In this audio report in PRI’s “The World,” PRI anchor “Aaron Schachter talks to Agnes Odhiambo, a researcher on women’s rights in Africa for New York-based Human Rights Watch, about the terrible toll of teenage pregnancy and childbirth in Africa.” “Teenage pregnancy is an issue of pandemic proportions in Africa,” Odhiambo said, adding, “Teenage pregnancy is really an issue that has serious negative consequences for girls, for the development of communities and for the development of cultures.” She discussed progress toward reducing maternal deaths in various African countries and said that a number of factors contribute to maternal mortality, including a lack of sexual education for young girls, some traditional practices, such as early marriage, and the inadequate provision of health services (7/3).
Access to Health Services
Former President Bush In Zambia, Botswana To Promote Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Initiative To Fight Cervical Cancer
Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush are traveling in Zambia and Botswana this week to promote “the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative spearheaded by his foundation that seeks to expand cervical and breast cancer screening and treatment in sub-Saharan Africa,” CNN reports. In Kabwe, Zambia, Bush helped “refurbish a clinic used to screen, diagnose and treat cervical cancer,” and in the capital of Lusaka, he dedicated a cancer center at a university teaching hospital and met with government and health care leaders, according to the news service. On Wednesday, Bush will launch a similar clinic in Botswana, CNN notes (7/1). While in Kabwe, Bush told journalists that concerted efforts should be made to address cervical cancer, in a way similar to how HIV/AIDS is being addressed, the Times of Zambia reports (Namaiko, 7/3).
Annual Report On MDGs Shows Success In Some Areas, But Continued Lack Of Progress In Other Areas, Including Maternal Health
“An annual report card [.pdf] on the ambitious U.N.-led initiative known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) says that in three areas — poverty, slums and water — the goals have been met ahead of the 2015 deadline, but persistent gaps remain, notably in the critical area of maternal health,” Inter Press Service reports (Cortes, 7/2). “The eight MDGs, agreed by world leaders at a U.N. summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development,'” the U.N. News Centre notes.
In the second post in a series titled “Imagine a World…,” posted on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Faustina Fynn-Nyame, director of Marie Stopes International in Ghana, discusses reproductive health in Ghana, writing, “For some women here, choices about reproductive health are something they take for granted,” but “other women in Ghana — indeed most — are not able to do this.” She continues, “So, with our partners, we work hard to give more women equal access to contraception and sexual and reproductive health services, right here, with our own countrywomen,” and highlights several ways in which they are working to accomplish this goal (7/2).
The London Summit on Family Planning, co-sponsored by the U.K. government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with support from UNFPA and other partners, is scheduled to take place next week. The following blog posts address the summit and the issue of family planning.
Advocates Leave Rio+20 'More Determined Than Ever' To Secure Access To Reproductive Rights For All Women
“There is a direct correlation between access to voluntary family planning, women’s empowerment and environmental sustainability,” author Diane MacEachern writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, adding, “And though the official delegates to last week’s ‘Earth Summit’ tried to water it down, thousands of grassroots activists made it one of the biggest issues to rock Rio+20, as the event was also called.” She continues, “Women took these issues to Rio because more than 200 million women in the U.S. and around the world cannot choose whether or when to have a baby, simply because they don’t have access to voluntary family planning.”
Philippines To Spend Nearly $12M On Contraceptives To Bolster Family Planning, Reduce Maternal Mortality Rate
The government of the Philippines plans to spend nearly $12 million on contraceptives this year in an effort to “save its ‘failed’ family planning program and drastically cut maternal deaths,” according to the Department of Health, IRIN reports. However, “[i]t is a controversial decision that even public health officials and family planning advocates admit may not be carried out by local officials wary of angering the [Catholic] Church or losing the votes of Catholic supporters,” the news service writes. In addition to purchasing and distributing condoms, intra-uterine devices (IUDs), birth control pills, and other contraceptives “on a large scale for the first time in largely underfunded community centers across the country,” health officials say the plan “is aimed at cutting maternal mortality rates, which went from just 162 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006 to 221 in 2011 — a rise [of] 35 percent — according to the government’s 2011 Family Health Survey,” IRIN notes.
Advocacy Groups Say Corruption Leaving Millions Of HIV-Positive Ukrainians Without Treatment, AP Reports
The Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle reports on how Ukrainian “advocacy groups are accusing the government of embezzling millions of dollars in corrupt drug tenders and thus depriving patients of vital treatment.” The news service notes, “Of the estimated 450,000 Ukrainians who are HIV-positive, 70,000 require urgent treatment today, … [but] only 28,000 are receiving it, leaving over 40,000 of patients without antiretroviral therapy, which could greatly prolong their lives, according to WHO.” Igor Pokanevych, head of the WHO Country Office in Ukraine, said, “More resources should be allocated to fight against AIDS in this country,” but the AP reports that “advocacy groups charge that the government in fact has the necessary funds to treat all of its AIDS patients” and “accuse health ministry officials [of] embezzling money that should be used to treat patients by buying AIDS drugs at hugely inflated prices and then pocketing kickbacks.”
Gates Foundation Plans To Invest In Biotech Companies To Improve Global Access To Treatments, Vaccines For Infectious Diseases
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “plans to take equity stakes in up to a dozen biotech companies this year, signaling a shift towards a ‘venture capital’ approach at the world’s biggest philanthropic organization” and “mark[ing] a further move away from its traditional approach of grant-giving and towards a more business-oriented way to support the development of treatments and vaccines for infectious diseases affecting the world’s poor,” the Financial Times reports. Trevor Mundel, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, said the foundation will make a series of investments worth several million dollars each “and not ask for a return but for global access. … We will specify the countries and the diseases,” according to the newspaper. The Financial Times notes that “[t]he move points to growing interest in working directly with companies rather than primarily through co-operating via non-profit ‘product development partnerships’ or intermediaries such as the Medicines for Malaria Venture and the Tuberculosis Alliance” (Jack, 6/26).
The “groundbreaking” London Summit on Family Planning, scheduled for July 11, “aims to provide an additional 120 million women … lifesaving contraceptives, information, and services by 2020,” Gary Darmstadt, who heads the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. If that goal is reached, the health and economic benefits would be “staggering,” he says, laying out the five guiding principles to the world’s “collective efforts to revitalize family planning.” Those principles include improving “political commitment, funding, and collaboration”; promoting equal rights among women and girls; strengthening voluntary family planning programs under existing infrastructure; and holding stakeholders accountable, he writes, and concludes, “The time to come together is now. The global community has the chance to achieve transformational results that will save millions of lives” (6/28).