Daily Archives: September 3, 2016

U.S. Government Malaria Hotline Leads to Joint Police Action in Malawi

LILONGWE, Malawi, Sept. 2, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — This week, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Malawi Anti-Corruption Bureau, and the Malawi Police Service took joint action to secure evidence of theft, diversion, and resale of U.S. Government-funded antimalarial commodities.  The police action resulted from information provided through hotlines under the USAID OIG’s “Make a Difference” (MAD) Malaria campaign and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria OIG’s ‘I Speak Out Now!’ campaign.

The USAID OIG launched the MAD Malaria campaign in Malawi in April 2016, working with the U.S. Embassy and Malawi’s Ministry of Health.  The launch coincided with the start of the Global Fund OIG’s campaign ‘I Speak Out Now!’  Both campaigns urge local communities across Malawi to fight back against the theft and counterfeiting of antimalarial drugs and other commodities.  The MAD Malaria hotline is central to USAID OIG’s campaign, offering individuals a reward of up to $10,000 in return for usable and previously unknown information on possible theft, transportation, resale, or falsification of U.S.-funded antimalarial commodities.  To date, the hotline has received dozens of tips.

“This week’s action truly underscores the importance of the information we receive through the MAD Malaria hotline,” said USAID Inspector General Ann Calvaresi Barr.  “I commend the work of our investigative team, along with our local and international partners, in pursuing hotline tips to protect these life-saving commodities.”

“This police action shows that there are consequences when you steal drugs,” said Global Fund Inspector General Mouhamadou Diagne.  “The Global Fund has zero tolerance for wrongdoing in the programs it finances.  We encourage all Malawians to speak out if they see drugs being stolen.”

Malaria is endemic in 95 percent of Malawi, threatening millions of lives each year.  To combat the disease and help save lives, the United States has provided millions of dollars in commodities and other assistance through the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative and the Global Fund.  In Malawi, U.S. Government support provides nearly all of the no-cost antimalarial drugs available to Malawians suffering from the disease.

At this time, USAID OIG specifically seeks information pertaining to the logistics, operational methods, and procedures used in the theft of U.S. Government-funded antimalarial commodities and by the suppliers of counterfeit medicine.

Any person with specific knowledge of theft or counterfeiting of antimalarial commodities in Malawi is urged to contact the MAD Malaria hotline immediately.

Information is treated in confidence and USAID OIG protects the identity of each complainant to the maximum extent provided by law.

MAD Malaria hotlines in Nigeria and Benin also offer monetary rewards for information about the theft and counterfeiting of antimalarial commodities. Individuals in those countries are urged to report information as follows:

  • In Nigeria, call 8099937319 (toll free), from the Etisalat mobile network
  • In Benin, call 81000100 to be connected via operator to 855-484-1033 (toll free)
  • By email from any location, madmalariahotline@usaid.gov


Citing geographic spread, UN emergency committee says Zika remains ‘international public health emergency’

Following a meeting of its Emergency Committee on Zika yesterday, the United Nations health agency said today that the infectious disease, and its associated congenital and other neurological disorders, continues to be an international public health emergency due to continuing geographic expansion and considerable gaps in understanding of the virus and its consequences.

These deliberations decided that the situation continues to constitute a public health emergency of international concern. And this is because new outbreaks of Zika continue to be identified in new geographic regions, the Committee chair, David L. Heymann, said at a press conference in Geneva today.

This extraordinary event is rapidly becoming, unfortunately, an ordinary event, added Mr. Heymann, who is also responsible for communicable diseases at the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO first declared Zika an international public health emergency in February. Since it was detected in Brazil late last year, the virus has spread through the Americas and the Caribbean to other regions, including Africa, Oceania, and Asia. Zika can cause microcephaly, a rare birth defect that could lead to serious developmental problems, and has also been linked to other severe fetal brain abnormalities. WHO has also linked Zika to Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a rare neurological syndrome that causes temporary paralysis in adults.

At its fourth meeting on Thursday, convened via teleconference, the Emergency Committee on Zika and microcephaly was briefed on the implementation of the temporary recommendations issued by WHO’s Director-General Margaret Chan, based on the three previous meetings, according to a summary of the meeting issued by the agency.

The Committee was updated on the situation during and after the Olympic Games held in Brazil, Zika’s geographic spread, natural history, epidemiology, microcephaly and other neonatal complications associated with Zika, GBS and current knowledge on sexual transmission of the virus.

There are knowledge gaps that remain in the full scope of the disease, in other words its natural history, what does infection do, what are all the side effects, and all the effects that occur from infection in the foetus and also infections in adults, Mr. Heymann said. The Committee wanted to make sure that there is increased research on sexual transmission and also how long the risk is for sexual transmission of the Zika virus.

Speaking at the same media briefing, WHO’s Director of Emergencies, Peter Salama, added that working with the scientific community, we have learned that Zika has consequences in infants beyond microcephaly to a range of complications, from hearing and eyesight complications to seizures. And we now have called this the Zika congenital syndrome.

At yesterday’s meeting, the Emergency Committee also congratulated Brazil on their successful application of appropriate public health measures during the Olympic Games. To date, there have been no reports of confirmed cases of Zika virus among people who attended the Games, both during the games and since their return. Mr. Salama expressed an optimistic view that the same risk assessment will hold for the Paralympic Games starting on 7 September.

Furthermore, the Committee acknowledged that the impact of Zika virus is a long-term concern, recommending that WHO’s Director-General considers developing an appropriate infrastructure and response plan within the health agency to provide longer-term coordination and accountability for ensuring an effective response.

Source: UN News Centre