In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Gary Darmstadt, head of the family health division of the foundation, family planning expert Monica Kerrigan, and Wendy Prosser, a research analyst with the foundation’s family health division, examine global initiatives “launched in recent months and years” that bring “needed attention to women’s and children’s health,” including “the Muskoka Initiative, Every Woman Every Child, the Child Survival Promise to Keep, and the Millennium Development Goals.” They highlight the goals and metrics established at the Summit on Family Planning in July and write, “We hope this is not just another commitment that generates a lot of attention and then fades away” (9/21).
Access to Health Services
Scaling Up Access To Maternal, Child Health Care Would Prevent Most Deaths During Pregnancy, Childbirth
“Every day, 800 women lose their lives giving birth — 287,000 each year — and the vast majority of these deaths occurs in developing countries. … These deaths are unacceptable, particularly because they are preventable,” the heads of the Health 4+ (UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, U.N. Women, the WHO, and the World Bank, known as H4+) write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. They continue, “Every woman giving birth should be able to turn to a skilled health worker, and be given the life-saving — and cost-effective — medicines so critical to her and her baby.” They note the group is meeting “[o]n 24 September — during the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly, … to advocate at the highest levels for the health of women and children globally” and “bolster joint efforts towards meeting the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly in countries that are lagging the furthest behind.”
Sudanese Refugee Camps See Improvement In Water, Food Provisions, But Concerns Remain Over Disease Threats, Overcrowding
“Aid agencies say water and food provision has improved in four camps housing more than 105,000 refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile State, but flooding, disease and an influx of additional refugees pose new threats,” IRIN reports, noting, “Sudan’s government forces and rebels have been fighting in Blue Nile State since September 2011, sending refugees south.” U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Emergency Health Coordinator Pilar Bauza “says refugees have suffered respiratory and diarrheal diseases, malaria and malnutrition from poor living conditions and nutrition,” the news service writes. “Health education campaigns, an increase in water provision from 10 to 13 liters per day, and a drop in malnutrition from 40 to 33 percent have improved the health of the refugees, but more needs to be done,” according to IRIN.
“An infant’s first moments and the twenty-eight days that follow are the most precarious, and her risk of death is never higher,” but “[s]imple and inexpensive techniques, … such as drying her, clearing her airway, keeping her warm or using a simple ventilation device to stimulate her breathing, can help,” and frontline health workers “deliver these lifesaving techniques,” Sharon D’Agostino, vice president of worldwide corporate contributions and community relations for Johnson & Johnson, and Winifred Mwebesa of Save the Children write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. They discuss the “Helping Babies Breathe” education initiative that trains health workers on skills such as resuscitation. The authors continue, “Frontline health workers are our global health heroes but, according to World Health Organization, we do not have nearly enough of them, especially in Africa, where there may be fewer than two trained doctors for every 1,000 people.”
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:
“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.
The Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm) — an innovative financing mechanism that subsidizes the cost of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) in order to expand access to the most effective treatment for malaria — “brought more than 100 million doses of malaria drugs to clinics and pharmacies in 2011” and “also increased access to the top malaria medicines by 26 to 52 percent in six countries,” according to results from the first phase of the program, which is hosted and managed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. The results of the evaluation, released on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., do not estimate how many lives were saved because of improved access to effective malaria medications, as “AMFm ran for only a year and half in most countries,” according to the blog. “The AMFm negotiated with drugmakers to reduce ACTs prices, and then the Global Fund subsidized the initial purchasing of the drugs by clinics and pharmacies,” the blog notes.
Noting that “[n]on-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill four times the number of people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that they do in high-income countries,” Benn Grover, a health communications specialist who manages policy for the National Forum for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, and Felicia Knaul, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, write in the Huffington Post Blog, “The right to health of the majority of the world’s inhabitants is severely hampered due to vast inequalities in access to care and many of the social rights that determine their health. These inequalities are not just a matter of health, but issues of social justice and human rights.”
Global Health Funding Cuts Threatening Fight Against HIV, TB In Eastern Europe, Central Asia, NGO Report Says
The fight against HIV and tuberculosis (TB) in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is being threatened by cuts in global health funding, according to “a report [.pdf] by leading European non-governmental health organizations,” Reuters reports. In the report, “experts called on the European Union to step in to fill the gaps left by global donors to countries within and neighboring its borders,” the news service notes. According to Reuters, “[c]ountries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have some of the world’s fastest growing HIV epidemics,” and “Europe is also home to the world’s highest documented rates of drug-resistant TB” (Kelland, 9/18).
Bill Gates Describes How 'Catalytic Philanthropy' Can Help Bring Vaccines, Medicines To Untouched Markets
In an essay adapted for Forbes magazine from a speech given at the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy in June, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses how “[i]nnovations for the poor suffer from … market limitations” and his idea of “catalytic philanthropy.” Gates writes, “The market is not going to place huge bets on research when there are no buyers for a breakthrough. This explains why we have no vaccine for malaria today, even though a million people die from it every year.” Therefore, “when you come to the end of the innovations that business and government are willing to invest in, you still find a vast, unexplored space of innovation where the returns can be fantastic,” he continues.