Sunday, 31 March 2013

MALNUTRITION: Global food prices fall on lower demand but remain near record levels

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) -- Global food prices have declined in recent months but remain very high, volatile and close to record levels, increasing hunger and malnutrition in the world's poorer regions and promoting obesity in developed countries, the World Bank said on Thursday.
According to the quarterly Food Price Watch, global food prices have continued to fall between October 2012 and February 2013, but prices were only nine percent below the all-time high record which was recorded in August 2012. The drop was mainly the result of lower demand from a sharp fall in the use of wheat feed and reduced maize consumption for ethanol in the United States.
But the report cautioned that uncertainties remain. Global stocks of cereals dropped by approximately three percent last year, mainly due to the decline in wheat stocks and coarse grains. Dry conditions in Argentina, South Africa and Australia have also cast doubts over supplies in the coming months.
Otaviano Canuto, World Bank Group's Vice President for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, said high and volatile food prices lead to both hunger and malnutrition in poorer regions and obesity in rich countries. "Unhealthy food tends to be cheaper than healthy ones, like junk food in developed countries," he said.
Canuto said poor people in developing countries also tend to choose cheap food that is high in calories but without much nutritious value. "Half of the world's overweight people live in just nine countries -- China, United States, Germany, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, and Turkey -- evidence that obesity is not an epidemic restricted only to rich countries," he said.
In 2008, the number of overweight adults was 1.46 billion, of which 508 million were obese. The high and volatile food prices mean millions will continue to suffer from poor nutrition, and recent studies show that the number of obese people is expected to nearly double to 1.12 billion by 2030.
The report said a number of issues will affect food prices in the coming months. Among these issues are oil prices which have been on the rise for three consecutive months, marking its highest level in February since April 2012. Stronger demand from countries such as Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, and China may also increase prices.
But despite the problems, the report notes that it is not evident that reducing obesity is among the top global policy priorities for governments. It said responses to obesity have ranged from doing nothing to trying to promote healthier behaviors through taxes, bans or restrictions on certain foods and awareness campaigns.
"The discussions on the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals, along with the UN high-level meeting on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases offer an unprecedented opportunity for integrated global and national collective action to fight all forms of malnutrition, from stunting to obesity," Canuto said.

POVERTY: Church of North India adopts 900 indigent kids

Shaheen P Parshad, Hindustan Times
Amritsar, March 30, 2013
First Published: 22:10 IST(30/3/2013)
Last Updated: 22:11 IST(30/3/201
Terming illiteracy and malnutrition as the "powers of darkness" that prevent the indigent masses from living life to the fullest, the Diocese of Amritsar, Church of North India (CNI), on the eve of Easter on Saturday, vowed to initiate more social outreach projects that not only empower the 
masses, but also complement the government's initiatives on education and malnutrition.

The Diocese of Amritsar, which recently celebrated its diamond jubilee, has adopted 900 indigent children from the Ajnala belt to look after their educational and nutritional needs. This programme is based on a survey conducted by the diocese two years ago.
Talking about the project, Right Reverend Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy, Bishop, Diocese of Amritsar, CNI, said the diocese had been taking care of these children's academic and dietary needs for the past two years.
He said the endeavour was aimed at complementing the government's initiatives on social outreach, education and health. "There is a marked improvement in the physical and mental well-being of these 900 children since we took them under our care," he said. He maintained that the previously lean, listless and academically weak children were now known to be showing interest in sports and academics.
The bishop said the children were also taught about the benefits of keeping their surroundings clean and consuming healthy food. "They have now become harbingers of change in the localities that they reside in as they can be seen taking a keen interest not only in academics and sports, but also in keeping their surroundings clean and ensuring that people living around them know all that they need to know about cleanliness and consuming healthy food," he said.
The bishop said that even the families of these children had started getting actively involved in the initiative. "Easter is about the resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. It is a celebration of His victory over the powers of darkness and evil that prevent people from living life to the fullest," he said.
The bishop said the diocese wants to take the message of Easter to the masses by doing all that it possibly can to dispel the darkness of illiteracy and malnutrition by adopting more children from economically backward families.

MALNUTRITION: Mali: WFP continues hunger relief in war-torn Mali

Critical to WFP's strategy is aid to small children and mothers who are most vulnerable to malnutrition. Health centers have been set up in part of Northern Mali, a region which suffered through a conflict between the government and rebel groups.
WFP says close to 2,700 children aged 6-59 months were treated for moderate malnutrition in the northern city of Gao. Action Against Hunger is WFP's partner in this area.
Around 20,600 children and 4,000 pregnant women and nursing mothers have been reached with food assistance in Northern Mali thus far. School feeding has been provided to over ten thousand children with plans to soon expand.
In southern Mali, over the month of January, WFP assisted 101,617 beneficiaries through food distributions, nutrition programs and emergency school feeding.
WFP is not only providing aid to war and drought victims in Mali but also tens of thousands who fled the country following the outbreak of violence.

