Tag Archives: WHO

The World’s First Malaria Vaccine to Be Rolled Out in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in 2018

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Image credit: Shutterstock

Malaria is one of the world’s most deadly diseases even though it is highly preventable and treatable. Malaria causes approximately 881,000 deaths every year, with nine out of ten deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.

Effective control and treatment of malaria has been very challenging and efforts have been made to reduce the burden of malaria in an integrated approach that combines preventative measures, such as long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (LLINs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS), with improved access to effective anti-malarial drugs.

However, malaria is a disease that stems from and causes poverty, and many at-risk populations live in extremely destitute, remote areas. Poor, rural families are the least likely to have access to these preventative measures that are fundamental to malaria control, and may live kilometres from the nearest healthcare facility. They are also less able to afford treatment once infection has occurred.

In addition to the human cost of malaria, the economic burden of the disease is vast. It is estimated that malaria costs African countries more than US$12 billion every year in direct losses, even though the disease could be controlled for a fraction of that sum. For Nigeria alone the direct loss to the economy is estimated at GBP530 million annually.

Up to 40% of African health budgets are spent on malaria each year, and on average, a malaria-stricken family loses a quarter of its income through loss of earnings and the cost of treating and preventing the disease. Malaria causes an average loss of 1.3% of economic growth per year in Africa.

There is a ray of hope in Africa as the world first malaria vaccine is to be rolled out in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in 2018. This injectable vaccine known as “RTS,S or Mosquirix” was developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and will be offered for babies and children in high risk areas as part of real life trials as reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In clinical trials it is proved only partially effective, and it needs to be given in a four-dose schedule, but it is the first-regulator-approved vaccine against the mosquito- borne disease. The WHO, who is in process of assessing whether to add the shot to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention, has said it firsts wants to see the results of on-the ground testing in a pilot programme.

“Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine,” Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s African regional director said in a statement as the three pilot countries were announced.

“Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa.”

Global efforts in the last 15 years cut the malaria toll by 62 percent between 2000 and 2015. The WHO pilot programme will assess whether the Mosquirix’s protective effect in children aged 5 to 17 months can be replicated in real life. It will also assess the feasibility of delivering the four doses needed and explore the vaccine’s potential role in reducing the number of children killed by the disease. 

The WHO said Malawi, Kenya and Ghana were chosen for the pilot due to several factors, including having high rates of malaria as well as good malaria programmes, wide use of bed-nets and well-functioning immunization programmes. 

Each of the three countries will decide on the districts and regions to be included in the pilots, the WHO said, with high malaria areas getting priority since these are where experts expect to see most benefit from the use of the vaccine.  The vaccine was developed by GSK in partnership with the non-profit PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and part-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The WHO said in November it had secured full funding for the first phase of the RTS,S pilots, with 15 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and up to 27.5 million and 9.6 million respectively from the GAVI Vaccine Alliance and UNITAID for the first four years of the programme.

This significant development will help to address the continuing challenges presented by malaria in Africa in the years ahead and hopefully bring an end to this deadly disease.

Sources:

The Hindu, April 25, 2017. 

Kokwaro G. (2009) Ongoing challenges in the management of malaria. Malaria Journal, 8(Suppl 1):S2 doi:10.1186/1475-2875-8-S1-S2.

Four of the Dirtiest Cities in the World are Located in Nigeria – WHO

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Onitsha -- a city few outside Nigeria will have heard of -- has the undignified honor of being labeled the world's most polluted city, according to data released

Four of the worst polluted cities in the world are located in Nigeria — Africa’s largest economy.

The word “Africa” often evokes romantic images of elephants crossing the Kalahari, thundering water at Victoria Falls, or panoramic views from Table Mountain.

But an increasingly common sight for Africans — especially those in Nigeria — is that of smog, rubbish and polluted water, according to a new report.

Four of the worst cities in the world for air pollution are in Nigeria, according to data released by the World Health Organization (WHO).

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Onitsha has the worst PM10 levels in the world, 30 time more than WHO's recommended levels of particulate matter concentration.

Onitsha — a city few outside Nigeria will have heard of — has the undignified honor of being labeled the world’s most polluted city, according to data released by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The booming port city in southern Nigeria, recorded 30 times more than the WHO’s recommended levels of particulate matter concentration.

