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Maternal Deaths Drop By Nearly Half Worldwide Over 20 Years; Greater Progress Still Needed, U.N. Reports

“The number of women dying of pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications has almost halved in 20 years, according to new estimates released [on Wednesday] by the United Nations, which stressed that greater progress is still needed in significantly reducing maternal deaths,” the U.N. News Centre reports (5/16). “The report, ‘Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010,’ shows that from 1990 to 2010, the annual number of maternal deaths dropped from more than 543,000 to 287,000 — a decline of 47 percent,” a UNFPA press release states (5/16). However, “[w]hile substantial progress has been achieved in almost all regions, many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, will fail to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing maternal death by 75 percent through 2015,” Inter Press Service writes (Deen, 5/16). “Countries in Eastern Asia have made [the] most progress on improving the health of expectant and new mothers, said the report,” Agence France-Presse adds (5/16).

Potential Public-Private Partnership Aims To Bring TB Vaccine Trials To Mines Of Southern Africa

GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports on a potential public-private partnership that aims to bring tuberculosis (TB) vaccine trials to the gold mines of Southern Africa, where, “[f]or every 100,000 workers …, 3,000 have tuberculosis, and many have often-fatal, drug-resistant strains of TB.” The blog writes that mining company “Anglo American announced Tuesday at the GBCHealth Conference [in New York] that it has agreed in principle to make its mines available for TB vaccine trials organized by Aeras, a non-profit that has 12 TB vaccine candidates now in various stages of research,” noting, “No formal agreement has been reached, but Anglo American’s spokesman vowed to make it happen.”

Opinion Pieces Discuss Global Action On Food Security

The Hill’s “Congress Blog” on Friday published two opinion pieces addressing global food security, the G8 summit, and the New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security. The following are summaries of the pieces.

Obama Announces $3B Food Initiative For Africa

In a Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security on Friday, President Barack Obama “announced a plan to accelerate investments in developing world agriculture to meet rising food demands and improve nutrition, calling the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition a moral, economic and security imperative,” IIP Digital reports (Porter, 5/18). The new program, unveiled “in conjunction with African leaders from Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania, will parlay more than $3 billion in private assistance into a public-private partnership with an ambitious goal: lifting 50 million people from poverty over 10 years,” according to USA Today’s “The Oval” (Wolf, 5/18). The initiative “will constitute the next phase of a groundbreaking program begun during the 2009 G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy,” Inter Press Service writes (Brion, 5/18). More than 45 companies have pledged to invest in the initiative, Devex notes (Ravelo, 5/10). A fact sheet on the New Alliance is available on the White House website (5/18).

Child Death Across Sub-Saharan Africa Declining At Accelerated Rate, Report Shows

“New statistics show that the rate of child death across sub-Saharan Africa is not just in decline — but that decline has massively accelerated, just in the last few years,” Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), writes in the center’s “Global Development: Views from the Center” blog, citing a paper released last week by Gabriel Demombynes and Karina Trommlerova in the Kenya office of the World Bank. Clemens provides “figures for some of the recent changes in rates of child death across the continent” and concludes, “This will be startling news for anyone who still thinks sub-Saharan Africa is mired in unending poverty and death” (5/4).

President Obama Invites Four African Leaders To G8 Summit To Discuss Food Security

President Barack Obama has invited the leaders of four African nations “to join the G8 leaders’ summit at Camp David later this month for a session on food security, the White House said on Thursday,” Reuters reports. White House spokesperson Jay Carney said in a statement that Obama invited Benin President Yayi Boni, Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Ghana President John Mills and Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, according to the news service (MacInnis, 5/3). They will join other leaders of G8 member nations — which include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States — at the summit, scheduled for May 18-19, CNN notes. The leaders are expected to discuss food security “amid fears of famine and drought in some parts of Africa,” the news service writes (Karimi, 5/4).

Copenhagen Consensus Report Argues For Expanding Family Planning Programs In ‘High-Fertility’ Countries

As part of a series of Slate articles highlighting issues being examined by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Bjorn Lomborg, director of the center, examines the implications of population growth on development indicators. In a research paper released on Thursday “for Copenhagen Consensus 2012, Hans-Peter Kohler of the University of Pennsylvania looks at sub-Saharan African nations that, among high-fertility countries, make the dominant contribution to world population growth,” he notes, adding, “‘High-fertility’ countries today account for about 38 percent of the 78 million people that are added annually to the world population, despite the fact that they are home to only 18 percent of the population.”

State Department, USAID Blog Posts Support Elimination Of FGM/C

In support of the ninth annual International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, Melanne Verveer, ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, and David Robinson, acting assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, outline several examples of U.S. advocacy and funding related to stopping the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in this post on the State Department’s “DipNote” blog. They call on governments and international donors to “overturn deeply entrenched social norms that are not only harmful to women and girls, but to our communities and societies” (2/6). In a post on USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Sandra Jordan, communication and outreach adviser for USAID’s Bureau for Global Health, writes, “The single most important aspect of ending this practice is involving the community. USAID focuses on enabling and empowering communities to make their own collective choice to abandon FGM/C” (2/6).

Global Malaria Deaths Twice As High As Previously Estimated, IHME Study Suggests

“Malaria is killing more people worldwide than previously thought, but the number of deaths has fallen rapidly as efforts to combat the disease have ramped up, according to new research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington” published in the Lancet on Thursday, an IHME press release reports. “More than 1.2 million people died from malaria worldwide in 2010, nearly twice the number found in the most recent comprehensive study of the disease,” the press release states (2/2). The study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “used new data and new computer modeling to build a historical database for malaria between 1980 and 2010,” BBC News notes (Bowdler, 2/2).