“Western and central Africa are facing one of the biggest cholera epidemics in their history, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said last month, in reporting that more than 85,000 cases of cholera have been registered since the beginning of the year, with nearly 2,500 deaths,” according to Le Monde/Guardian. The newspaper writes, “UNICEF has identified three main cholera epidemic outbreaks in the Lake Chad basin, the West Congo basin and Lake Tanganyika,” and “[f]ive countries — Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (RDC) and Chad — account for 90 percent of the reported cases and fatalities.”
Access to Health Services
“The annual number of children who die before they reach age five is shrinking, falling to 7.6 million global deaths in 2010 from more than 12 million in 1990, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday” in their annual report (.pdf) on child mortality, Reuters reports. “Overall, 12,000 fewer children under age five die each day than a decade ago,” according to the report, the news agency notes. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a statement that “many factors are contributing to reductions in child mortality, including better access to health care for newborns, prevention and treatment of childhood diseases, access to vaccines, clean water and better nutrition,” the news agency writes (Steenhuysen, 9/14).
“A health policy shift that saw the introduction in May of free caesarean section operations in 35 hospitals across the Republic of Congo — to curb the growing rate of maternal and infant mortality — seems to have prompted a proliferation of such operations, according to health officials,” IRIN reports. “‘We are virtually living in the hospital because there are so many consultations,’ said Jean-Claude Kala, head of gynecology at Makelekele Hospital, south of Brazzaville,” the news service writes.
Some of the issues to be addressed at the U.N. High-level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) taking place this week in New York “are controversial, including those relating to intellectual property rights for new medicines, diagnostics and medical devices,” James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, writes in an Al Jazeera opinion piece. “By continuing to assert that the Doha Declaration is in fact limited in various ways, U.S. and European trade negotiators have tried to discourage the granting of compulsory licenses on patents for high-priced drugs for cancer and other non-communicable diseases,” he continues, before outlining a proposal called the “cancer prize approach” that would de-link drug prices from research and development incentives.
Recent U.N. statistics showing a drop in child mortality are both good and bad, because the number of child deaths continues to drop, but “progress isn’t reaching all families around the world, and it isn’t reaching newborn babies as often as older children,” Joy Lawn, director of Global Evidence and Policy for Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives program, writes in a GlobalPost opinion piece. While the knowledge and technology exist to save lives, “too often, there is simply no one equipped to deliver basic lifesaving care to families who need it most. More than anything else, babies and children die for lack of frontline health workers,” she writes.
The U.N. Foundation on Monday launched Shot@Life, “a new campaign to expand access to life-saving vaccines for children in developing countries” that “will educate, connect and empower Americans to champion vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save children’s lives around the world,” according to a U.N. Foundation…
IRIN reports on “[t]he improved availability of essential medicines in Zimbabwe’s public health sector” as a result of “a multi-donor program started in 2008 through collaboration between the government, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Zimbabwe, the European Union (E.U.), the U.K., Australia, Canada and Ireland.” “According to a survey carried out by the E.U., 80 percent of essential medicines are now available at over 80 percent of health facilities compared to only 28 percent availability of vital drugs at public health institutions in 2008,” IRIN notes. The news service writes, “To date, the Essential Medicines Supply Programme (EMSP) has received $52 million in funding, according to UNICEF,” adding, “The money is used to buy drugs and medical supplies which are distributed to health centers by Natpharm, the supply arm of the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare” (9/20).
“East Africa’s worst outbreak in a decade of visceral leishmaniasis, the deadliest parasitic disease after malaria, could ease if donors paid more attention to the illness,” which infects approximately 500,000 people and kills up to 60,000 annually in 70 countries, the non-profit group “Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform, or LEAP, said in a statement from Nairobi” on Friday, Bloomberg reports.
Two million Pakistanis have become ill from malaria, diarrhea, skin diseases or snake bites “since monsoon rains left the southern region under several feet of water, the country’s disaster authority said Thursday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “More than 350 people have been killed and over eight million people have been affected this year by floods that officials say are worse in parts of Sindh province than last year,” the news agency reports.
In addition to “essential money,” “the right policies, government commitment and citizen accountability” are needed to decrease child mortality and improve other global health indicators, “[b]ut the sine qua non for effective health care delivery is health workers. Whether it’s prevention, treatment or care, it’s all about health workers,” Jonathan Glennie, a research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute, writes in a post on the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.”