The city has been labeled the world’s most polluted city for air quality, when measuring small particulate matter concentration (PM10).

Named and Shamed

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Infographic from CNN

The other three cities named and shamed in the WHO report for high PM10 levels are the transport hub of Kaduna, in the north, which came fifth, followed by the cities of Aba — in sixth place — and Umuahia, in 16th position, which are both trade centers in southern Nigeria.

Although the report only included pollution levels from cities with a population of over 100,000 residents that monitor their pollution levels — something many African cities don’t do.

Last year, the World Bank reported that 94% of the population in Nigeria is exposed to air pollution levels that exceed WHO guidelines (compared to 72% on average in Sub-Saharan Africa in general) and air pollution damage costs about 1% post of Gross National Income.

The WHO study tracked the growth in the two different sizes of particulate matter, PM10 and PM2.5, per cubic meter of air.

PM2.5 particles are fine, with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers (µm) to more than 40 micrometers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

PM10 particles are less than or equal to 10 micrometers in diameter. Nigeria did not feature in the top 10 for PM2.5 levels.

Why is Nigeria so Polluted?

The cause of Nigeria’s pollution problem is a complex story.

“The contributing factors to pollution are a reliance on using solid fuels for cooking, burning waste and traffic pollution from very old cars,” Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, tells CNN.

At home, due to unreliable electricity supplies, many Nigerians rely on generators, which spew out noxious fumes often in unventilated areas.
On the street, car emissions go unregulated.

Neira adds: “In Africa, unfortunately, the levels of pollution are increasing because of rapid economic development and industry without the right technology.”

Indeed, Nigeria’s economy has raced forward in the past decade, overtaking South Africa as the continent’s largest economy in 2014, following a recalculation of its GDP.
Agriculture, telecoms and oil are all driving this growth — at a certain environmental cost.

Steps Towards a Solution

The latest WHO report may highlight Nigeria, but the true story in other parts of the African continent remains unknown.

The report only included pollution levels from cities with a population of over 100,000 residents that monitor their pollution levels — something many African cities don’t do.

“We need to do an assessment of the sources of pollution at city level, also work on better planning of urban collective transport systems, and take very old cars out of service,” says Neira.

“Regarding the four cities in Nigeria, we would actually like to praise them. They are at least monitoring the pollution levels, others are not even monitoring the air, we know that some are very polluted.

“These four cities are moving towards taking action to reduce pollution.”

With more than 50% of the African population predicted to live in cities by 2030, according to global accounting firm KPMG, the health of the continent’s urban areas is a key concern.

Source: CNN

Chemical In Car Tyre, Condom, Hand Glove, Baby Pacifier Can Cause Cancer – WHO

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Cancer is one of the greatest killers in the world today, and the World Health Organisation has pegged the number of new cases annually at over 14 million.

It has been found that a substance, MBT, which is used in the manufacturing of rubber, has the possibility of causing cancer.

The substance, a chemical, is used in the manufacturing of rubber products like car tyres, baby soothers, condoms, elastic bands, gloves, rubber insoles for shoes, and even swimming caps and googles.

While the substance has long been linked with skin allergies, 24 medical experts who met in France recently said they have sufficient evidence to add the chemical to its ‘encyclopaedia of carcinogens’, meaning it ‘probably causes cancer’.

The ranking places it in the category of cancer-causing agents like red meat, and just below first-hand smoking.

MBT is short for 2-mercaptobenzothiazole, which a WHO-funded research at a chemical factory in Wales linked to bladder cancer, bowel cancer and a type of blood cancer.

However, it must be noted that the research was conducted on factory workers who were exposed to the substance in large quantity, as well as other chemicals. This made it difficult to determine if MBT was to blame.

Meanwhile, other research has identified the chemical as the cause of cancer in other animals – making the WHO to rule it cause pose a serious risk to people.

A spokesman for the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer said: “MBT is used mainly in manufacturing rubber products. The most important exposures are to workers in the chemical and rubber industries.

“The general public may be exposed to small amounts of MBT by skin contact with some rubber goods, such as gloves and footwear, or by inhaling tyre dust in urban air. Risks to the public at large from these types of exposures have not been studied.”

Experts are however divided on whether MBT in small doses that can be found in the rubber products we use pose any serious cancer risk to us.

From: The Herald