Twenty aid agencies on Wednesday issued an open letter (.pdf) “urg[ing] the international community to change its approach to Somalia ‘and enhance diplomatic engagement with the parties to the conflict, to ensure the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid,'” particularly before the rainy season brings the threat of disease, IRIN reports (9/21).
Access to Health Services
IRIN reports on “[t]he improved availability of essential medicines in Zimbabwe’s public health sector” as a result of “a multi-donor program started in 2008 through collaboration between the government, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Zimbabwe, the European Union (E.U.), the U.K., Australia, Canada and Ireland.” “According to a survey carried out by the E.U., 80 percent of essential medicines are now available at over 80 percent of health facilities compared to only 28 percent availability of vital drugs at public health institutions in 2008,” IRIN notes. The news service writes, “To date, the Essential Medicines Supply Programme (EMSP) has received $52 million in funding, according to UNICEF,” adding, “The money is used to buy drugs and medical supplies which are distributed to health centers by Natpharm, the supply arm of the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare” (9/20).
The health care system in the refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya, which were established “long ago,” are “currently challenged and stretched by the recent influx of refugees,” UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimihen writes in this BMJ Group Blogs entry, noting that efforts are underway “to strengthen the existing system with supplies [and] human resources at clinic and outreach levels” to increase access. UNFPA is working “to improve reproductive health care in Dadaab and in accessible parts of Somalia through the provision of related life-saving medical supplies and equipment, which will lead to a reduction in adult and child morbidity and death,” he writes.
The U.N. Foundation on Monday launched Shot@Life, “a new campaign to expand access to life-saving vaccines for children in developing countries” that “will educate, connect and empower Americans to champion vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save children’s lives around the world,” according to a U.N. Foundation…
PRI’s “The World” highlights the state of mental health care in Uganda in an examination of how the exclusion of mental health from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has, according to some advocates, held back mental health as a global health issue. Julius Kayiira, director of Mental Health Uganda, an organization that provides social support, job training and care to people with mental illness, “says organizations like his face an enormous funding gap, and he blames that gap, in part, on the United Nations,” according to “The World.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday is expected “to announce a significant expansion of the organization’s ambitious global program to tackle infant and maternal mortality and boost access to reproductive health over coming years,” the Financial Times reports. The announcement “will highlight the doubling of commitments from governments, the private sector and non-profit organizations on funding and policy initiatives for the ‘Every Woman Every Child’ program,” the newspaper writes (Raval et al., 9/19). The announcement comes “[a]s the U.N. General Assembly opens a new session” and is “being called on [by the international community] to provide more family planning services to hundreds of millions of women,” according to VOA News (DeCapua, 9/19).
Recent U.N. statistics showing a drop in child mortality are both good and bad, because the number of child deaths continues to drop, but “progress isn’t reaching all families around the world, and it isn’t reaching newborn babies as often as older children,” Joy Lawn, director of Global Evidence and Policy for Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives program, writes in a GlobalPost opinion piece. While the knowledge and technology exist to save lives, “too often, there is simply no one equipped to deliver basic lifesaving care to families who need it most. More than anything else, babies and children die for lack of frontline health workers,” she writes.
“[F]ar too many children in Kenya and other African countries continue to suffer unnecessarily each year due to the misdiagnosis of fever, which contributes to the deaths of nearly three million children of less than five years of age from malaria and pneumonia,” Willis Akhwale, head of Kenya’s Department of Disease Prevention and Control in the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, writes in a Daily Nation opinion piece, saying that health care workers “desperately need a test that can quickly and accurately identify and distinguish between fever-causing diseases.”
Some of the issues to be addressed at the U.N. High-level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) taking place this week in New York “are controversial, including those relating to intellectual property rights for new medicines, diagnostics and medical devices,” James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, writes in an Al Jazeera opinion piece. “By continuing to assert that the Doha Declaration is in fact limited in various ways, U.S. and European trade negotiators have tried to discourage the granting of compulsory licenses on patents for high-priced drugs for cancer and other non-communicable diseases,” he continues, before outlining a proposal called the “cancer prize approach” that would de-link drug prices from research and development incentives.
“A health policy shift that saw the introduction in May of free caesarean section operations in 35 hospitals across the Republic of Congo — to curb the growing rate of maternal and infant mortality — seems to have prompted a proliferation of such operations, according to health officials,” IRIN reports. “‘We are virtually living in the hospital because there are so many consultations,’ said Jean-Claude Kala, head of gynecology at Makelekele Hospital, south of Brazzaville,” the news service writes.