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World experts and funders set priorities for COVID-19 research



From WHO/Getty Images

#WorldHealthOrganization, February 19, 2020 — Leading health experts from around the world have been meeting at the World Health Organization’s Geneva headquarters to assess the current level of knowledge about the new COVID-19 disease, identify gaps and work together to accelerate and fund priority research needed to help stop this outbreak and prepare for any future outbreaks.

The 2-day forum was convened in line with the WHO R&D Blueprint – a strategy for developing drugs and vaccines before epidemics, and accelerating research and development while they are occurring.

WHO photo

“This outbreak is a test of solidarity — political, financial and scientific. We need to come together to fight a common enemy that does not respect borders, ensure that we have the resources necessary to bring this outbreak to an end and bring our best science to the forefront to find shared answers to shared problems. Research is an integral part of the outbreak response,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “I appreciate the positive response of the research community to join us at short notice and come up with concrete plans and commitment to work together.”

The meeting, hosted in collaboration with GloPID-R (the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness) brought together major research funders and over 300 scientists and researchers from a large variety of disciplines. They discussed all aspects of the outbreak and ways to control it including:

  • the natural history of the virus, its transmission and diagnosis;
  • animal and environmental research on the origin of the virus, including management measures at the human-animal interface;
  • epidemiological studies;
  • clinical characterization and management of disease caused by the virus;
  • infection prevention and control, including best ways to protect health care workers;
  • research and development for candidate therapeutics and vaccines;
  • ethical considerations for research;
  • and integration of social sciences into the outbreak response.

“This meeting allowed us to identify the urgent priorities for research. As a group of funders we will continue to mobilize, coordinate and align our funding to enable the research needed to tackle this crisis and stop the outbreak, in partnership with WHO,” said Professor Yazdan Yazdanpanah, chair of GloPID-R. “Equitable access – making sure we share data and reach those most in need,  in particular those in lower and middle-income countries, is fundamental to this work which must be guided by ethical considerations at all times.”  

File Photo, WHO Novel Coronavirus meeting

During the meeting, the more than 300 scientists and researchers participating both in person and virtually agreed on a set of global research priorities. They also outlined mechanisms for continuing scientific interactions and collaborations beyond the meeting which will be coordinated and facilitated by WHO. They worked with research funders to determine how necessary resources can be mobilized so that critical research can start immediately.

The deliberations will form the basis of a research and innovation roadmap charting all the research needed and this will be used by researchers and funders to accelerate the research response.

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New WHA resolution to accelerate efforts on food micronutrient fortification



May 30, 2023 – The delegates at the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly adopted the resolution on accelerating efforts to prevent micronutrient deficiencies through safe and effective food fortification. The resolution urges Member States to make decisions on food fortification with micronutrients and/or supplementation and to consider ways of strengthening financing and monitoring mechanisms.

Deficiencies in vitamin and mineral status, particularly of folate, iron, vitamin A, and zinc, affect 50% of all preschool aged children and 67% of all women of reproductive age (WRA) worldwide. Micronutrient deficiencies can have serious consequences, including spina bifida and other neural tube defects. These preventable deficiencies are also associated with a higher risk of blindness, fragile immune systems, diminished  exercise and physical capacity. Mothers with low micronutrient can have babies prematurely or with low birth weight. Iodine deficiency, still prevalent in many countries, impairs brain development in children, undermining their ability to learn and their eventual productivity.

Large scale food fortification (LSFF) is part of the solution. By adding essential vitamins and minerals to staple foods and condiments, such as wheat and maize flours, rice, cooking oil, and salt in accordance with national consumption patterns and deficiencies, countries can correct and further prevent a demonstrated micronutrient deficiency.

Fortification is an evidence-informed intervention that contributes to the prevention, reduction and control of micronutrient deficiencies. It can be used to correct a demonstrated micronutrient deficiency in the general population (mass or large-scale fortification) or in specific population groups (targeted fortification) such as children, pregnant women and the beneficiaries of social protection programmes.

