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News in the Humanosphere: The Source of Tainted Measles Vaccine in Syria Identified

Credit: GAVI/ Atul Loke

Last month, at least a dozen Syrian children in a rebel held area died after receiving a measles vaccine. The WHO and UNICEF promptly suspended a vaccination drive and promised an investigation. On Wednesday, the UN released its finding: a tragic mistake by an NGO. “The World Health Organization last month said the muscle relaxant had been kept in the same refrigerator as a substance meant to dilute the measles vaccine. It said the exact person or group responsible for the laboratory was not known.  [A UN Spokesperson] on Wednesday did not name the NGO partner and referred to the WHO report.Syria’s conflict between the government and rebel groups, now in its fourth year, has caused the collapse of its health system in contested areas. Nationwide vaccination efforts have been thrown into disarray, and polio re-emerged in parts of Syria last year. After the children’s deaths, the Western-backed opposition based in Turkey said it had suspended the second round of measles vaccinations. The campaign was meant to target 60,000 children.  (AP

Doctors Without Borders said it rejected cash for the Ebola response from Australia, asking the country instead to deploy desperately-needed medical teams to west Africa. (AFP

Mauritius is going against the advice of the WHO and demands of the Security Council and is banning all travelers from ebola affected countries. (NPR

HRW says more than 100 demobilized fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo have died from starvation and disease in a remote military camp. (VOA

Pestilence, cyclical droughts and floods, and the West Africa Ebola crisis have pushed hunger to record levels in Gambia, where 200,000 people need urgent food assistance, the United Nations says. (TRF

The United States warned South Sudan’s president and rebel leader to engage in serious peace talks to end nearly a year of violence in the world’s newest state or face United Nations sanctions. (Reuters

Fighting the Ebola epidemic means confronting the issue of inequality, as people in poor countries have less access to knowledge and infrastructure for treating the sick and containing the deadly virus, the head of the World Bank said. (Reuters

Ugandan police Wednesday arrested two men over an anti-unemployment protest where they paraded four piglets painted in the ruling party colors and branded the country’s leaders “pigs.” (AFP

In Senegal, literacy experts are using the new technologies to motivate and teach women to read. The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization rolled out the program in Dakar in 2012,  but is now expanding it to six other African countries. (VOA

In Zimbabwe, the issue of contraceptive use remains controversial and divisive in this country of 13.72 million people. Parents and educators are agreed on one thing: that levels of sexual activity among high-school students are on the rise. What they do not agree on, however, is how to deal with the corresponding increase in teenage pregnancies. (IPS

In Senegal, literacy experts are using the new technologies to motivate and teach women to read. The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization rolled out the program in Dakar in 2012,  but is now expanding it to six other African countries. (VOA

Acts of terrorism and violence in Iraq killed more than 1,100 people in September, continuing what has been a particularly deadly year for the country. (VOA

Morocco has secured a $519 million loan from the World Bank to partly finance two solar power plants with a combined capacity of up to 350 megawatts, the second phase of the 500 MW Ouarzazate project, the bank said in a statement. (Reuters

A wave of violence between militia groups vying for power is sweeping across parts of Libya, prompting international organizations to put forth an ambitious plan to provide humanitarian aid to 85,000 people by the end of this year. Yet concerns remain over the feasibility of such an operation, given the security risks, access issues and communication problems. (IRIN

Reports on leprosy and elephantiasis in India and Bangladesh highlight the prejudice and economic cost faced by sufferers. (Guardian

Hong Kong officials on Wednesday held ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of communist China as city leaders remain locked in a standoff with protesters demanding greater democratic reforms. (VOA

Myanmar awarded licenses Wednesday to the first foreign banks allowed to operate in the country in a half-century. (AP

India could run out of a critical medicine in its free HIV/AIDS drugs program in three weeks due to bureaucratic bungling, a senior government official said, leaving more than 150,000 sufferers without life-saving drugs for about a month. (Reuters

WFP is providing food or cash for approximately 190,000 people in urgent need of assistance in Sri Lanka. A WFP-led Rapid Drought Assessment estimates that as many as 770,000 people have been affected by the drought, which has resulted in the loss of about one third of the paddy harvest in parts of the country. (WFP

The Americas
The first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in a U.S. hospital was evaluated initially and turned away, a critical missed opportunity that could result in others being exposed to the deadly virus, infectious disease experts said. (Reuters

Mexico has some of the strictest abortion laws in the world, and women can find themselves criminalized even after miscarriage. (Guardian

The United States and Brazil have come to an agreement designed to end a decade long dispute over cotton subsidies, reports say. (BBC

Ebola comes to the U.S. and loses its deadly punch (Humanosphere

Why Quantifying the Value of Tropical Forests Matters for Development (CGD

Must Read of the Day: The MDG Leaders Report (UN Dispatch

India-Pakistan Dialogue: Is It Possible? (VOA

On Reproductive Rights, Progress with Concerns (IPS

El Salvador’s ‘hidden war’ being waged against women’s rights (GlobalPost

From “Power to the People” to “Information is Power” (Development Impact

The West Steps Forward in the Fight Against Female Genital Mutilation (Development Channel

The Extreme Poor Shouldn’t Have to Make Extreme Choices (USAID Impact

Could Myanmar’s hunt for energy derail peace? (The Interpreter


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]