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Philippines: Zamboanga City health office readies for anti-polio campaign | SunStar Philippines.

[July 8, 2020]

ZAMBOANGA. The City Health Office is undertaking preparation for the conduct of the third round Sabayang Patak Konta Polio from July 10 to August 2. A photo handout shows health workers undergo orientation as part of the preparation. (SunStar Zamboanga)

CITY Health Office (CHO) personnel step up preparations for the third round of Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio in Zamboanga City.

The CHO said in a statement Wednesday, July 8, 2020, that the third round of anti-polio immunization drive is set from July 10 to August 2 for children below 10 years old.

It said that a series of orientation for health workers covering all health districts in this city is ongoing with emphasis on the minimum health setting standards as well as infection control protocols, as the world shifts to a new normal.

The World Health Organization provides technical assistance while the Department of Health provides logistics for the anti-polio campaign.

The conduct of the anti-polio campaign was slated from March 23 to April 4 but it has been suspended when this city was placed under enhanced community quarantine on March 20 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Corazon Pagotaisidro, City Health Office’s Immunization Program coordinator, said that Bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine will be given to children from zero to 10 years old.

Pagotaisidro said the City Health Office is targeting to vaccinate 205,780 children in this city. (SunStar Zamboanga)


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Trump administration submits formal notice of withdrawal from WHO | STAT.

[JULY 7, 2020]

World Health Organization logo
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Helen Branswell writes:

The United States has formally notified the United Nations that it is withdrawing from the World Health Organization, following through on an announcement President Trump made in late May.

The move, however, would not be effective until July 6, 2021, officials said -- leaving open the possibility that, should Trump lose reelection, a Biden administration could reverse the decision. The former vice president promptly indicated he would do so.

"Americans are safer when America is engaged in strengthening global health. On my first day as President, I will rejoin the WHO and restore our leadership on the world stage," Biden announced Tuesday on Twitter.

The withdrawal of the United States would plunge global health governance into the unknown, creating questions about the economic viability of the WHO, the future of the polio eradication program, the system for reporting dangerous infectious disease outbreaks, and myriad other programs that are as pertinent to the health of Americans as they are to people from countries around the world, such as efforts to combat the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

STAT reached out to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for comment, but received no reply. Spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the Geneva-based agency had been informed the official notice had been filed, but had no further information.

But Jeremy Konyndyk, a fellow at the Center for Global Development, called the move "reckless and entirely unjustified."

"The disastrous state of the outbreak in the United States is not the result of following WHO guidance but rather is the result of ignoring the agency's increasingly urgent warnings from late January onward," he said in a statement. "Had the U.S. followed WHO's advice on early preparedness, aggressive testing, contact tracing, and other response measures, we would be in a far better place today than we are."

Lawrence Gostin, the faculty director at Georgetown's O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, called the move "ruinous" -- both for United States and for the world.

"This is the end of an era of United States global health leadership," he said.

Gostin and more than 750 public health leaders, deans of schools of public health, even former heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have signed a letter asking Congress to block the withdrawal. They argue the president does not have the unilateral authority to cancel the country's membership in the global health agency.

The WHO's constitution does not include provisions for members to withdraw. But in 1948, after the United States joined the United Nations' global health agency, Congress passed a joint resolution outlining the circumstances under which withdrawal could be achieved. It requires a member country to give the WHO one year's notice of its intention to withdraw. It also stipulates that all outstanding dues must be paid before withdrawal.

In a recent speech, Joe Biden pledged to rescind the withdrawal notice, if he is elected in November.

“We must immediately restore our relationship with the World Health Organization,” he said on June 30.  “For all its shortcomings and missteps around COVID-19, this is why the WHO was created.  It is essential to coordinating a global response during a pandemic.  And the United States should be leading the way.”

The United States is the WHO’s largest funder, contributing $426 million a year in the 2018-2019 budget period. The U.S. currently owes the WHO $203 million for 2020 and previous years.

The notice of withdrawal, signed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, made no mention of funds the country owes to the WHO and the State Department did not immediately reply to a question on whether the United States will pay the outstanding dues.

