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Study Tracking Progress In Maternal, Child Health Highlights Inequities In Intervention Coverage

According to a study published in the Lancet on Saturday, researchers from the University of Pelotas in Brazil tracking progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5 — which promote maternal and child health — “discovered that the most equitable intervention was early initiation of breast feeding, and that the attendance of a skilled person at birth proved to be the least equitable intervention,” Medical News Today reports. “The findings furthermore revealed that community-based interventions were more equally distributed in comparison with those delivered in health facilities,” MNT writes, noting that the “most inequitable countries of the evaluated interventions were Chad, Ethiopia, Laos, Nigeria, Niger and Somalia, followed by India, Madagascar and Pakistan, with the most equitable countries being Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan” (Rattue, 4/2).

UNICEF Launches Social Media Campaign To Raise Awareness Of Malnutrition Among Children In Sahel Region

UNICEF on Tuesday launched a social media campaign “to raise awareness about children in the Sahel region in northern Africa who are in urgent need of food aid,” CNN reports. UNICEF estimates that one million children in the region are at risk of starvation, and the U.N. says more than 10 million people risk severe acute malnutrition, the news agency notes. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, “the main causes of the humanitarian crisis in the region are ‘drought, chronic poverty, high food prices, displacement and conflict,'” CNN writes. The campaign also aims to raise funds for the crisis, as UNICEF reports having only $30 million of a $120 million appeal in its coffers, according to the news agency (4/3).

Improved Access To Family Planning In Africa Will Lead To Economic Development

Melinda Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation writes in an opinion piece in Nigeria’s Vanguard, “My top priority as a co-chair of the foundation I run with my husband is making sure that all families have access to safe and effective contraception tools that empower them to make a decision about what’s best for them and their family. And that means encouraging aid donors and governments here in Nigeria and across Africa to make family planning a priority.” Improved access to modern methods of contraception and child spacing would save millions of lives, “[b]ut family planning doesn’t just save lives; it also makes life better for families and communities, becoming a key driver of economic development,” Gates continues.

New Initiative Aims To Strengthen Regulatory Capacity, Systems For Delivery Of Medicines In Africa

“The need to ensure that people in Africa have access to essential, high quality, safe and affordable medicines has just received a major boost with the launch of the East African Community (EAC) Medicines Registration Harmonization Project in Arusha, Tanzania, on 30 March 2011,” UNAIDS reports in a feature story on its website. An alliance “bringing together the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, the U.K. Department for International Development (DfID), and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI),” “hope[s] to strengthen regulatory capacity and systems for medicines in Africa, including antiretroviral drugs, so that fewer lives are lost due to drugs which are unsafe and of poor quality or which are largely unavailable or delivered inefficiently,” according to the article (4/2).

U.S. Government Releases $120M In Emergency Assistance To Help Drought-Affected West African Countries

In a press statement released on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. is “‘deeply concerned’ about the humanitarian situation in West Africa” and announced $120 million in emergency assistance, United Press International reports. According to the news service, the U.N. “estimates that more than 15 million people are facing food shortages and malnutrition due to a lingering drought” and “more than one million children are threatened” (3/30).

USAID Working To Help Millions Needing Food Aid In Africa’s Sahel Region

“This week, urgently needed food — 33,700 tons of sorghum from American farmers — will depart the United States for West Africa, as a part of the U.S. Government’s response to the drought in the Sahel,” Dina Esposito, director of the Office of Food for Peace, writes in this post in USAID’s “Impact” blog. She says that in addition to food aid, “USAID is also focusing on improving nutrition, increasing agricultural production, linking individuals to local markets through voucher programs, rehabilitating public infrastructure through cash-for-work schemes, and mitigating conflict, among other activities,” with the aim of “alleviat[ing] poverty and build[ing] community resilience to withstand future shocks” (3/30).

U.N. Official Warns Millions At Risk Of Starvation In African Sahel

“Millions of people in Africa’s turbulent Sahel region are on the brink of starvation due to drought and conflict, the United Nations said on Wednesday, and aid response plans are less than 40 percent funded ahead of an expected crisis peak,” Reuters reports (3/29). Following a week-long trip to Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, John Ging, director of operations at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said, “This is already an appalling crisis in terms of the scale and degree of human suffering and it will get worse unless the response plans are properly funded. … It’s a matter of life or death for millions who are on the brink,” according to the U.N. News Centre. “More than 15 million people in the Sahel are directly affected by worsening food shortages and malnutrition brought on by the ongoing drought, which has been compounded by conflict and insecurity,” the news service writes, noting that Ging added, “More than 200,000 children died of malnutrition last year and over one million are threatened with severe acute malnutrition right now” (3/28).

UNAIDS, NEPAD Sign MoU To Collaborate In Efforts To Fight HIV

UNAIDS and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency on Tuesday “signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) calling for strategic collaboration to advance sustainable responses to HIV, health and development across the African continent,” according to a UNAIDS press release. “Under the terms of the agreement, UNAIDS and the NEPAD Agency will work with partners to: support the development of common African positions for the AIDS response, with an emphasis on sustainable financing; address constraints in access to HIV medicines; facilitate policies and partnerships to eliminate new HIV infections in children and improve the health of mothers; enhance country ownership and accountability; and encourage South-South cooperation,” the press release states (3/27).

Malaria Funding Has Helped Prevent Nearly 1M Child Deaths Over Past Decade, Study Finds

The results of a study (.pdf) published in Malaria Journal “suggest that funding for malaria prevention in Africa over the past decade has had a substantial impact on decreasing child deaths due to malaria,” according to the study’s abstract. Between 2001 and 2011, malaria prevention intervention scale-up helped prevent an estimated 842,800 malaria-related child deaths, an 8.2 percent decrease over the period had malaria intervention remained unchanged since 2000. The researchers note that 99 percent of the decline can be attributed to the use of insecticide-treated bednets. “Rapidly achieving and then maintaining universal coverage of these interventions should be an urgent priority for malaria control programs in the future,” the study concludes (Eisele et al., 3/28).

South African Mines Must Have HIV, TB, Workplace Safety Policies To Receive License, Minister Says

Speaking at an event where South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe urged the mining industry to take greater steps to address tuberculosis (TB) and HIV among its employees, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu “announced that mining companies, whose HIV, TB and workplace safety policies are being audited by her department, will have to submit their policies as a prerequisite for renewing their mining licenses,” PlusNews reports. “According to Shabangu, South Africa’s mining sector sees three times as many cases of active TB as the general population,” the news service writes.