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Top Five Global Health Headlines: Foreign Aid Cuts, Preventing Stillbirths, Japan Raises Alert

Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images.

Spending Plan Cuts Foreign Aid, Boosts Child Health

The hotly-debated FY2011 spending plan agreed to by the White House and congressional leaders this week includes cuts to the State Department and foreign aid, but also a boost to global health and child survival programs.

The State Department would get a $504 million reduction from last year, to $48.3 billion, about $8.4 billion less than President Obama’s request. Contributions to the United Nations would be cut by $377 million, while the Global Agriculture and Food Security Fund would get $100 million, about a quarter of what the president requested. Global health and child survival programs, however, would receive an increase to $2.5 billion, up $80 million from the previous year, the Associated Press reports.

Half of World’s Stillbirths Could Be Prevented

About 2.6 million infants are stillborn each year, with 98 percent of stillbirths taking place in low and middle-income countries, according to new research reported in the Lancet this week. Better access to medical care could halve that number, the study found.

Wealthy countries also continue to deal with this problem; 1 in every 300 babies are stillborn in high-income countries.

Japan Raises Nuclear Alert Level

The Japanese government raised the nuclear alert level for the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant to its highest level, seven, Tuesday. The government also advised residents of several communities outside the evacuation zone where elevated radiation readings were recorded to leave the area.

The World Health Organization responded to the change in alert level, saying there is no new public health risk but that WHO is following the situation closely.

Humanitarian Crisis in Libya

Forces loyal to Moammar Gaddafi have destroyed crucial food supplies and cut off water to the city of Misrata, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement Wednesday, in what she called “renewed atrocities” on the people of Libya.

Mortar and artillery was fired into residential areas of the city and health facilities were targeted.

“Snipers have targeted civilians seeking medical assistance,” she said.

‘Psychological Effect’ of Global Fund Aid Suspensions

The head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria told reporters this week that donors deciding to suspend funds to the program could have long-term effects on developing countries planning disease-fighting programs.

“I think the money will be paid, but there will be a psychological effect,” executive director Michel Kazatchkine told reporters in Brussels. “If you are a health minister in a developing country, it will make you hesitate,”

Several donor countries suspended $180 million to the fund over media reports earlier this year of corruption and misuse of money in several recipient countries. The Fund suspended further payments to the countries where funds went missing, and has set up an independent panel to assess its financial processes.

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