The U.N. on Wednesday “presented a plan to make life-saving health supplies more accessible, while a new report found that, despite impressive reductions in maternal and child mortality in the past decade in some countries, millions of women and children still die every year from preventable causes,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “With its new plan, the U.N. Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children aims to improve access and use of essential medicines, medical devices and health supplies that effectively address causes of death during pregnancy, childbirth and into childhood,” the news service writes (9/26). “Prices for long-acting contraception will be halved for 27 million women in the developing world through [the] new partnership, former President Bill Clinton and other world leaders announced” on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, the Associated Press writes. “The deal will help avoid almost 30 million unwanted pregnancies and save an estimated $250 million in health costs, the partnership said,” according to the AP (DePasquale, 9/26).
Access to Health Services
“India has had a positive global impact through its supply of vast quantities of low-cost, good-quality generic medicines, which have saved or prolonged millions of lives … [b]ut there are also many factors that may hinder the continuation of the [country’s] role as chief supplier of medicines to developing countries,” Martin Khor, executive director of the South Centre in Geneva, writes in an Inter Press Service opinion piece. He examines the history of generic drug production in India and says the 1995 World Trade Organization TRIPS agreement negatively affected the country’s ability to produce generic drugs. Though “India has one of the best patent laws in the world that still gives some space to its producers to make generic drugs, … it is also true that the old policy space has been eroded because many new drugs have, since 2005, been patented by multinational companies that are selling them at exorbitant prices,” Khor writes.
The Coca-Cola Company and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have announced the expansion of a pilot project, called “Project Last Mile,” that uses Coca Cola’s “‘expansive global distribution system and core business expertise’ to help deliver critical medicines to remote parts of the world, beginning in rural Africa,” Pharma Times reports. “The public-private partnership was established in 2010 to help Tanzania’s government-run medicine distribution network, Medical Stores Department, build a more efficient supply chain by using Coca-Cola’s” delivery system model, the news service writes, adding, “The latest phase of the partnership, developed in cooperation with the likes of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Accenture and Yale University, will increase the availability of critical medicines to 75 percent of Tanzania and expand the initiative to Ghana and Mozambique” (Grogan, 9/26).
In the BMJ Groups blog, Amanda Glassman, director of the global health policy program at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and her colleagues at CGD examine “whether [universal health coverage (UHC)] as a post-2015 development goal is a good idea.” They write, “While we support the notion and concept of UHC, it may not be a useful banner for the global health community to rally around in pushing for a post 2015 development goal.” The authors describe four reasons for this opinion, saying, for example, that “the concept of UHC is not easily understood or defined” and “there is still limited empirical evidence connecting general health care utilization and/or financial risk protection to health impact.” They conclude, “Universal health coverage is important for all countries to pursue, but it is not yet a universally agreed analytical concept that will be useful as a post 2015 development goal” (9/25).
“Morocco has made great strides in improving maternal health in recent years, decreasing its maternal mortality ratio by over 60 percent since 1990,” but “a wide maternal health gap” exists between women in urban and rural areas, where deliveries generally are attended by an experienced yet untrained family member, Women’s eNews reports. In 2010, according to a 2011 report from the U.N. Population Fund, the maternal mortality rate in urban areas was 73 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with 148 deaths per 100,000 live births in rural areas, the news service notes. “[W]hen a [rural] woman runs into serious trouble … access to life-saving care is a two-hour walk away, on a rough mountainous path sometimes blocked by snow,” the news service writes, adding Abdelghani Drhimeur, head of communications at the Ministry of Health in Rabat, said, “Seventy percent of mothers who die do so on the way to the hospital.” Women’s eNews examines several organizations’ efforts to educate women about sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, and technical midwifery skills (Bhatia, 9/24).
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).
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: