“The World Health Organization heralded major gains Tuesday in the fight against malaria, one of the developing world’s biggest killers, but warned universal access to treatment remains elusive,” Agence France-Presse reports, noting, “The assessment came on the eve of World Malaria Day,” observed Wednesday and “designed to shine the light on the mosquito-borne parasite that killed 655,000 people in 2010, including 560,000 children under five” (4/24). “A massive acceleration in the global distribution of mosquito nets, the expansion of programs to spray the insides of buildings with insecticides, and an increase in access to prompt antimalarial treatment has brought down malaria mortality rates by more than a quarter worldwide, and by one-third in Africa since 2000,” but “simply maintaining current rates of progress will not be enough to meet global targets for malaria control,” the agency writes in a news release (4/24).
Access to Health Services
“Kenya’s High Court ruled on Friday that lawmakers must review legislation that could threaten the import of generic drugs, allowing Kenyans to continue accessing affordable medicine,” Reuters reports. In 2009, three people living with HIV filed a lawsuit arguing that the definition of counterfeit drugs in Kenya’s Anti-Counterfeit Bill of 2008 was too broad and “unconstitutional because it threatened access to life-saving generic medicine by confusing generic and fake medicine,” the news agency notes (4/20).
Funding Shortfalls Could Hinder Implementation Of Treatment As Prevention Strategies, Al Jazeera Reports
Al Jazeera examines the administration of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) worldwide, focusing on treatment as prevention (TasP), but says current funding levels are insufficient to implement the strategy. The HPTN 052 study showed that HIV-positive people who take ART could reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to their HIV-negative partners by 96 percent, according to the news agency. “This research is considered a game changer,” Al Jazeera writes, noting, “2012 may not be the year the international community eliminates HIV, but health experts say it could still be the year where the tide is turned.” The article includes comments from several HIV/AIDS experts (Dalal, 3/31).
“If family planning services, including information about reproductive health, access to birth control, and health care, were available to all women, the deaths of 100,000 women during childbirth could be prevented every year,” Maeve Shearlaw, policy and advocacy coordinator for the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “In other words, access to family planning saves lives,” she writes, adding, “Clearly, more must be done to reach women in rural areas and to increase demand in places where women don’t even know about family planning methods. It is also important to focus on girls and young women, who are more at risk of losing their lives in childbirth — yet simultaneously much less able to reach family planning services” (4/2).
According to a study published in the Lancet on Saturday, researchers from the University of Pelotas in Brazil tracking progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5 — which promote maternal and child health — “discovered that the most equitable intervention was early initiation of breast feeding, and that the attendance of a skilled person at birth proved to be the least equitable intervention,” Medical News Today reports. “The findings furthermore revealed that community-based interventions were more equally distributed in comparison with those delivered in health facilities,” MNT writes, noting that the “most inequitable countries of the evaluated interventions were Chad, Ethiopia, Laos, Nigeria, Niger and Somalia, followed by India, Madagascar and Pakistan, with the most equitable countries being Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan” (Rattue, 4/2).
“Health systems, particularly in poorer countries, need to adapt to meet the chronic care needs of older people as the shift to aging populations gathers pace in low- and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said” Wednesday in a briefing paper to mark World Health Day, observed on Saturday, the Guardian reports. The agency “points out that developing countries will have less time than wealthy nations to adapt to the challenges of an aging population — generally defined as people over 60,” the news service writes, adding, “By 2050, 80 percent of older people will live in low- and middle-income countries.”
The Jakarta Globe examines maternal mortality in Indonesia, writing, “Indonesia may be progressing slowly and steadily toward fulfilling its targets under the Millennium Development Goals, but the issue of maternal health continues to present many challenges.” According to the newspaper, “Government statistics show that the maternal mortality rate [has] declined,” but “a report last week by health officials in Bali has highlighted a worrying reversal, with the provincial maternal mortality rate increasing from 58 per 100,000 in 2010 to 84 last year.”
“In the last of its series called ‘7 Billion: Conversations That Matter,’ Aspen Institute’s Global Health and Development [on Wednesday] hosted a panel of experts based in Africa and the United States on the interconnectedness of gender issues, family planning, population, and access to safe water,” GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports. According to the blog, “The point of the series was to ask questions about why it mattered that the world was passing the seven billion mark, and the questions [addressed] in Washington were appropriately big: Will water wars replace oil wars? What are the solutions to expand water and sanitation to the 2.5 billion people who don’t have it? And just how many people can the world support in an equitable fashion?” The blog recaps the discussion, providing quotes from several of the panelists, and writes, “The panelists kept coming back to the connections among access to water, family planning, and finding ways to use resources more efficiently” (Donnelly, 4/18).
In a Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin writes, “[I]t warms my heart to see that safe motherhood and women’s reproductive health are finally being recognized as important development issues,” but “millions of women in developing countries still lack even the most basic care during pregnancy,” leading to maternal death and injury and hundreds of millions of women lack access to family planning services, including modern contraceptives. “It is inexcusable that in the 21st century motherhood remains so dangerous for so many. It is not only morally wrong but also hampers economic development and the survival and well-being of families, communities and nations,” he writes.
World Bank To Strengthen Social Safety Net Programs To Support Those In Developing World Vulnerable To Economic Volatility
“The World Bank plans to strengthen its social safety net to help the 60 percent of people in the developing world who lack adequate protection from the impact of global financial volatility and rising food and fuel prices,” Bloomberg reports. “Expanding cash transfers, food assistance, public works programs and fee waivers to help nations respond to crises and fight persistent poverty will be the center of the agenda for the World Bank-International Monetary Fund Development Committee meeting on April 21, the bank said [Wednesday] in Washington,” according to the news agency (Martin, 4/18). “Safety nets can transform people’s lives and provide a foundation for inclusive growth without busting budgets. … Effective safety net coverage overcomes poverty, and promotes economic opportunity and gender equality by helping people find jobs and cope with economic shocks, and improving the health, education, and well-being of their children,” World Bank President Robert Zoellick said, the Guardian notes (Elliott, 4/18).