The U.N. also appeared uncertain of the U.S. intent. “The Secretary-General … is in the process of verifying with the World Health Organization whether all the conditions for such withdrawal are met,” Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for Secretary-General António Guterres, said in an email.

The administration has said it will work with other partners to achieve its global health goals. But experts have warned the country will lose influence internationally and its efforts may lose momentum, as other countries come to view the U.S. as an unreliable partner.

“There will be no incentive to take U.S. needs into account,” said Jimmy Kolker, a longtime U.S. diplomat and former assistant secretary for global affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration.

“It will be much harder than some might assume to find alternate channels for us to engage in global health activities,” Kolker warned. “Our investment will no longer leverage others’ and experts in other countries will have to diversify their partnerships away from the CDC, the NIH or USAID, as these may not be sustainable. Once deals are struck and arrangements made without U.S. involvement, it will be an uphill struggle to retrofit them if the U.S. has an interest in getting involved and decides (as we inevitably will) to halt our withdrawal or rejoin.”

Trump has moved to blame the WHO for the Covid-19 pandemic, insisting that had it been more aggressive with China in January the outbreak might have been averted. While analysts have acknowledged the agency’s lavish praise of China’s handling of the outbreak may have struck the wrong note, they also noted the WHO does not have the power to force a country to let inspectors visit to assess the situation on the ground — something Trump insisted the agency should have done.

Critics of the administration’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic also note that in January and February, when the WHO was vociferously urging countries to prepare for spread of the virus, Trump himself was praising China’s handling of the outbreak and predicting the virus would stop spreading on its own.

The president announced in mid-May that the administration was giving the WHO 30 days in which to address a list of concerns or the United States would withdraw from the agency. But 11 days after he issued the ultimatum, Trump declared that the U.S. was pulling out of the organization immediately.

Even members of his own party have questioned the move and the timing of it, coming as the WHO leads the global response to Covid-19, the worst health threat in a century.

“Certainly, there needs to be a good, hard look at mistakes the World Health Organization might have made in connection with coronavirus, but the time to do that is after the crisis has been dealt with, not in the middle of it,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said after Trump’s announcement. “Withdrawing U.S. membership could, among other things, interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines, which citizens of the United States as well as others in the world need.”

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About the Author.

Helen Branswell

Senior Writer, Infectious Disease.

Helen covers issues broadly related to infectious diseases, including outbreaks, preparedness, research, and vaccine development.


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Libya: Fighting COVID-19 in times of conflict | ReliefWeb.

[Source: WHO] [Posted: 7 Jul 2020] [Originally Published: 20 Jun 2020] [Origin: View original]

20 June 2020 -- The World Health Organization has urged all armed groups in Libya to allow humanitarian agencies to obtain access to health care facilities on the ground, especially in the south, to help combat the recent surge in cases of COVID-19, mainly in the south of the country.

"Humanitarian agencies must be able to safely enter all areas of the country to deliver critical medicines, supplies and personal protection equipment to frontline health care staff treating COVID-19 patients", said Ms Elizabeth Hoff, WHO Representative in Libya. "It is essential that medical aid reach the most vulnerable communities displaced by fighting and people who face the twin horrors of conflict and pandemic. Unfettered access to health care is a human right, now more than ever."

As of 17 June 2020, there were 467 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections in Libya, with ten deaths and 70 recoveries. Thus far, a total of 18 485 tests to detect COsVID-19 has been administered. The majority of cases are in Sebha municipality in the south, a major hub on the migration route from Africa to Europe. Between 26 May and 9 June 2020, there was an eightfold increase in COVID-19 cases in Sebha.

In recent weeks, more than 24 000 people have been displaced due to the fighting. Most of them are living in overcrowded conditions that allow for the easy spread of the virus. In addition, the country's health system is near collapse, with three quarters of Primary Health Care Clinics not functioning due to shortages in medical staff, supplies, medicine, and equipment. These shortages have made it difficult to assess the true impact of COVID-19 on the population. The paucity of early detection "sentinel sites" means that infections can go undetected for weeks, allowing COVID-19 to spread easily within communities. WHO is working with health authorities and partners to enhance disease surveillance and monitoring and deliver critical supplies to support the response to COVID-19. WHO has delivered laboratory equipment, test kits and personal protection equipment (PPE) to the health authorities for distribution throughout the country. A new consignment of PPE and laboratory reagents is expected to arrive in Benghazi shortly.

