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Parliament offers Italians one last shot at winning EU drugs regulator

Italian members of the European Parliament have one final card to play in a bid to stop the European..

Italian members of the European Parliament have one final card to play in a bid to stop the European Medicines Agency from moving to Amsterdam, rather than Milan.

After Britain’s decision to quit the EU, 19 countries fought for the lucrative prize of becoming the next venue of the London-based drug regulator. In the final round of voting in the Council in November, Italy’s candidate city, Milan, ultimately lost out to Amsterdam in a drawing of lots from a bowl.

Italy is still smarting from that twist of fate and has protested about the Dutch victory because Amsterdam won’t have its new building ready to host the agency from March 2019.

Italian lawmakers in the European Parliament now have an opportunity to fight back, although their chance of success is remote. A draft law on the relocation must pass through the Parliament, and it gives the Italians an opportunity to intervene.

After the Council decided to relocate the EMA to Amsterdam, the European Commission sent a draft regulation to the Parliament to rubber stamp the decision. But that cannot be taken for granted.

“Theoretically, it is possible [to change the location], but I don’t think that will happen” — Carlo Corazza, spokesman for European Parliament President Antonio Tajani

“It’s an ordinary legislative proposal, [so] the European Parliament has the power to change any part of it, including the part which says the new location is Amsterdam,” said Italian S&D MEP Paolo De Castro, who has been involved in the discussions.

Two other Italian lawmakers, Patrizia Toia and Elisabetta Gardini, also have asked the Council whether the relocation procedure should be reopened.

But there would be huge political backlash at any attempt to change the new site of the EMA.

“Theoretically, it is possible [to change the location], but I don’t think that will happen,” said Carlo Corazza, spokesman for the Italian President of the Parliament Antonio Tajani.

Under the procedure for new EU laws, the Commission’s proposal has passed to the Parliament and the Council, which will adopt their own reports and conduct three-way negotiations to agree a final version. Both institutions have the right to make changes before it becomes law.

Tajani in the summer stressed Parliament would ensure transparency in the EMA relocation, even if MEPs had no formal role in picking the new city.

The EMA is an EU agency under the supervision of the Commission. The decision on where to locate any EU agency is typically taken by the Council alone.

No guarantees

The Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee is expected to discuss its report on the file on January 24, according to Czech GUE MEP Kateřina Konečná, a shadow rapporteur. The whole Parliament then must vote on the final position.

De Castro said a change to the Commission’s proposal could be justified by the fact that Dutch facilities won’t be ready by the Brexit date. The Dutch government has confirmed the new building for the agency won’t be finished by March 29, 2019, which it acknowledged in its original bid.

“The Netherlands focuses on ensuring a swift and effective move of this important agency and will not comment on every action entertained by others in that respect,” said Ole Heil, a spokesperson for the Dutch health ministry.

Italian EPP MEP Giovanni La Via is steering the Parliament’s report through the environment committee and said that lawmakers would consider the location. Following his appointment Wednesday as a rapporteur for the draft law, La Via said the procedure was just beginning and that it was too early to say what would happen.

De Castro acknowledged that being able to propose a new host city was no guarantee a change would happen, given the Council and Parliament have equal say in the co-decision procedure. “If the Council said no [to a location change] and the Parliament said yes, I don’t know what will happen. We can lose a lot of time,” he said.

Before it gets there, La Via may face opposition to propose a location change from inside the Parliament itself.

“As far as I am concerned, this is not a political but a technical report,” said Croatian S&D MEP Biljana Borzan, another shadow rapporteur who will work on the draft law with La Via. “The Parliament does not have the power to change the Council’s decision.”

Borzan said the Parliament must expedite the report “so that the relocation process can be conducted as efficiently as possible. That is in the interest of public health protection in the EU.”

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Burkina Faso: Growing Violence Threatens Health Care

Away from the worlds attention, Burkina Faso has been slipping into violence. In less than a year, t..

