“Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has shut down two major medical centers in the Somali capital Mogadishu after two of its aid workers were shot dead by a former colleague last month, the international medical aid agency said on Thursday,” AlertNet reports. The closure of the two 120-bed centers, the largest of MSF’s 13 projects in Somalia, cuts in half the organization’s presence in the capital, the news service notes, adding that the centers have treated thousands of malnourished children and provided vaccinations or treatments to tens of thousands more patients since August 2011 (Migiro, 1/19).
Access to Health Services
The argument that “a country’s quickest way to better health for its people is economic development … is only one factor, and not the most important one, in explaining global health outcomes,” Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, writes in a SciDev.Net opinion piece. “The challenge is to ensure that a cheap basic package of health interventions is available to — and is used by — all,” he continues.
The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog asks whether Sierra Leone was right to ban traditional birth attendants (TBAs) from assisting deliveries 18 months ago, writing, “Although [TBAs] are often poorly trained and sometimes use unsafe delivery procedures, for most women in rural Sierra Leone they are a lifeline.” The blog writes that “some experts believe women are putting themselves at serious risk by relying on TBAs, who cannot handle obstetric complications such as hemorrhage, eclampsia and obstructed labor, conditions that account for three-quarters of maternal deaths,” but, “[i]n areas where dense jungle and impassable roads make travel nigh-on impossible, the TBAs may also be the only available helping hand.”
In this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, examines the role of community health workers (CHWs), “increasingly on the frontlines of disease control in rural Africa,” in providing Africa’s rural population with access to life-saving health care. He writes, “When [my colleagues and I at the Earth Institute] began the work in the Millennium Villages in 2006, Africa’s community health workers were generally unpaid, untrained, unsupervised volunteers with no diagnostic or therapeutic capabilities. … Now the CHWs are seen to be a key part of a functioning primary health system.”
Afghan President Karzai Urges Taliban To Allow Polio Vaccination Teams Into Insurgent-Controlled Areas
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday “urg[ed] the Taliban to allow teams conducting a polio vaccination campaign access to areas under their control” and “said that whoever hampers the medical workers ‘is the enemy of our children’s future,'” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (1/17). “A total of 80 cases of the crippling disease were reported in Afghanistan last year — a three-fold increase over 2010, the health ministry said on Tuesday, marking a major setback in the drive to eradicate polio worldwide,” Agence France-Presse writes, adding that “Karzai appealed to religious and community leaders to persuade the insurgents to allow the immunization teams to vaccinate children” (1/17).
Counterfeit, Substandard Drugs Threaten Progress In Controlling Malaria In Africa, Researchers Report
“Hopes of controlling malaria in Africa could be wrecked by criminals who are circulating counterfeit and substandard drugs, threatening millions of lives, scientists” said in a study published in the Malaria Journal last month, the Guardian reports. “They are calling for public health authorities to take urgent action to preserve the efficacy of the antimalarials now being used in the worst-hit areas of the continent,” the newspaper adds (Boseley, 1/16). “The counterfeit medicines could harm patients and promote drug resistance among malaria parasites, warns the study, funded by the Wellcome Trust,” BBC News writes (1/16).
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah on Thursday appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation to discuss rebuilding efforts in Haiti two years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed much of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Shah said, “[O]ver the last two years, we’ve seen real signs of hope. A number of things have worked. Partners and the Haitian government and Haitian leaders have done things differently so that today, … more people have access to clean water and safe sanitation in Port-au-Prince than the day before the earthquake,” according to the transcript.
In the National Geographic News blog “Mobile Message,” “a series of posts from FrontlineSMS about how mobile phones and appropriate technologies are being used throughout the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives,” Laura Stachel, an obstetrician-gynecologist and the co-founder and executive director of WE CARE Solar, writes about the “‘Solar Suitcase,’ a portable, rugged, complete solar electric kit packed with solar panels, a charge controller, batteries, medical LED lights, phone chargers, headlamps, and a fetal monitor.” She says the suitcases improve lighting so surgeries can be performed 24 hours a day; allow nurses to contact on-call physicians in the case of emergency through a mobile phone; and, with alterations, power blood bank refrigerators (Banks, 1/12).
“The work of the essential medicines department of the World Health Organization (WHO) is under threat because of a serious shortage of funds, says a worrying and important letter published in the Lancet [on Thursday],” Guardian Health Editor Sarah Boseley reports in her “Global Health Blog.” “According to the letter from Mohga Kamal-Yanni of Oxfam, the work of updating … the essential medicines list, which tells every health ministry in every corner of the world, however tiny their budget, which drugs they should be getting for their people … [and] for children, is now being paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” the blog writes.
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof continue to answer readers’ questions in this second installment on Kristof’s “On the Ground” blog. Gates and Kristof answer questions about corruption and contraception in Bangladesh, where Gates recently visited, and why more efforts are not being concentrated on children in the U.S. (1/11).