The Organization is also working to maintain other essential health care services.To meet the health needs of thousands of displaced people from Tarhouna (south of Tripoli), in eearly June WHO delivered essential health supplies to Al Jufra, Ashshwayrif, Ejdabia, Benghazi and other locations hosting people from Tarhouna. It also delivered health supplies for displaced people fleeing conflict in south Tripoli. The supplies were sent from WHO's logistics hub in Dubai and include trauma kits as well as medicines to treat communicable and noncommunicable diseases.

Vaccination is a critical public health concern. WHO and UNICEF have recently raised the alarm over severe shortages of vaccines in Libya that are putting more than 250 000 children at risk of life-threatening diseases such as measles and polio. Vaccination is essential to maintain population immunity against the epidemic-prone diseases that cause high childhood morbidity and mortality, yet access to vaccination services has been disrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, supplies of many critical vaccines are expected to run out by mid-June.

"Health needs in Libya are immense, and Libyans are now also facing the additional threat of COVID-19," said Hoff. "Without a ceasefire and sustainable access to all areas across the country, people will continue to die unnecessarily, and children will be exposed to diseases that are entirely preventable with proper vaccination. We cannot allow this to happen."

WHO has requested US$ 3.3 million to support the response to COVID-19 in Libya. Thus far, it has received US$ 2.95 million in contributions and firm pledges, including from China, the UK, France, Canada, Norway and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


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Malaysia: Health Ministry: Four Polio cases detected in Labuan and Sabah | The Star.

[Sunday, 05 Jul 2020] Remar Nordin writes:

KOTA TINGGI: Four polio cases have been detected in Labuan and Sabah involving four children aged from three months to 11 years, says Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba.

The Health Minister said of the four children, three were foreigners and one was Malaysian.

He added that the cases were detected last week and the ministry had launched a nation-wide polio screening programme to detect other possible cases.

“The ministry urges parents to ensure their children aged from eighteen months to five years old have received the polio vaccine.

“The vaccination is free and I hope parents will support our polio immunisation campaign so that it achieves a positive outcome, ” he added.

Dr Adham, who is also Tenggara MP, said this when met by a meet and greet session with school headmasters and principals in the constituency at SMK Tun Habab, Taman Sri Lalang here on Sunday (July 5).

Meanwhile, on the fire which broke out at Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA) recently, Dr Adham said preliminary reports found faulty electric panels at the women’s medical ward.

He added that the ministry had yet to receive the full forensic report from the Fire and Rescue Department on the matter.

“We still need the full report first to identify the real cause of the fire where we should give the department to come out with a precise and detailed report, ” he said adding that the report would be out shortly.


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Coronavirus - Burkina Faso resumes Polio Vaccination Campaigns under strict COVID-19 prevention measures | africanews.

[06/07 - 21:50]

Burkina Faso today concluded a four-day mass polio immunization campaign, vaccinating 174 304 children under five years of age in two districts of the country’s Centre-East region, while observing COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures.

The campaign is the first to be conducted since the government suspended all mass immunization on 27 March due to the COVID-19 pandemic to comply with the physical distancing guidelines to curb transmission of the virus.

As immunization campaigns resume, World Health Organization (WHO) teams at both regional and country offices have developed guidance for countries and frontline workers to ensure their safety and that of the children and their families.

All vaccinators and health care workers involved have been trained on maintaining physical distancing while conducting the vaccination. Additionally, a total of 41 250 masks as well as 200 litres of hand sanitizers were made available through the COVID-19 Committee in country to the 2000 frontline workers who took part in the immunization campaign.

While mass immunizations were suspended, health facilities were still operating, offering routine vaccination services. However, parents and care givers expressed some hesitation to vaccinate their children for fear of contracting COVID-19, leading to a 10% drop in vaccination rates, according to WHO teams in the country.

