In this Huffington Post “Impact” blog post, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes that she will be visiting Bangladesh to “lear[n] even more about two of the biggest killers of children — pneumonia and diarrhea,” and says “Bangladesh has made incredible progress in recent years, reducing the number of childhood deaths by 65 percent since 1990.” She writes, “As I reflect back on what I learned this year about the progress and the challenges in women’s and children’s health, I’m struck by the fact that we don’t need to wait for the solutions,” including “[t]hings like life-saving vaccines, contraceptives, healthy practices for mothers and newborns and good nutrition.”
Access to Health Services
In the wake of “decades of conflict” and famine, Somalia “face[s] yet another widespread terror: an alarming increase in rapes and sexual abuse of women and girls,” the New York Times reports. “The famine and mass displacement, which began over the summer, have made women and girls more vulnerable. Many Somali communities have been disbanded,” leaving many women alone and vulnerable to al-Shabab militants, “rogue militiamen and even government soldiers [who] rape, rob and kill with impunity,” the article states, adding, “Often, the women are left wounded or pregnant, forced to seek help” (Gettleman, 12/27).
J&J Will Not Join Medicines Patent Pool; Company’s Pharma Head Says Mechanism Could ‘Cause Disaster’
Pharmaceutical company “Johnson & Johnson has rejected calls to offer patent rights on its HIV medicines to generic drug companies through a” Medicines Patent Pool, created to promote low-cost antiretroviral drugs in low-income countries and the development of new drug combinations and formulations, the Financial Times reports. “Paul Stoffels, worldwide head of pharmaceuticals at J&J, … cautioned that the pool could trigger a ‘mixing and matching’ of medicines that would cause a rapid surge in patient resistance to innovative HIV drugs” that could “cause a huge disaster,” according to the newspaper.
This Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) special report highlights the top 10 stories of 2011 regarding access to essential medicines, according to MSF. The list includes the findings of the HPTN 052 clinical trial, which “show that providing people with HIV treatment early not only saves their lives but can reduce the risk…
Most of the world’s neglected tropical diseases occur among populations that adhere to Islam, Catholicism, or Hinduism, an observation that “affords an opportunity to establish a unique interfaith dialogue among religious leaders” leading to global action, Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, and Serap Aksoy, a professor at the Yale School of Public Health, write in a PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) editorial. They provide statistics of NTD infections among different populations living in countries dominated by specific religious affiliations and write, “These high prevalence NTDs not only have a devastating health impact on these populations, but … they also represent major reasons why such populations cannot escape poverty.”
Inter Press Service profiles the Garissa Maternal Shelter in North Eastern Province, Kenya, “the only such facility in an area with the country’s highest maternal mortality rate.” The news service writes, “At 1,000 deaths per 100,000 live births, [the maternal mortality rate] is almost double the country’s average, [b]ut despite this, there are only seven women here in a facility that can accommodate 24.”
The Canadian government-funded non-profit Grand Challenges Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “have invested around $32 million in the discovery and development of new and improved diagnostic tools to help health workers in developing countries, with the aim of speeding up treatment and saving lives,” IRIN reports (12/16). “Innovative point-of-care diagnostic tools such as a piece of woven fabric which can test blood or urine for disease and a simple, easy to use test for diagnosing diarrheal disease which is the biggest killer of developing world children under the age of five are some of the projects which are receiving funding,” according to a Grand Challenges press release (.pdf) (12/16).
Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline are increasing their sales of reduced-cost pneumonia vaccines to developing countries through the GAVI Alliance “by more than 50 percent, marking the scale-up of an international program to protect millions of children,” Reuters reports (Hirschler, 12/16).
ABC News’ 20/20 on Friday examined maternal health and mortality worldwide in a program titled “Giving Life: A Risky Proposition.” The show was a sort of “sequel” to a series launched last year called “Be the Change: Save a Life,” host Diane Sawyer said (12/16). ABC News also posted a list of statistics related to maternal health (Jester, 12/17).
In this Politico opinion piece, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who chairs the non-profit Hope Through Healing Hands, writes, “Continued investment in the fight to end global AIDS is more than an investment in the lives of families and communities in developing nations — it is an investment in security, diplomacy and our moral image worldwide.” He says the goals announced by President Barack Obama on World AIDS Day — including providing antiretroviral treatment to a total of six million people by the end of 2013 — “must have the support of Congress.” Frist continues, “Under the current budget cuts, more than four million people will likely lack mosquito nets, a cheap way to prevent malaria. More than 900,000 children will lack access to vaccinations for measles, tetanus and pertussis.” He stresses the “need for accountability, transparency and results,” citing the Millennium Challenge Corporation as “a good example of promoting aid effectiveness from ‘input to impact.'” He concludes, “Foreign aid is less than one percent of our national budget, so cutting it would have a miniscule effect on our deficit reduction” (12/14).