WHO calls for immediate action to evacuate injured from Misurata

After coming under siege and fire for 40 days, the city of Misurata, about 200 km east of Libya’s capital Tripoli, is facing a deteriorating health situation. This has put the lives of thousands of civilians at risk and as the fighting continues the humanitarian crisis is worsening the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns.

In statement issued today, Dr Hussein A. Gezairy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, appealed for “days of tranquility” to allow WHO and partners to evacuate the injured and sick, and provide much needed medical and humanitarian assistance to the besieged people in Misurata and other parts of Libya.

“WHO calls upon the international community and donor agencies to provide immediate support to the people of Misurata to prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian crisis. Medical personnel and equipment, medicine, surgical kits, ventilators, sterilization equipment and water purification units are among the priority needs,” Dr Gezairy added.

“The city’s main polyclinic has become inaccessible to both doctors and the injured. Smaller and unequipped clinics are facing an influx of injured and patients who are in dire need of medical assistance. Privately owned medical facilities fall short on capacity, space, equipment and personnel to cope with the unprecedented number of casualties and regular patients”, a local doctor said.

“Routine vaccination programmes have been interrupted, as there is no stock of vaccines left in the city. Medicines for the treatment of communicable and chronic diseases are needed and the deployment of medical teams.”

The city’s water supply and sewage system have been interrupted and the roads to the nearby desalination station, as an alternative source for drinking-water, are under fire and not safe. Lack of safe drinking-water and poor sanitation may lead to epidemics with serious public health consequences, the WHO said in statement.

In addition to Misurata’s local residents, a large number of immigrants from Egypt, Chad, Niger, Bangladesh and other nationalities, are under siege in makeshift camps where access to basic human and medical necessities is very limited.

Despite the efforts exerted by WHO and partners in supporting relief efforts and providing medicines and medical supplies to those affected by the violence in Libya, there are still many areas in the west and the middle of the country, which are reported to be besieged and unfortunately out of reach of aid agencies. WHO warns of increasing health threats and reiterates its call for immediate action.

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WHO calls for contributions on draft guidelines for ‘International Recruitment of Health Personnel’

The World Health Organization (WHO) is pleased to announce the launch of a web-based public hearing from 21 March to 17 April 2011 on the draft guidelines for monitoring the implementation of the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel (“the Guidelines”). WHO invites you to contribute to this public hearing on the Guidelines.

All persons concerned with the international recruitment of health personnel are invited to contribute to this web-based public hearing on the draft Guidelines – Member States, health workers, recruiters, employers, academic and research institutions, health professional organizations, and any relevant subregional, regional and international organizations, whether governmental or nongovernmental.

Input received during the course of this web-based public hearing will contribute to a revised draft of the Guidelines. Complementary documents concerning the Code are also available for download from the WHO website.

Contributions can be submitted in any of the six official languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish). Please note that at this stage, comments should not focus on the formatting of the documents and WHO says they are not expecting any data to be provided. Contributions should be limited to 2,000 words.

The draft Guidelines

Comments can be emailed to:

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Millions unite for diabetes awareness on World Diabetes Day 2010

Events being held in over 160 countries to mark the day and highlight the need for action to stop the diabetes epidemic

Starting today, people from all corners of the world are uniting together for three days of celebration to put diabetes firmly in the public spotlight. World Diabetes Day is the best opportunity there is to draw attention to the silent killer that is diabetes.

Celebrated every year on 14 November, World Diabetes Day was initiated in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat that diabetes poses to the global community. An official United Nations Day since the passage of UN Resolution 61/225 in 2006, World Diabetes Day draws attention to issues of paramount importance to the diabetes world and keeps diabetes firmly in the public spotlight. It is represented by the blue circle – the global symbol of diabetes.

Diabetes is a leading threat to global health and development. According to IDF, over 300 million people live with diabetes around the world. Within a generation, that number is expected to reach half a billion. 8.5% of European adults have diabetes. Shockingly, six countries in the Middle East and North African Region have the top 10 highest diabetes prevalence rates in the world —Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. An ageing society coupled with economic development and lifestyle changes has resulted in a dramatic increase in diabetes in the Region.