“We cannot wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to be contained to resume immunization activities. If we stop immunization for too long, including for polio, vaccine preventable diseases will have a detrimental effect on children’s health across the region,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

“The campaigns run by the Polio Eradication Programme demonstrate that mass immunization can be safely conducted under the strict implementation of COVID-19 infection prevention and control guidelines,” added Dr Moeti.

Burkina Faso received its wild poliovirus-free status in 2015 yet is currently one of 15 countries in the African Region which are experiencing outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus, a rare form of the virus that affects unimmunized and under-immunized populations living in areas with inadequate sanitation and low levels of polio immunization.

As of 27 June, the country’s disease surveillance system had detected 10 cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus transmission in the districts of Ouargaye, Bittou, Bogodogo, Kaya, Tougouri, Signoghin, Saponé and Dori, requiring an urgent response.

“Suspending immunization activities, even though necessary to protect frontline workers and the community, has derailed our response to circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus. However, our teams have been working non-stop across the region to ensure that in addition to supporting the COVID-19 response, we continue essential disease surveillance and plan for the resumption of polio outbreak response once the situation permits,” said Dr Pascal Mkanda, Coordinator of WHO Polio Eradication Programme in the African Region.

The WHO African Region set up an inter-agency Rapid Response Team in September 2019 to mobilise responses to circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus outbreaks in the region within 72 hours. Campaigns involve conducting three rounds of immunization campaigns in affected areas within three months, with the first round conducted within the first 14 days. The Rapid Response Team has succeeded in ending three outbreaks in Kenya, Mozambique and Niger.

From 10 to 13 July, Angola is planning a polio vaccination campaign, targeting 1,287,717 children under five years of age. The campaign staff of 14,742 will include 4,309 vaccinators. Like Burkina Faso, strict infection prevention control measures are in place, including the distribution of 90,000 masks and 23,000 sanitizers of 500ml from the country Ministry of Health. 

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of WHO Regional Office for Africa.WHO Regional Office for Africa


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Over 3,000 Congolese refugees arrive in Uganda in three days | UNHCR.

[07 July 2020]

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley - to whom quoted text may be attributed - at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Uganda. Borders opened to thousands fleeing Congo violenceAnurith, a 29-year-old asylum-seeker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sits with her children after undergoing a health screening near the border crossing in Zombo, Uganda.  © UNHCR/Rocco Nuri

More than 3,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) arrived in Uganda between Wednesday and Friday last week (1 – 3 July) during a temporary opening of two border crossing points at Golajo and Mount Zeu, north-western Uganda.

The new arrivals were previously part of a larger group of approximately 45,000 people, according to local DRC authorities, who had attempted to flee towards the Ugandan border with the DRC shortly after deadly clashes erupted between armed militia groups in Ituri province on 17 and 18 May. While some have been able to return to their areas of origin, others had remained close to the border, unable to cross for more than a month due to closure of borders on the Uganda side to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Sixty-five per cent of the new arrivals are children. The group also included 33 pregnant women, two of whom were immediately taken to Zeu Health Center III last week, where they each gave birth – one to a baby girl and one to a boy.

Some of the refugees shared heart-wrenching accounts of militia attacks on their villages with our staff. Many of them told us that they were separated from their families and had little time to pack any belongings or look for family members before fleeing. Very few were able to carry personal items and most fled barefoot with only the clothes they were wearing.

The group have been taken to the Zeu Farm Institute, an old training centre for farmers in Zombo district, which is now serving as a quarantine facility. To support the centre, UNHCR has installed 318 family tents, as well as nine water tanks, health screening areas, toilets and handwashing facilities. In addition, UNHCR and partners are providing food, water, medical checks and temporary shelter, and health teams and an ambulance are on stand-by in case anyone requires hospitalization.

The Ugandan Health Ministry has been conducting sample COVID-19 testing, with the first 570 samples returning negative. Refugees have received doses of Vitamin A and vaccinations against cholera, measles, rubella and polio.

Following the mandatory quarantine period of 14 days, in line with national guidelines and protocols, they will be transported to existing refugee settlements.

