringa promotion in the country in keeping with nutritional campaigns all over West Africa.
Despite such assistance, however, Benin has long lagged behind in the region, as compared to Niger, which has been producing moringa as a cash crop, and Senegal, which integrated moringa into HIV/AIDS treatment in the late 1990s.
“The value of this plant cannot be downplayed as regards its possibility to address some of the Millennium Development Goals as well as to influence the ongoing debates on climate change,” said Muriel Glasgow, founder of Moringa Partners, an interactive outfit of moringa growers, scientists, non-government organizations and other enthusiasts from all over the world.
Benin has had its hands full battling against malnutrition. According to UNICEF, one out of every three Beninese children below the age of five has experienced malnutrition. The country’s health crisis is aggravated by recent floods that have displaced thousands of residents, devastated farms, and destroyed access to clean, potable water. Foreign agencies have stepped in with food assistance and nutrition programs, but for the people of Benin, a longer-term solution is needed.
In 2008, a pilot project in the town of Goumori drew closer attention to moringa. The first batch of moringa powder produced was sold out in one week, encouraging farmers to share their knowledge so others could grow the plant.
As communities increasingly grasped the nutritional and economic benefits of moringa, volunteers and farmers saw the need for a mechanism to manage the future of moringa in Benin. Thus, ABM was born.
“We envisioned an organization that would promote moringa on a national scale and facilitate a market for moringa thereby taking the responsibility of promoting moringa and creating a market off the farmers themselves,” former US Peace Corps volunteer Christoph Herby told MediaGlobal.
Last August, the vision came to fruition at the widely participated launch of ABM.
Moringa industry in Benin has flourished notably as ABM facilitates more farmers growing moringa alongside other crops as an additional source of income, and as an affordable supplement for malnutrition.
Through ABM, efforts of farmers, which were usually confined in their own fields and villages, are stretched out to markets and other moringa producers across the country. “Ultimately the goal is to create nationwide demand for moringa powder, satisfied by a network of well-supervised moringa plantations,” said Herby.
ABM sets the production standard to strategically incorporate moringa into nutrition programs. One of its key activities is conducting workshops with farmers, health workers, and students. Since its launch, there has been a spirited demand for orientation on moringa cultivation and processing, informed ABM technical assistant Patrick Starr.
Benin’s health agenda has inspired the expansion of moringa networks such as Moringa Partners, which reaches out to growers from Cameroon, Ethiopia, India, Costa Rica, and the Philippines.
“On a larger scale, [the] Peace Corps is increasing its focus on food security,” said Herby. “And moringa is being considered a primary component in Peace Corps’ food security planning for the West Africa sub-region.”
“The world is still learning about moringa,” said Glasgow, optimistic that more moringa benefits will be developed as a worldwide demand is set in motion.
While ABM acknowledges that it will take years to see tangible effects of the program, the empowerment of Beninese farmers has resulted in the cultivation of hope, health, and abundance beyond quantifiable terms.

MALNUTRITION: Argentina admits to malnutrition deaths among the poor indigenous people

Feb. 7, 2011
BUENOS AIRES, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Argentine officials admitted deaths due to malnutrition among the country's poor of indigenous Latin American people and promised government action to minimize the problem.
Reports of malnutrition deaths came as results of a study jointly carried out by researchers at London's Imperial College and the University of Harvard in Boston showed Argentina, Chile and Venezuela topped the list of overweight people in Latin America.
Critics of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner earlier called for more vigorous measures to pursue the government's poverty reduction programs. The government faced criticism for not doing enough to ease poverty among the country's non-European population.
Gov. Jose Manuel Urtubey of the northern province of Salta said in a television interview at least five children, mostly from indigenous communities, died of malnutrition in 2010 and officials recorded another death this year. Urtubey warned more malnutrition cases might be present in isolated indigenous communities.
"Child malnutrition is a latent dramatic situation in the province of Salta," Urtubey said, although he pointed out conditions had improved compared to three years ago when more than 30 children died of hunger or malnutrition annually, MercoPress reported.
Reports of the children's deaths were revealed by a non-government organization and passed on to the media. Fatalities included an 18-month-old toddler and a female child, 3, but their deaths were initially attributed to infections. A third case of another 18-month-old toddler, reported to have died due to "septic shock caused by malnutrition," lifted the lid on malnutrition deaths.
The deaths caused uproar in Argentina's media. The Salta and Buenos Aires media quoted the father of one of the toddlers, who said he lost his child on a day when he returned from work in the woods to find there was nothing at hand that he could feed the children.
"There are some days when we manage to have a meal and days when we don't," he told the media. "When Leandro died, on that day we had had nothing to eat."
The northern town of Salta, close to Bolivia, has a population of 1.2 million with a significant number of indigenous communities that are exposed to malnutrition, disease and lack of community care.
"We have control over 100.000 children in those communities but the latest situation indicates that our efforts are insufficient and there must be more vulnerable population which has no access to aid or support mechanisms," Urtubey said in the interview.
The situation becomes worse in summer months when schools close and children are deprived of a hot meal provided by the schools each day. Critics said the school kitchens were underfunded and lacked clean water, as a result of which children frequently