Away from the worlds attention, Burkina Faso has been slipping into violence. In less than a year, the number of displaced has increased fivefold, from 50,000 last December, to 270,000 in August. As ever, the most vulnerable suffer most: the very young, and the very old.

When Alidou Sawadogos elderly mother fell ill, he faced a long and dangerous journey to get treatment for her.

“When she collapsed, a friend called me,” he explains. “By the time I arrived she was already unconscious. I decided to take her to the health center and luckily someone who had a motorcycle helped me. Because of the violence many people who are sick wait at home and die. Everyone is afraid of taking the road to the health center in Barsalogho.”

Across Burkina Faso, the rising insecurity has forced over a hundred health centers to close, or to limit their work. Half a million people now have little or no access to health care. Dedicated health workers, among them Dr Bertrand Dibli in Barsalogho, are struggling to meet the needs, and to stay safe themselves.

“This is one of the few health centers that isnt closed,” he says. “We dont have enough equipment. And the insecurity has caused huge anxiety among health workers. Even coming here to Barsalogho is a huge challenge because the route is so dangerous.”

The ICRC has been working to support Burkina Fasos health professionals, with medical kits, and vaccination campaigns. During his visit to the country, ICRC President Peter Maurer expressed his concern at the multiple challenges facing Burkina Fasos people.

“We are very concerned,” he said. “Very worried about the upsurge in violence, its a vicious circle that is trapping the civilian population between armed groups.”

“We also see,” Mr Maurer added, “that it is not only the violence that is affecting the country, it is also under development, and climate change. Together with the violence that is obstructing the health services, its an accumulation of factors.”

And so the ICRC – jointly with the Burkinabé Red Cross – is also delivering food to the displaced, and helping to improve access to water supplies. All of this, says nurse Jeanette Kientega, is desperately needed by a population uprooted by conflict, and denied access to basic health care.

“By the time they are able to get here, it is often too late” she says. “Sometimes we can help, but if they have already been ill a long time, it is difficult. We try to do what we can.” (more…)

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World Bank and WHO Statement on Partnership & Deployment of Financing to WHO for Ebola Response in DRC

WASHINGTON, August 23, 2019—The World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the G..

WASHINGTON, August 23, 2019—The World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the Government and other key partners, are working in close partnership on the Ebola Crisis Response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Central to this partnership is the assessment of the financing needs, and deployment of resources, with the goal to put an end to the current deadly outbreak.

The World Bank is today announcing that US$50 million in funding is to be released to WHO for its lifesaving operational work on the frontlines of the outbreak. The WHO is announcing that this US$50 million in funds will close the financing gap for its emergency health response in DRC through to the end of September 2019, and is calling on other partners to mirror this generous support in order to fund the response through to December.

The funding comprises US$30 million from the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) and US$20 million from the World Bank. The US$50 million in grant funding is part of the larger financial package of approximately US$300 million that the World Bank announced last month to support the fourth Strategic Response Plan for the DRC Ebola outbreak.

“WHO is very grateful for the World Banks support, which fills a critical gap in our immediate needs for Ebola response efforts in DRC, and will enable the heroic workers on the frontlines of this fight to continue their lifesaving work,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization. “We keenly await further funding from other partners to sustain the response through to the end of the year.”

The DRC government, working in collaboration with the World Bank, WHO, and other key partners, has finalized the Fourth Strategic Response Plan (SRP4), which outlines the total resources needed for the DRC Ebola Crisis Response from July to December 2019. The financing announced today is part of the World Banks previously announced financial package of up to US$300 million and covers over half of SRP4s needs, with the remainder requiring additional funding from other donors and partners.

“The World Bank is working closely with WHO, the Government of DRC, and all partners to do everything we can to put an end to the latest Ebola outbreak,” said Annette Dixon, Vice President, Human Development at the World Bank. “The partnership between our organizations and the Government is critical for responding to the emergency as well as rebuilding systems for delivery of basic services and to restoring the trust of communities.”