MALNUTRITION: Guinea Bissaurgent food aid to G.Bissau stalled due to lacking funds: UN

The United Nations said Tuesday that it had been forced to delay desperately-needed food aid to nearly 300,000 people in Guinea Bissau since it so far had received no donations to support the operation.
"The assistance was due to start on March 1, 2013, but operations are stalled because, so far, (we have) not received any donor support for the operation," Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN's World Food Programme, told reporters in Geneva.
The WFP was urgently seeking $7.1 million to provide food and nutrition aid to 278,000 people across the troubled west Africannation this year, "including to young mothers and children at increased risk of malnutrition", she said.
"But we can't buy food without paying for it," she said.
The country is considered one of the world's poorest, with a full 69 percent of the 1.6 million inhabitants living on less than two dollars a day, and 33 percent living on less than one dollar, Byrs said.
A coup last April caused further turmoil in the country, which has suffered chronic instability since independence from Portugal in 1974 due to conflict between the army and state.
No president has ever completed a full term in office.
"Over the past few years, Guinea Bissau... has suffered a series of shocks resulting in a worsened food and nutrition situation for many vulnerable people," she said, pointing out that the situation had gone downhill after a recent poor harvest of cashew nuts -- the country's main export good.
"Many households have no choice but to sell their livestock and other essential assets to put food on the family table," she said.
Byrs said a full six percent of the country's population was suffering from acute malnutrition, with the rate rising to eight percent in some regions.
The WFP aims to provide meals to 85,000 children through school feeding programmes, including take-home rations to girls to help boost their access to schooling, she said.
It also wants to provide food supplements to some 5,000 malnourished children under the age of five and for 1,960 malnourished pregnant women and new mothers, she said
In 2012, the UN agency reached 211,300 people through school feeding, health and nutrition and community projects using food assistance in exchange for labour, she said.

MALNUTRITION: Hilly areas’ people are at high risk of iodine deficiency

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 
MEDICAL experts have said that a large number of people living in hilly areas of the country are at high risk of iodine deficiency disorder.

They were addressing the concluding session of two-day workshop on iodized salt Friday, organized by Nutrition Section of Planning Commission in collaboration with Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and UNICEF.

They said iodine deficiency Disorder (IDD) is an effectively preventable cause, however, silently steals mental potential of millions of children in the country and around the world. They said it is apublic health nutrition problem and almost half of the population is at risk of IDD, particularly newborns are at risk of irreversible mental impairment.

They said the problem also leads to cause mental retardation, loss of cognitive abilities, still birth, miscarriage, abnormalities like deaf, dump and stunting. They said malnutrition especially micronutrient malnutrition is prevalent in Pakistan. Maternal as well as childhood malnutrition is a significant public health problem impacting economic growth of the country, they added.

Health experts said food fortification is the recommended practice for increasing the content of essential micronutrients in a food to improve the nutritional quality.

They said food fortification plays an important role in reducing malnutrition and it deliversvitamins and minerals to large segments of the population without any changes in eating practices.

Member Planning Commission, Javed Akhtar said that sincere efforts being made by the government will help salt producers and regulatory agencies to improve their iodization and testing practices.

Lorenzo Locatelli Rossi from Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) said that theUniversal Salt Iodization (USI) is recognized as a simple, safe and cost-effective measure in addressing iodine deficiency.

He said under GAIN-UNICEF Universal Salt Iodization (USI) partnership project, efforts are being made to create awareness regarding the importance of iodized salt among consumers and producers. He said that the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) was created in 2002 at a Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children. Justus De Jong from International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD) urged for practical guidelines on production and storage of iodized salt receiptstorage and handling of KIO3 fortificant to verify that KIO3 meets specification to maintain an adequate stock position. He said a Quality Management System (QMS) will always produce salt products, that satisfy the demand of customers, and comply with the regulatory standards.

