UNICEF and the Syrian government have agreed to expand humanitarian efforts in the country, where tens of thousands of people have been killed and up to one million people displaced since the beginning of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad 18 months ago, Reuters reports. UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake “said the agency’s agreement with Syria will allow it to go beyond its Damascus operations to reach Syrians in conflict areas” and the agency “aims to vaccinate within a couple of months one million vulnerable children against diseases such as measles, he added,” the news service notes. “The deal will expand UNICEF’s partnership with more than 40 Syrian civil groups and the Syrian Red Crescent, he said,” Reuters adds (Al-Khalidi, 10/8). U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “on Tuesday urged President Bashar al-Assad’s government to institute a unilateral ceasefire, and further stressed the need for other nations to halt arms deliveries to both Syrian forces and the opposition,” according to VOA’s “Breaking News” blog (10/9).
Access to Health Services
“Among causes of child malnutrition in India are not just poverty or inadequate access to food but also a lack of nutritional knowledge among families,” Nisha Malhotra, an instructor of economics at the University of British Columbia, writes in a Live Mint opinion piece. “Impressive growth and rising prosperity in the past three decades have not alleviated child malnutrition in the country,” she writes, noting, “An alarming 43 percent of children under age three in India are stunted, 48 percent are underweight, and 17 percent are ‘wasted.'” She continues, “In my research, I have emphasized and verified the importance of poor feeding practices in infancy to explain chronic child malnutrition in India,” adding, “Poverty is, of course, a contributor to poor feeding practices, but it is neither the sole reason for the situation nor the most significant reason.”
“This month, President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative received a $1 billion pledge from U.S. organizations to address the root causes of hunger and poverty,” Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) writes in the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog, noting, “This pledge came on the heels of a $4 billion pledge by more than 60 companies from Africa and other continents.” He continues, “As co-chairman of the Congressional Ethiopia Caucus and the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus, I commend these pledges and look forward to working with the administration as they are implemented.” However, he adds, “[t]hese are short-term fixes … to the long-term issues of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition facing millions.”
Doctors in Kenya on Wednesday were striking for the 17th day to protest poor conditions in some of the nation’s public hospitals, where “[e]mergency rooms … frequently don’t have gloves or medicine, and power outages sometimes force doctors to use the light from their phones to complete a procedure,” the Associated Press reports. Last week, “Kenya’s government fired 1,000 of the 2,000 striking doctors … despite a shortfall of skilled medical practitioners,” the news service writes, noting Kenya has one doctor for every 6,250 people and the WHO recommendation is one for every 100 people. “Attempts to hold talks this week with officials from the Ministry for Medical Services failed, prompting the doctors to flood social media with tell-all stories about deplorable conditions in public hospitals,” the AP states.
IRIN examines unsafe abortion and access to contraceptives in Kenya, writing, “Despite the medical risks associated with unsafe abortions, many women in Kenya continue to seek these services. Experts say only a scale-up of access to, and promotion of, contraceptives among sexually active women can reduce it.” According to the news service, “[e]xperts say that for practical purposes, the government must do more to enable women and girls to prevent unwanted pregnancies.” The 2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey showed that about one-quarter of married women in Kenya “have an unmet need for family planning — they would like to space their children or stop having children but are not using any form of contraception,” IRIN notes. According to the news service, “Shahnaz Sharif, director of public health, told IRIN the government was working to increase awareness and uptake of contraceptives” (10/3).
Integrating reproductive health and other services, such as HIV care, “makes sense, and there is emerging evidence that it can be associated with a host of benefits, such as improved uptake of services, enhanced program efficiency, and even improved health outcomes when compared to separate services,” Gavin Yamey, who leads E2Pi in the Global Health Group at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), and Craig Cohen, a professor in-residence in the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, write in the PLoS blog “Speaking of Medicine.” They describe five key themes that emerged last month at the Integration for Impact conference, co-hosted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Kenyan government, and UCSF. They write, “The emphasis was on presenting the latest research findings, exploring the policy implications of this evidence, and laying out the unanswered research questions,” and describe the five themes, including keeping human rights at the forefront and better defining and measuring integration (10/3).
“Zimbabwe is set to attain ‘universal’ coverage for AIDS treatment thanks in part to an $84 million disbursement [on Tuesday] by the United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” the U.N. News Centre reports (10/2). “The new disbursement will cover the cost of life-saving antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) for an additional 10,000 new patients, bringing the total number of people on treatment with Global Fund support to 203,440 by the end of the year,” the Global Fund announced in a press release. The funding also will support a six-month ARV buffer stock to prevent treatment interruptions for the 480,000 patients on therapy in Zimbabwe, the press release notes (10/2). The Global Fund’s announcement to support additional patients comes together with an announcement from PEPFAR to increase the number of patients supported by its program from 80,000 to 140,000, with a goal of having 160,000 patients on therapy by the end of next year, Zimbabwe’s Herald notes.
Family Planning Experts Launch Task Force In Support Of International Conference On Population And Development Goals
“Gathered at the Ford Foundation in New York Monday, international luminaries, family planning experts and women’s rights activists” gathered “to mark the launch of a new 26-member high-level task force to galvanize support behind the goals of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD),” Inter Press Service reports, adding, “That conference took place nearly two decades ago, in Cairo, Egypt in 1994” and “resulted in a Programme of Action that become the guiding document for the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA.”
“Although no official decision has been announced about whether to continue the … Affordable Medicines Facility-Malaria (AMFm), many of those familiar with it have told Nature that it must change or be phased out after this year,” the magazine reports in an article examining the future of the pilot program that distributes malaria drugs in seven African countries. “The AMFm aims to make artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) readily available and affordable in malaria-ridden countries by relying on the free market for their distribution,” but “it is unclear how many of the drugs reached the pilot program’s target populations,” Nature writes. The magazine describes possible options for the program, and notes the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will recommend a future path for the program at its meeting next month (Maxmen, 10/2).
Experts Worried Political Commitment, Health Services Delivery Still Lacking Despite Efforts To Improve Family Planning In Uganda
“Family planning advocates in Uganda have scored some major financial and policy wins this year, but experts remain concerned that inadequate political commitment and poor health services will continue to impede women’s and girls’ access to contraceptives,” IRIN reports. With one of the fastest growing populations in the world, Uganda’s “President Yoweri Museveni announced that his government would increase its annual expenditure on family planning supplies from $3.3 million to $5 million for the next five years” and he “pledged to mobilize an additional $5 million from the country’s donors,” the news service writes. In addition, the “Ministry of Health has laid out a roadmap for providing universal access to family planning, involving the integration of family planning into other health services,” the news service notes.