WHO has been working in food fortification for decades and collaborates with different networks for fortification at the regional, country and community levels. WHO recommends large scale food fortification as a powerful evidence-informed and cost-effective intervention to fight the consequences of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, including iodine deficiency disorders, anaemia and iron deficiency, and neural tube defects among others.

The resolution was put forward by Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, European Union and its 27 Member States, Israel, Malaysia and Paraguay.

The resolution received a wide support from the civil society, with over 50 organizations calling on WHO to accelerate efforts on micronutrient fortification of food through a jointly signed letter. The organizations underlined in their letter that micronutrient deficiency is a crisis that affects all communities globally, low-income or high-income, and that there is still a large unfinished agenda on food fortification, calling on WHO to double the efforts to improve the reach and quality of food fortification programs, which have big potential to combat these preventable deficiencies and protect health.

The resolution was adopted under the umbrella of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2025) report. The Nutrition Decade aims to accelerate the implementation of the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) commitments, achieve the global nutrition and diet-related noncommunicable disease (NCD) targets by 2025, and contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Reflection on global progress and challenges encountered and on a way forward after the ending of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016 – 2025) is encouraged.

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Biggest reef to be created



Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer




#Dubai, May 23, 2023 – A Dubai based architectural company has unveiled plans for the world’s largest man made reef called Dubai Reefs. The massive project, which is yet to be approved, comes as the effects of climate change continue to highlight the desperate need to secure the survival of the natural environment.

If built, Dubai Reefs, which is described as a sustainable floating community, will house more than 1 billion coral and 100 million mangroves.

It will do all of this via the creation of artificial reefs spanning 200 square kilometers, powered by solar and wave energy. It’s an effort, representatives say, to protect the rich oceans and ocean life and promote sustainable interactions with our environment.

“The health of our cities is intrinsically tied to the health of our oceans. The ocean is the source of life controlling everything. Given that everything on our planet is connected, a healthy ocean is a healthy city. Our ocean will be entirely different by the end of the century if we don’t take action today,” said Baharash Bagherian, CEO of URB.

They hope that the project described as a sustainable model, and which will also host hotels and introduce more eco tourism will be replicated.

“Beyond creating a unique resilient destination for ecotourism & marine research, Dubai Reefs aims to become a blueprint for ocean living, whilst mitigating the impacts of climate change,” Bagherian said.

The company says it is a significant step for all coastal cities at risk of sea rise.

If successfully built, the project could be a game changer for not only coastal cities but Small Island Developing States (SIDS) who are losing their reefs and shoreline to ocean warming and sea level rise, and are also exposed to dangerous hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons in the Pacific each year.

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West Jet Avoids Shutdown



Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer



May 23, 2023 – Airline workers in North America are disgruntled with their working hours and pay, resulting in more and more strikes and they’re hitting where it hurts, grinding operations to a halt on the eve of holidays and travel heavy weekends to drive their frustration home. Canada is the home of the latest set of fed up workers; this time it was WestJet/Swoop pilots who gave a 72 hour strike notice protesting, once again, poor working conditions and low pay.

The notice came on May 16th, and Pilots would have begun their strike on May 19th, just before the long Victoria Day Weekend costing WestJet millions of dollars in profit. An all out shutdown was only narrowly avoided when the airline scrambled to give the pilots what they asked for hours before the industrial action was to begin. More than 200 flights had to be cancelled anyway.

WestJet said the pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), were being unreasonable as they had expectations of closing in towards U.S.–like wages, despite living and working in Canada.

According to reports, the Pilots got a 4 year contract with not only a raise in the low realm of US Pilots but better working conditions. The pilots had been negotiating for 9 months before deciding to strike, and only then were they afforded the contract, details of which have not yet been made public.

Airline Workers have been on repeated strikes in the US recently and the UK has had its own share of near shutdowns over wages as well.

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