MALNUTRITION: Biofortification, a New Way to Tackle Malnutrition

Scientists are working to add nutritional value to maize and other crops. (AP)

Scientists are working to add nutritional value to maize and other crops. (AP)

Mariama Diallo

Friday, 29 March 2013

MALARIA: Misclassification of Plasmodium infections by conventional microscopy

William Brieger

Date:Fri, Mar 29, 2013 8:29 am

Misclassification of Plasmodium infections by conventional microscopy and the impact of remedial training 

Abstract (provisional)


Malaria diagnosis is largely dependent on the demonstration of parasites in stained blood films by conventional microscopy. Accurate identification of the infecting Plasmodium species relies on detailed examination of parasite morphological characteristics, such as size, shape, pigment granules, in addition to size and shape of the parasitized red blood cells and presence of cell inclusions. This work explores misclassifications of four Plasmodium species by conventional microscopy in relation to the proficiency of microscopists and morphological characteristics of the parasites on Giemsa-stained blood films.
Case description: Ten-day malaria microscopy remedial courses on parasite detection, species identification and parasite counting were conducted for public health and research laboratory personnel between 2008 and 2010. Proficiency in species identification were assessed at the start (pre) and the end (post) of each course using known blood films of Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium malariae, Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium vivax infections with densities between 1,000 and 30,000 parasites/muL. Outcomes were categorized as false negative, positive without speciation, P. falciparum, P. malariae, P. ovale, P. vivax and mixed infections.
Discussion and evaluation: Reported findings are based on 1,878 P. falciparum, 483 P. malariae, 581 P. ovale and 438 P. vivax cumulative results collated between 2008 and 2010. Pre-training false negative and positive misclassifications without speciation were significantly lower on P. falciparum infections compared to non-falciparum infections (p < 0.0001). Post-training misclassifications decreased significantly compared to pre- training misclassifications which in turn led to significant improvements in the identification of the four species. However, P. falciparum infections were highly misclassified as mixed infections, P. ovale misclassified as P. vivax and P. vivax similarly misclassified as P. ovale (p < 0.05).


These findings suggest that the misclassification of malaria species could be a common occurrence especially where non-falciparum infections are involved due to lack of requisite skills in microscopic diagnosis and variations in morphological characteristics within and between Plasmodium species. Remedial training might improve reliability of conventional light microscopy with respect to differentiation of Plasmodium infections.



Health leaders signed the Swaziland Statement, committing them to accelerate the response to the TB and TB/HIV epidemics in Africa.

The health agencies point to a funding gap of at least US$ 1.6 billion a year in international funding for treatment and prevention of TB.

From Bulgaria to British Columbia, partners’ events focused on stopping TB In my lifetime. Read more on the World TB day blog.

The Global Coalition of TB Activists aims to put communities affected by TB at the centre of decision making in the fight against TB.

Delegates reviewed progress, shared the latest data and findings and promoted partnerships and collaboration to accelerate and streamline TB vaccine research.

Médecins Sans Frontières says that efforts to treat people for multidrug-resistant TB and find new drugs to treat the disease must be significantly increased.

The International Council of Nurses launches the third phase of its TB project, supported by the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership.

The U.S. Agency for International Development was honoured for its dedication and leadership at an awards ceremony marking World TB Day.

The Deputy President of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe, handed over six Xpert diagnostic machines to the country’s prison service on World TB Day.


Ban Ki-Moon says that it will be critical to ensure that countries can afford the cost of preventing deaths from TB and arresting its spread.

Shri Pranab Mukherjee calls upon stakeholders to come together and undertake all the necessary steps to achieve the goal of zero TB deaths.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Stop TB Partnership reaffirm their commitment to take effective action to overcome TB.

Lucica Ditiu reflects on the ambition and commitment demonstrated by the TB community at World TB Day events.


Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund and Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership write in the Financial Times.

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS says that we must act now to stop people living with HIV dying from TB.

Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership argues that while progress has been made, we need to accelerate efforts before the MDGs expire.

Jonathan Smith, Lecturer at Yale University School of Public Health says that there is hope in the fight against TB in the Southern African mining sector.

Articles in the 2013 World TB Day report cover the funding gap for the fight against TB, TB and mining and other issues. (Free registration required.)


The price of several second-line drugs decline by up to 26% compared to 2011 prices, resulting in a decrease in the overall cost of treatment.

The Global Drug Facility has opened its 28th round of applications for grants for first-line adult and pediatric TB drugs.

Representatives of African civil society health platforms called for an end to fragmented action by agencies working on one specific disease or health issue.

Workshop participants proposed a set of goals and targets to guide the global fight against TB after 2015.


Mr Chambers will work with partners to promote and secure increased investment to achieve the health-related MDGs by the end of 2015.

Dr Jorge Sampaio promises to keep advocating for TB as his six-year term as Special Envoy comes to an end.

Take That TB and Treatment Action Group have created an email group designed to connect tuberculosis (TB) patients and survivors.

The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease has appointed Jeroen van Gorkom as the Vice Chair  of its HIV Scientific Section.