“Diabetes is the cause of some 290,000 deaths in our Region. It is our collective responsibility to safeguard the health of future generations. World Diabetes Day highlights the serious issue of diabetes on a global stage and brings urgent attention to the epidemic,” said Amir-Kamran Nikousokhan Tayar, Chair of IDF’s Middle East and North African Region.

Faced with these alarming numbers, World Diabetes Day aims to establish access to diabetes education as a right for all people with diabetes, to promote greater awareness of the risk factors and warning signs of diabetes, and encourage best-practice sharing in diabetes prevention.

This year sees the second of a five-year campaign (2009-2013) that addresses the growing need for diabetes education and prevention programmes throughout the world. The theme for World Diabetes Day 2010 is “Let’s take control of diabetes. Now.”  In keeping with this theme, IDF has developed a special web application – the Blue Circle Test—to showcase the risk factors for type 2 diabetes and highlight the positive actions that individuals can take to help prevent the disease.

Political Will
The world is finally waking up to the threat of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). On May 13 this year, the UN General Assembly voted unanimously for UN Resolution 64/265 to hold a UN High Level Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in September 2011. A similar Summit on HIV/AIDS in 2001 proved a turning point for the fight against that disease.

“The UN Summit will bring heads of state, government representatives, NGOs and public health experts together to discuss the global threat and commit to the global response required for diabetes and other NCDs,” Ann Keeling, IDF Chief Executive Officer, said.

To mark World Diabetes Day this year, IDF is coordinating a programme of work – called the Diabetes Roadmap – that will produce and package arguments, evidence and solutions to ensure the UN Summit translates into real change for the millions of people with diabetes worldwide.

A Call to Action on Diabetes will be launched on November 14 in the diabetes epicentre of the world: China. China has 92.4 million adults with diabetes (1 in every 10 adults). A Call to Action is the central advocacy tool for the global diabetes community in the lead up to the UN Summit, bringing the global diabetes epidemic to the attention of world leaders, and guide and secure action, commitment, support and resources for diabetes. The document will be unveiled as part of World Diabetes Day festivities at the iconic Great Hall of the People in Beijing. New data on how much diabetes is costing the Chinese economy and society will also be announced.

Celebrations will extend from China to various countries in the world, with famous landmarks and monuments once again lighting up in blue for diabetes awareness. More than 500 iconic buildings in over 60 countries will be illuminated, including Table Mountain in South Africa, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, the Brandenburger Tor in Germany, and Niagara Falls in Canada. Activities such as mass walks for diabetes and aerobics will be held in conjunction with these lightings, to demonstrate the importance of a healthy lifestyle to help take control of this epidemic.

“Our global diabetes champions will literally bring diabetes to light on World Diabetes Day. No matter where we are, it’s our efforts that will make World Diabetes Day a truly global success. Ninety years after the discovery of insulin, the number of people with diabetes continues to grow at a staggering rate. In every country and in every community worldwide, we are losing the battle against this cruel and deadly disease,” said IDF President Jean Claude Mbanya.

“The time to act for diabetes is now.”

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Yemen honours WHO regional director

Dr Hussein A. Gezairy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, receives the Gold Medal of Honour from Ali Abdullah Saleh, the President of Yemen

Dr Hussein A. Gezairy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, receives the Gold Medal of Honour from Ali Abdullah Saleh, the President of Yemen

On Saturday 16 October 2010, Dr Hussein A. Gezairy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, received the Gold Medal of Honour from Ali Abdullah Saleh, the President of Yemen. The Gold Medal of Honour, one of the most prominent awards in Yemen, was given to Dr Gezairy in recognition of his long years of international humanitarian service, particularly the support he has extended to Yemen in the field of public health.

During the event attended by Dr Abdulkarim Yehia Rasae, Minister of Health, Yemen and Ghulum Popal, WHO Representative to Yemen, the President paid recognition to Dr Gezairy’s efforts and leadership during his years of service as WHO Regional Director.

