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WHO recommends another vaccine for malaria prevention

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended a new vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, for the prevention of malaria in children.

The recommendation follows advice from the WHO: Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) and the Malaria Policy Advisory Group (MPAG) and was endorsed by the WHO Director-General following its regular biannual meeting held on 25-29 September.

WHO also issued recommendations on the advice of SAGE for new vaccines for dengue and meningitis, along with immunization schedule and product recommendations for COVID-19.  WHO also issued key immunization programmatic recommendations on polio, IA2030 and recovering the immunization programme.

The R21 vaccine is the second malaria vaccine recommended by WHO, following the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine, which received a WHO recommendation in 2021. Both vaccines are shown to be safe and effective in preventing malaria in children and, when implemented broadly, are expected to have high public health impact. Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, places a particularly high burden on children in the African Region, where nearly half a million children die from the disease each year.

Demand for malaria vaccines is unprecedented; however, available supply of RTS,S is limited.  The addition of R21 to the list of WHO-recommended malaria vaccines is expected to result in sufficient vaccine supply to benefit all children living in areas where malaria is a public health risk.  

“As a malaria researcher, I used to dream of the day we would have a safe and effective vaccine against malaria. Now we have two,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Demand for the RTS,S vaccine far exceeds supply, so this second vaccine is a vital additional tool to protect more children faster, and to bring us closer to our vision of a malaria-free future.”

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, emphasized the importance of this recommendation for the continent, saying: “This second vaccine holds real potential to close the huge demand-and-supply gap. Delivered to scale and rolled out widely, the two vaccines can help bolster malaria prevention and control efforts and save hundreds of thousands of young lives in Africa from this deadly disease.”

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Netanyahu denounces bid to arrest him over Gaza war

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has angrily condemned the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor for seeking arrest warrants for him alongside Hamas’s leaders over alleged war crimes in the Gaza conflict.

Mr Netanyahu said he rejected with disgust that “democratic Israel” had been compared with what he called “mass murderers”.

Mr Netanyahu’s comments have been echoed by US President Joe Biden, who said there was no equivalence between Israel and Hamas.

The chief ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan, said there were reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Netanyahu and his Defence Minister Yoav Gallant bore criminal responsibility for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza.

The ICC is also seeking a warrant for Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, for war crimes.

Israel and the US, its key ally, are not members of the ICC, which was set up in 2002.

(BBC News)

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India becomes first country to successfully trial air-droppable portable hospital

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Aarogya Maitri Cubes, the world’s first disaster hospital packed in 72 cubes that can be airlifted, had its test run by the Indian Air Force at Agra on May 14. India has become the first country to successfully develop and test a portable, air-droppable hospital. 

The Indian Air Force conducted a test run of the BHISHM Cube, a mobile hospital designed for rapid deployment, in Agra.

This innovative solution in emergency healthcare aims to provide comprehensive medical aid swiftly during crises and emergencies. The BHISHM Cube is part of the Bharat Health Initiative for Sahyog Hita and Maitri (BHISHM) and was tested as part of the Aarogya Maitri project.

Key features of the BHISHM Cube include its waterproof, lightweight design, allowing for various configurations to suit different emergency scenarios. Equipped with advanced medical equipment, the Cube also utilizes RFID-tagged supplies for efficient repacking and redeployment. Sustainability is a core component, with solar energy and battery power ensuring continuous operation. Remarkably, the Cube can be fully deployed in just 12 minutes and has the capacity to treat up to 200 patients.

The BHISHM Cube is packed with essential supplies, including a compact generator, stretchers, modular medical gear, medications, and food supplies. It also includes sophisticated medical equipment such as X-ray machines, blood testing devices, ventilators, and tools to treat various injuries. Integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics facilitates real-time monitoring and efficient management of medical services in the field.

Project BHISHM was announced in February 2022, with the Ministry of Defence establishing a task force to drive this initiative. At the Global South Summit in January 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the Aarogya Maitri project, under which India committed to providing essential medical supplies to developing countries affected by natural disasters or humanitarian crises.

The technology behind the BHISHM Cube is a testament to India’s prowess in disaster preparedness and medical innovation. The Cubes were recently deployed in Ayodhya to enhance medical readiness during the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ ceremony, attended by Prime Minister Modi on January 22.

The successful test run in Agra demonstrates the Indian Air Force’s ability to rapidly deploy these portable hospitals to remote or disaster-stricken areas, ensuring timely and effective medical intervention. This development not only enhances India’s disaster response capabilities but also positions the country as a global leader in emergency medical solutions.

As the BHISHM Cube becomes operational, it is expected to play a pivotal role in India’s strategy for disaster management and emergency healthcare. 

The innovation signifies a major advancement in how medical aid can be delivered swiftly and efficiently during crises, potentially saving countless lives and providing critical support where it is most needed.

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi killed in helicopter crash, official says

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister were killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain and icy weather, an Iranian official said on Monday, after search teams located the wreckage in East Azerbaijan province.

“President Raisi, the foreign minister and all the passengers in the helicopter were killed in the crash,” the senior Iranian official told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Iran’s Mehr news agency confirmed the deaths, reporting that “all passengers of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister were martyred”.

An Iranian official earlier told Reuters the helicopter carrying Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was completely burned in the crash on Sunday.

State TV reported that images from the site showed the aircraft slammed into a mountain peak, although there was no official word on the cause of the crash.

State news agency IRNA said Raisi was flying in a U.S.-made Bell 212 helicopter.

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran’s nuclear programme, had earlier sought to reassure Iranians, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.

Rescue teams fought blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in the early hours of Monday.

“With the discovery of the crash site, no signs of life have been detected among the helicopter’s passengers,” the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Pirhossein Kolivand, told state TV.

Earlier, the national broadcaster had stopped all regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country.

In the early hours of Monday, it showed a rescue team, wearing bright jackets and head torches, huddled around a GPS device as they searched a pitch-black mountainside on foot in a blizzard.
Several countries expressed concern and offered assistance in any rescue.

The White House said U.S. President Joe Biden had been briefed on reports about the crash. China said it was deeply concerned. The European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology.

The crash comes at a time of growing dissent within Iran over an array of political, social and economic crises. Iran’s clerical rulers face international pressure over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme and its deepening military ties with Russia during the war in Ukraine.

Since Iran’s ally Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, provoking Israel’s assault on Gaza, conflagrations involving Iran-aligned groups have erupted throughout the Middle East.

In Iran’s dual political system, split between the clerical establishment and the government, it is Raisi’s 85-year-old mentor Khamenei, supreme leader since 1989, who holds decision-making power on all major policies.
For years many have seen Raisi as a strong contender to succeed Khamenei, who has endorsed Raisi’s main policies.

Raisi’s victory in a closely managed election in 2021 brought all branches of power under the control of hardliners, after eight years when the presidency had been held by pragmatist Hassan Rouhani and a nuclear deal negotiated with powers including Washington.

However, Raisi’s standing may have been dented by widespread protests against clerical rule and a failure to turn around Iran’s economy, hamstrung by Western sanctions.

Raisi had been at the Azerbaijani border on Sunday to inaugurate the Qiz-Qalasi Dam, a joint project. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who said he had bid a “friendly farewell” to Raisi earlier in the day, offered assistance in the rescue.

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(Reuters)

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