UNHCR welcomes the decision by the Government of Uganda to allow the group of refugees to enter the country and receive life-saving aid and protection. This effort demonstrates how, through quarantines, health screenings and other measures, States can uphold their obligations under international law during the pandemic while at the same time limiting potential transmission of the virus.

With over 1,000 COVID-19 cases in Uganda, UNHCR continues to support the Government with its COVID-19 response, by constructing and strengthening quarantine and isolation facilities and increasing handwashing supplies and availability of masks.  Many of our transit and reception facilities across the country have been converted into quarantine centers, where we are supporting hundreds of Ugandans and refugees on a daily basis.

However, the refugee response in Uganda continues to face multiple challenges due to underfunding, including severe food ration cuts.  UNHCR has received just 18 per cent of the US$357 million required for its operation in Uganda in 2020. In the immediate term, US$28 million is urgently needed to continue the current level of assistance to refugees in Uganda, including basic health services. UNHCR appeals for international solidarity to help Uganda uphold its commitments towards the Global Compact on Refugees and maintain its progressive refugee policy during these difficult times.

News footage available for media and broadcasters:

Uganda offers hope, opens border for thousands fleeing violence in DRC:

INTERNATIONAL: https://media.unhcr.org/Share/7q64kbge8gk1u02w38fs104gs70o54bg

Despite COVID-19, Uganda opens border for thousands fleeing violence in DRC:

BROLL: https://media.unhcr.org/Share/g25226u6t6ps2y4g8ca31dmvl0ldr1e5

For more information on this topic, please contact:


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High vigilance to prevent return of polio in Europe continues despite COVID-19 pandemic | WHO Regional Office for Europe.

[07-07-2020]

Every year, the European Regional Commission for Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication (RCC), an independent panel of international public health experts, reviews progress reports on poliomyelitis (polio) eradication activities from all 53 Member States of the WHO European Region and reports the findings and required actions to WHO.

This year, despite the extraordinary challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, 41 of the 53 countries in the European Region were able to complete and submit their annual polio reports for 2019 on time before the RCC’s 34th annual meeting on 2 June 2020. This achievement was commended by RCC members, who met remotely with the WHO Secretariat.

The initial conclusion of the RCC showed that polio programmes were maintained during 2019 much as in previous years, and no new risks to polio eradication in the Region were identified. The RCC further acknowledged improvements and significant efforts made by some countries to increase preparedness and reduce the risk that a poliovirus could circulate if imported into the Region.

Their annual conclusions on the status of polio eradication in the Region are based on factors including polio immunization and surveillance rates, and overall assessed risk of transmission following a potential importation of a wild poliovirus or emergence of a vaccine-derived poliovirus.

The RCC expects to receive and review the outstanding reports of the remaining 12 countries by the end of August 2020. Results and conclusions of the full review will include confirmation of whether the European Region has retained its polio-free status as well as specific recommendations for each country.

COVID-19: potential impact on polio prevention.

The RCC review covered reports for 2019; however, the Commission underlined that as global, regional and national efforts continue to respond to rapidly evolving COVID-19 outbreaks, essential public health activities, including to sustain polio eradication, must continue.

Professor David Salisbury, Chair of both the Global Certification Commission (GCC) and the RCC, commended the countries for their vigilance. He further stressed that in 2020 it will be of the utmost importance that all countries do all they can to preserve high population immunity through vaccination and high-quality surveillance, despite the pressures that COVID-19 is imposing on immunization service providers.

Maintaining immunization during COVID-19 is essential.

WHO/Europe has published guidance on maintaining routine immunization services during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Region to help countries minimize the risk of transmission during immunization sessions, as well as to ensure timely catch-up of any vaccination doses that may be missed or postponed.

New WHO tool facilitates reporting.

The timely submission of the annual reports on polio eradication activities in the majority of the Region’s countries was possible in part thanks to the introduction of an electronic reporting format (e-APR) last year for 2018 reporting, and an upgrade of the tool based on feedback from countries following its introduction.

The RCC commended the WHO Secretariat for its leadership in developing this user-friendly tool, which has facilitated improvements in the quality of data analysis and made it possible to reduce the duration of the RCC meeting to one day.



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