The Regional Director extended his gratitude for this honorable recognition. He pointed out the many improvements he had witnessed in Yemen’s health sector. In particular, he praised Yemen’s national immunisation campaigns to reduce child mortality and also the country’s tireless fight against polio, malaria, tetanus, measles and schistosomiasis. He said that it was a source of pride that the country had stopped polio virus circulation and measles was on its way towards being eliminated. He also noted Yemen’s exemplary achievements in reducing the prevalence of malaria and also the considerable progress that had been made in eradicating schistosomiasis. The Regional Director added that the partnership between WHO and Yemen’s Ministry of Health had resulted in many achievements in primary health care and basic development needs, all of which were in line with Yemen’s national strategies and needs.

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Empower Afghan women with midwife training

One in fifteen Afghan women die due to complications during pregnancy.

Sign the petition calling on Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), to lend her support to empowering Afghan women with the medical training that could save lives.

Sign here…

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WHO declares end to H1N1 pandemic

Speaking at a virtual press conference yesterday evening Dr Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organisation, said the new H1N1 virus has largely run its course and that the world is no longer in phase 6 of influenza pandemic alert. “Put simply,” she said, “the pandemic is over.”

“We are now moving into the post-pandemic period,” she said.

She reiterated that these were the views of the Emergency Committee, which met earlier yesterday.

The Committee based its assessment on the global situation, as well as reports from several countries that are now experiencing influenza.

However, she warned that as we enter the post-pandemic period, this does not mean that the H1N1 virus has gone away.

“Continued vigilance is extremely important, and WHO has issued advice on recommended surveillance, vaccination, and clinical management during the post-pandemic period.

“Based on experience with past pandemics, we expect the H1N1 virus to take on the behaviour of a seasonal influenza virus and continue to circulate for some years to come.

“Globally, the levels and patterns of H1N1 transmission now being seen differ significantly from what was observed during the pandemic. Out-of-season outbreaks are no longer being reported in either the northern or southern hemisphere. Influenza outbreaks, including those primarily caused by the H1N1 virus, show an intensity similar to that seen during seasonal epidemics,” Dr Chan said.

She said that during the pandemic, the H1N1 virus crowded out other influenza viruses to become the dominant virus. This is no longer the case. Many countries are reporting a mix of influenza viruses, again as is typically seen during seasonal epidemics.

“In addition, a small proportion of people infected during the pandemic, including young and healthy people, developed a severe form of primary viral pneumonia that is not typically seen during seasonal epidemics and is especially difficult and demanding to treat. It is not known whether this pattern will change during the post-pandemic period, further emphasizing the need for vigilance.

“Pandemics are unpredictable and prone to deliver surprises. No two pandemics are ever alike. This pandemic has turned out to be much more fortunate than what we feared a little over a year ago. This time around, we have been aided by pure good luck. The virus did not mutate during the pandemic to a more lethal form. Widespread resistance to oseltamivir did not develop. The vaccine proved to be a good match with circulating viruses and showed an excellent safety profile,” she said.

In reply to a question from Reuters about the implications for countries holding remaining stockpiles of oseltamivir vaccine Dr Chan reiterated that the virus was still sensitive to the vaccine. “So they would continue to be useful. And WHO strongly recommends where vaccines are available, high risk groups should be immunized.”

Dr Chan added in response to another question that vaccines that have a shelf life that has expired should be destroyed in keeping with best practice. 

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WHO inaugurates new building in Tunis

Inauguration of WHO building in Tunis

Mondher Zenaidi, Minister of Public Health in Tunisia unveils the inauguration plaque in the presence of Dr Margaret Chan, WHO director-general and Dr Hussein A. Gezairy, Regional Director, WHO Eastern Mediterranean

The WHO has opened a building in Tunis, Tunisia, to house a representative office and the WHO Mediterranean Centre for Health Risk Reduction. The opening was inaugurated on 12 July by Mondher Zenaidi, minister of public health in Tunisia in the presence of Dr Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, Dr Ibrahim Mohamed Abdel Rahim, WHO Representative in Tunisia, and Dr Hussein A. Gezairy, Regional Director, WHO Eastern Mediterranean.

The building has an information centre and a large conference hall to accommodate various WHO meetings. It will also be used as a headquarters to implement public health related activities in Tunisia.

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