The eCompliance system, which records patients’ visits to TB clinics, is featured in a Huffington Post blog.

KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation welcomes the announcement by the Global Drug Facility on price reductions for several second-line TB drugs.

The Centre for Excellence in Tuberculosis Control aims to improve coordination between existing TB research initiatives.

The Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics and the Special Programme for Research and Training on Tropical Diseases join forces.


The WHO Stop TB Department has helped develop applications for use on tablet computers based on its online training course on managing drug-resistant TB.

Treatment Action Group publishes two new advocacy reports, including an updated publication on childhood TB with the Sentinel Project

The three new tools are new global tools designed to support Advocacy, Communication and Social Mobilization activities around the world.

New guide includes all of the tools, guidelines and handbooks that the coalition has published.

IPS 29thMarch

Q&A: Portugal Neglects Undocumented Immigrants with AIDS 
Mario Queiroz 
In 1996, Luís Mendão was shocked to learn that he had contracted HIV/AIDS, and that the infection was advanced because of the late diagnosis. Racing against time, he began to put his affairs in order and to get ready to face his death. However, after a year of treatment, he felt better and ... MORE > >

“Merchants of Death” Fly Under the Radar of U.N. Arms Trade Treaty 
George Gao 
Viktor Bout earned a few monikers in his heyday: “Merchant of Death”, “Sanctions Buster” and “Lord of War”. He’s the poster boy for illicit arms brokers – a guild of shadowy intermediaries who link arms suppliers to their end users. While Bout sits in a jail in the southern U.S. state of ... MORE > >

Iranian People Caught in Crossfire of Dueling Messages 
Farideh Farhi 
Since Barack Obama became president of the United States, messages marking the Iranian New Year – Norouz - celebrated at the onset of spring have become yearly affairs. So have responses given by Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from the city of Mashhad where he makes a yearly pilgrimage to ... MORE > >

PERU: Stepping Up Protection for Native Groups in Voluntary Isolation 
Milagros Salazar 
In the dense Amazon rainforest of Peru, there are five reserves inhabited by indigenous groups who have chosen to remain totally or partially isolated from the rest of society. But these areas are not officially demarcated as indigenous lands, and only one is protected with a control post. The ... MORE > >

Ranchers Try to Drive Tsimané Indians Off Their Land 
Rafael Acuña Coaquira 
“We can’t take any more abuse,” Carmelo Tayo, the head of this small Tsimané indigenous village, says sadly. The community has lived for decades on land in Bolivia’s Amazon jungle that outsiders are now trying to gain control of. The Tsimané or Chimané people, one of the few native groups whose ... MORE > >

Zimbabwe’s Railroads Riding to Extinction 
Jeffrey Moyo 
Zimbabwe’s rail transport system may be nearing extinction if the government does not take drastic action to solve the series of operational challenges that have made commuter and goods train services rare here. “The railway services are certainly in crisis because they have to keep paying about ... MORE > >

India Playing Risky Games at Nuclear Parks 
Ranjit Devraj 
Bhagwat Singh Gohil frets for the future of his bountiful orchards in Mithi Virdi village in western Gujarat state’s coastal district Bhavnagar. “After contending with droughts, rough seas and earthquakes we are staring at the possibility of a man-made disaster in the shape of a nuclear power ... MORE > >

Net Tightens Around Fishing in Egypt 
Cam McGrath 
For Egypt’s commercial marine fishermen, making a living has never been more dangerous. Egyptian crews driven further afield in search of fish have faced pirate attacks, spent months in dingy foreign prisons, and come under fire from coast guard vessels. Dozens of fishermen have been held for ... MORE > >

Obama Visit Settles It a Little for Israel 
Pierre Klochendler 
On his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, U.S. President Barack Obama laid out his vision for a revival of the long-stalled peace talks. Yet, it was clear from his statements that a settlement freeze is no longer an immediate requirement. And, he carefully avoided mentioning the ... MORE > >

Discord Now Strikes Male Bands in Kashmir 
Athar Parvaiz 
The girl band in Kashmir was silenced; the male bands are running into fears of another kind of silence. After tourist arrivals started picking up a couple of years back, 27-year-old Aamir Ahmad put off renovation plans for his home and began to polish up the instruments in his music studio. New ... MORE > >

Pope Francis Raises Hopes for an Ecological Church 
Marcela Valente 
The new pope’s choice of the name Francis, to honour the Catholic Church’s patron saint of animals and the environment, has awakened the hopes of ecologists and others who are concerned about rampant consumerism and the deterioration of the planet. In 1979, then Pope John Paul II proclaimed St. ... MORE > >

Read more IPS reporting here.