POVERTY: Ending Hunger and Poverty in Africa

Coulibaly Maimouna Sidibe on February 07, 2011

So much has been said about Africa’s potential to feed itself, but unless we help the millions of smallholder farmers to actually grow more food, we will never go from potential to reality. And farmers cannot increase their yields without better inputs.

feature_agrodealers mali-sidibe
Building a Business

It is for this reason that I am extremely passionate about the issue of getting seeds into poor farmers’ hands. I believe that farming starts with a seed, and we cannot eradicate poverty in Africa unless we deal with the challenges millions of farmers face in trying to get seed to plant on their farms. Allow me share my own personal experience because it demonstrates this fact.
I started selling seed out of my house after many of my neighbors kept coming to ask for some of my seed. Here in my country, Mali, it has always been difficult for farmers to get good seed, and yet one cannot increase production without better seed. The sad news is that though better seeds are being developed by our national research institutes, we have no structures to get these seeds into the hands of farmers. This is one of the biggest problems faced by farmers across Africa.
I built up a seed company on that very demand from farmers in Mali. My company, Faso Kaba, has grown since those days of selling seed out my back door. I realized then that to be successful, I had to move closer to farmers, and so I opened a shop in a rural area. The first year, I sold just less than 10 metric tons of seed compared with around 300 metric tons sold last year. Five years down the line, my company has grown from one shop to two retail outlets, 150 resellers, 20 certified seed producers, 6 full-time and 30 part-time employees that sells 200 tons of seeds. We currently supply 35-40 percent of the private certified seed in Mali. The secret of my success is that I made sure that the seeds were packaged in quantities that a farmer with a hectare or less of land could afford.
I know I am helping people. Indeed, just the other I was very humbled when one farmer said to me the other day; “Madame Coulibaly, before you were here with your seed company, we always had to buy food, but now with your seed we can grow enough food and sometimes we even have extra to sell.”

Putting High-Quality Seed in the Hands of Farmers
I believe that it is that extra bit of produce to sell that will move Africa’s small-scale farmers out of poverty, enabling them to change from subsistence farming to profitable farming. The impact will be great as it will ensure that farmers will be able to feed their families and send their children to school.
But this has not been possible in Africa because of our lack of support systems – access to high-quality seed that will produce a good crop despite pests and drought, access to fertilizer to improve soils that have been degraded over the years, access to a loan to buy seed and fertilizers at planting season, and access to a market and a fair price for any surplus left over.
Through our business, we are trying in our own small way to make a lasting difference to poor farmers in our locality. We not only provide the best products to farmers but we also help farmers to understand how to use such products. Further, part of our business strategy is to promote new varieties with better qualities through field demonstrations – then farmers can see for themselves.
Companies like Faso Kaba are critical if Africa is to feed itself. It is important for our leaders to remember that farmers want to improve their lives and like everyone else, they want a better life for their children. And it is that extra bit of produce going to a market that will feed others. The demand for seed from farmers is there. Imagine if our governments and development partners would provide the support needed to enable us meet the growing demand across Africa. Only then would we beat hunger and poverty for good. It can be done.