MERS in Saudi – a wake up call for regional public health?

MERS in Saudi – a wake up call for regional public health?

  Mariam Bhacker Yesterday’s report in the Washington Post provided welcome context on the recent surge in MERS cases in terms of the Saudi response and the implications for global health. For the 2nd time today, #KSA announces more #MERS cases. 13 including 2 deaths. On top of 11 earlier. 24 in 1 day. http://t.co/KkXfoG9bW9 — Helen Branswell (@HelenBranswell) April 23, 2014 Referring to the change of guard at the highest level of the Ministry of Health, the commentary questioned whether commitments to “adhere to the principles of transparency and disclosure” represent a true turning point or a “rhetorical flourish”. Why so vague? The call for transparency stems from the lack of detailed case reports and the major uncertainties that remain over the virus’s epidemiology. The lack of disclosure has been attributed to Saudi Arabia’s “closed society” and restricted freedom of press, however this reasoning (while valid) is based on one crucial, and incorrect, assumption: that the data exists in the first place. The case reports have lacked substance not just because of the dominant culture of secrecy, but because the basic reporting and disease surveillance measures do not function as they should.   So who can we rely on for information?   News of the MERS outbreak has led to a flurry of misinformation and rumours circulating over traditional and social media. I have received numerous copied and pasted “official MoH statements” via Whatsapp reporting outbreaks in Oman; none of which have been substantiated. Not to worry though, all you need to do is burn some franckinsence (bukhoor) and all will be A ok. Or there’s always the snake venom....
Violence Against Women & Looking Beyond the MDGs

Violence Against Women & Looking Beyond the MDGs

  Sara Al Lamki looks at the current status of violence against women within the global health agenda, and argues the need for a specific goal targetting violence in the post-2015 framework if gender parity is to be achieved. Violence Against Women – Are we doing enough? With the conclusion of the 58th session of the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) now over, one cannot help but wonder why violence against women (VAW) was not specifically addressed, and not on the very top of the agenda. The focus for this year was “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls”, and while the UN Secretary General conceded that the MDG targets are “narrow and misaligned from the full spectrum of women’s and girls’ rights set out in key global agreements” the conference still neglected to place a major focus on one of the key contributors to this misalignment – VAW. This omission has not gone unnoticed, to a flurry of comments from blogs, focus pieces and followers of the conference.2,8,9 Varying organisations have called for a more specific and targeted Goal for Gender Equality that specifies targets on VAW to ensure it is not engulfed by the mammoth task that is ensuring rights for women and girls. Outside of the conference, there are a plethora of campaigns, programmes, calls for action, literature, and research on VAW– an endless spectrum of resources trying to find the best fix, with no such luck. Numbers have remained stagnant in the past few decades and the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that a staggering 35%...

Journal Watch: Journal of Sexually Transmitted Infections publishes collection on the HIV epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa

[Adapted from the WHO EMRO Press Release] A dedicated supplement of key scientific studies on the HIV epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was published earlier this month in the journal of Sexually Transmitted Infections. The studies provide critical evidence from the field on the status of the epidemic in the MENA region and showcase the progress of HIV research in this region over the last few years. The selection of published studies was based on originality and potential to impact policy and programming. The publication is the result of concerted efforts by a number of individuals and organizations for over two years. These efforts were spearheaded and funded by the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and North Africa Regional Support Team of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS MENA), and the Weill Cornell Medical College, Qatar. The set ofarticles start with a study describing the progress of HIV research in the MENA region since the discovery of the epidemic, and testifies to the achievements of recent years. This is followed by a study of HIV surveillance systems that demonstrates the successes of a few countries and exposes the limited progress in most countries. The supplement also includes surveillance studies from Sudan, Pakistan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Morocco and Qatar. The studies establish the extent to which HIV and other sexually transmitted infections have affected different populations, and most of these are among the very first such studies in their respective countries. The investigations show that the HIV epidemic is a reality among different population groups, such...