The Government of DRC requested US$30 million from the PEF Cash Window to be paid directly to WHO. The PEF Steering Body approved the request bringing the PEFs total contribution to fighting Ebola in DRC to US$61.4 million. The PEF is a financing mechanism housed at the World Bank; its Steering Body is co-chaired by the World Bank and WHO, and comprises donor country members from Japan, Germany and Australia. The quick and flexible financing it provides saves lives, by enabling governments and international responders to concentrate on fighting Ebola—not fundraising.

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Borno State launches first Malaria Operational Plan, reawakens fight against malaria

Maiduguri, 13 August 2019 – Following recommendations from malaria interventions in Borno State Nige..

Maiduguri, 13 August 2019 – Following recommendations from malaria interventions in Borno State Nigeria, the Malaria Annual Operational Plan (MAOP) was developed and launched on 08 August 2019 with technical support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners. Aligned to the National Malaria Strategic Plan (2014 -2020), MAOP was developed through a broad-based stakeholders workshop involving malaria stakeholders, reviewed on different thematic areas and endorsed by the Commissioner for Health and Permanent Secretary, Borno State Ministry of Health.

Speaking during the launch, the Borno state Malaria Programme Manager, Mr Mala Waziri described the MAOP as the first to be endorsed and disseminated in Borno State. “WHO has made us proud by supporting the first ever Malaria Operational Plan right from development, review, printing to dissemination.”

Dr Ibrahim Kida, the Ministerial Secretary Borno State Ministry of Health and Incident Manager of the state, described the launch as “an historic event as stakeholders across the health sector made commitments to use the document as an implementation guide for all malaria programs”. The plan was also described as an advocacy tool for planning domestic funds mobilization.

The MAOP has seven objectives among which are: provide at least 50% of targeted population with appropriate preventive measures by 2020; ensure that all persons with suspected malaria who seek care are tested with Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) or microscopy by 2020 and all persons with confirmed malaria seen in private or public health facilities receive prompt treatment with an effective anti-malarial drug by 2020.

The MAOP will further ensure that at least 50% of the population practice appropriate malaria prevention and management by 2020, ensuring timely availability of appropriate anti-malarial medicines and commodities required for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria in Borno State by 2020.

In addition, it seeks to ensure that all health facilities report on key malaria indicators routinely by 2020 and finally strengthen governance and coordination of all stakeholders for effective program implementation towards an A rating by 2020 on a standardized scorecard. These strategic objectives have specific targets and the MAOP takes into account the humanitarian response.

“Malaria remains a leading cause of poor health in Nigeria. According to the 2018 WHO Malaria Report, 53million cases are recorded annually in Nigeria, roughly 1 in 4 persons is infected with malaria contributing 25% of the global burden,” says Dr Nglass Ini Abasi, WHO Malaria Consultant for the North East.

“Furthermore, 81,640 deaths are recorded annually (9 deaths every hour), which accounts for 19% of global malaria deaths (1 in 5 global malaria deaths) and 45% malaria deaths in West Africa. The Nigeria Malaria Strategic Plan (NMSP) 2014-2020 has a goal to reduce malaria burden to pre-elimination levels and bring malaria-related mortality to zero and WHO is working assiduously with Government to ensure the burden is reduced accordingly.”

Results from WHO’s Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS) week 30 report from 223 sites, (including 32 IDP camps) show that malaria was the leading cause of morbidity and mortality accounting for 35% of cases and 46% of reported deaths. In addition, results from the Nigeria Humanitarian Response Strategy (NHRS 2019-2021) indicate 7.1million people are in dire need of healthcare and 6.2million are targeted for immediate attention.

Despite recent improvements, insecurity remains a challenge limiting access to the functional health facilities. Easily preventable and treatable diseases such as malaria, acute respiratory infection and diarrheal diseases account for the greatest proportion of morbidity and mortality among the vulnerable population. Furthermore, Malaria is endemic in North East Nigeria and the transmission is perennial with a marked seasonal peak from July to November every year. (more…)

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