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Child Mortality Rate Nearly Halved In Niger Since 1998, Analysis Shows

“Niger has nearly halved the death rate of children below five years old since 1998, a significant drop highlighting the benefits of free universal health care for children and pregnant women as well as increased donor funding for health,” according to a analysis published in the Lancet, IRIN reports. “The mortality rate reduced from 226 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1998 to 128 deaths in 2009, an annual rate of decline of 5.1 percent, said the study, noting that the slump bettered the fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to cut the child mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015,” as well as neighboring countries’ achievements, the news service notes. “Provision of insecticide-treated bednets, improved nutrition, giving vitamin A supplements, treatment of diarrhea, fevers, malaria, childhood pneumonia, and vaccinations also boosted child survival, the study found,” IRIN writes. Agbessi Amouzou, a co-author of the study, said, “The research demonstrates the success of the strategy implemented by the government and its partners, an important step toward the well-being of the Niger population,” according to the news service.

Gates Blog Series On World Contraception Day

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog continues its series, published in partnership with Women Deliver, to recognize World Contraception Day, observed annually on September 26. The following pieces were published recently:

Humanitarian Crisis In Syria Grows As Conflict Continues, Officials Warn

“International relief officials reported an increasingly grim aid crisis stemming from the Syria conflict on Tuesday, with two million people there not getting desperately needed help, and a sudden acceleration of refugees overwhelming the ability of neighboring countries to absorb them,” the New York Times reports. “In the province of Homs, so many doctors have fled that only three surgeons remained to serve a population of two million, the officials said,” according to the newspaper. “The World Health Organization said that a United Nations mission to Homs last week had found that more than half a million people needed aid, including health care, food and water,” it writes, adding, “The mission found that the biggest hospital in Homs had been destroyed, and that only six of the 12 public hospitals and eight of the 32 private hospitals were still functional.” The newspaper notes, “At the United Nations, the head of UNICEF and the European Union’s top relief official said that only about one-third of the three million people in Syria who needed help were getting any, and that combatants on both sides would be held responsible for respecting international law protecting civilians during war” (Cumming-Bruce/MacFarquhar, 9/11).

AIDS Activists In China Protest For Better Care For Those Affected By 1990s Blood-Selling Schemes

The Economist reports on a demonstration by about 300 people living with HIV and activists outside the headquarters of China’s Henan provincial government in Zhengzhou on August 27. “Many of the … participants were infected in government-backed blood-selling schemes in the 1990s,” the magazine writes, adding, “Tens of thousands contracted HIV this way. The government has never admitted responsibility.” According to the Economist, “As the Communist Party prepares for an imminent leadership change it is more than usually anxious to keep the AIDS scandal quiet.”

AusAID Draft Strategy Includes More Support For Research Into Neglected Diseases

The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) “is planning to boost support for medical research, technology and innovations,” as well as “encourage collaboration and capacity building aimed at poverty-related and neglected tropical diseases,” SciDev.Net reports. The agency’s draft Medical Research Strategy for the Pacific “outlines how AusAID will support research both at the ‘preventative end and at the curative end’ to create new medical products such as diagnostics, drugs or vaccines, and to improve the clinical treatment of people in poor communities” and “says there are hardly any financial incentives for commercial investment in diseases affecting the poor, who bear the biggest burden of disease,” according to the news service. “The strategy fits within the Australian government’s overall policy of making aid more effective,” SciDev.Net states, noting an AusAID spokesperson based in Canberra said, “Practical research will help inform where and how the resources of Australia and its partners can be most effectively and efficiently deployed” (Jackson, 9/10).

Research Examines Universal Health Care Coverage In Developing Countries

“An increasing number of developing countries are introducing universal health care coverage — and creating new models to do it — according to research … by the Results for Development Institute and others, published in the Lancet as part of its universal health care coverage series,” IRIN reports. “Lessons learned from countries like Ghana, India, and Rwanda are already shaping the way countries like South Africa are beginning to pilot their own bids for universal coverage,” the news service writes. “The research, which surveyed nine developing countries in Africa and Asia (which are now part of a joint learning network on the issue) found that the new models vary considerably but have several common characteristics, including increased revenue and health budgets, larger risk pools and use of the private sector,” IRIN adds, and details some of the findings (9/11).

TPP Trade Agreement Could Threaten Access To Medicines

“Right now, in Leesburg, Va., the office of the U.S. Trade Representative is negotiating a so-called ‘trade agreement’ — the ‘Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement’ — that could put the lives of millions of innocent civilians at risk” by potentially limiting access to life-saving medications, including antiretroviral drugs, Robert Naiman, policy director at Just Foreign Policy, writes in the Huffington Post Blog. “The process is secret: USTR refuses to publish a draft negotiating text, so any American who isn’t cleared by USTR to see the text can’t say for sure exactly what USTR is doing right now,” he writes, adding, “But because there was a previous leak of the chapter of the draft negotiating text that dealt with intellectual property claims, people who have followed these issues closely have some idea of what USTR has been doing on our dime.”

Global Health Policy Remains Important In Election Year

In a post on IntraHealth’s “Global Health Blog,” Rebecca Kohler, senior vice president of corporate strategy and development at IntraHealth, writes about an event held last week on the sidelines of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) that “focused on the vital role of women’s health in foreign policy.” She writes, “I was encouraged by the level of commitment to a robust global family planning program on the part of our U.S. Congresswomen and the convention delegates. But I also was inspired by the effective role the U.N. Foundation plays in informing, mobilizing, and activating Americans across the country about critical health and development challenges.” Noting that the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2012 Survey of Americans on the U.S. Role in Global Health “shows that the more informed the public is about global health issues, and how U.S. foreign assistance is saving lives, the more likely they are to support increased funding for health beyond this country’s borders,” Kohler concludes, “Informed and activated Americans are a driving force for change, and the DNC advocacy event was a great reminder that despite the hyper focus on domestic issues during this campaign, people can and do care about global issues” (9/10).

Kenya To Investigate Allegations Of Forced Sterilizations Among HIV-Positive Women

“Kenya has launched an investigation after researchers claimed HIV-positive women were being routinely sterilized without their consent in government hospitals,” the Guardian reports. The African Gender and Media Initiative issued a report “based on interviews with 40 women, suggest[ing] the practice was widespread and ongoing,” according to the newspaper. “The report also includes examples of coercive tactics used by medical staff to obtain consent — for instance, threatening to withhold antiretroviral medication or baby milk if the woman did not agree to the procedure,” the newspaper writes. “‘These allegations are very serious and the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board is going to investigate them before appropriate action is taken,’ Shariff Shahnaz, the director of public health, told the Daily Nation newspaper,” the Guardian reports (Mojtehedzadeh, 9/4).

Coca Cola, Global Fund Announce Expansion Of Project To Deliver Medicines In Rural Areas

The Coca-Cola Company and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have announced the expansion of a pilot project, called “Project Last Mile,” that uses Coca Cola’s “‘expansive global distribution system and core business expertise’ to help deliver critical medicines to remote parts of the world, beginning in rural Africa,” Pharma Times reports. “The public-private partnership was established in 2010 to help Tanzania’s government-run medicine distribution network, Medical Stores Department, build a more efficient supply chain by using Coca-Cola’s” delivery system model, the news service writes, adding, “The latest phase of the partnership, developed in cooperation with the likes of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Accenture and Yale University, will increase the availability of critical medicines to 75 percent of Tanzania and expand the initiative to Ghana and Mozambique” (Grogan, 9/26).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.