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Blog Discusses How Simple Innovations Are Helping Tackle Africa's Health, Development Problems

In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Eloise Quintanilla, an associate communications officer with the foundation, discusses an article published in the Guardian over the weekend that examines 15 simple innovations being used to tackle Africa’s health and development problems. She details three of the innovations included in the Guardian piece and writes that the article “serves as an excellent reminder that innovation doesn’t have to be technologically complex in order to be transformative” (8/28).

Study Links Maternal Obesity To Newborn Death In Sub-Saharan Africa

“For the first time researchers have discovered a link between overweight and obese mothers in sub-Saharan Africa and infant mortality,” Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gate’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, adding, “In a study published in The Lancet this month, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine show a definitive correlation between maternal obesity and the prevalence of neonatal deaths (infants who die in the first 28 days of life) especially before two days of age.” She continues, “Now that there is growing maternal obesity in sub-Saharan Africa — albeit slow — this poses a stark contrast to the traditional indicators of neonatal deaths such as underweight mothers and lack of access to health services and trained health workers for pregnancy and delivery in developing countries” (8/24).

Drought, Food Security Fears Boost Small-Scale Irrigation Use In South Asia, Africa, Study Finds

“Farmers in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly taking up small-scale irrigation schemes as drought threatens the security of food supplies, a report by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) said,” Reuters reports. “Small-scale irrigation technology, such as motorized pumps and hosing to access groundwater, could cost a sub-Saharan African smallholder $250 or more but could improve crop yields by between 75 and 275 percent, the report said,” Reuters adds. “If there is more investment in small-scale irrigation, it means food supply in those countries is more secure. It won’t replace the need for staple cereal crops, but it gives farmers more insurance against a food crisis,” said Colin Chartres, IWMI director general, according to the news service. “We are going to have to come up with ways of making water go much further if we are going to grow 70 percent more food by 2050 on about 10 percent less water than we use today,” he added, Reuters notes (Chestney, 8/24).

Bushmeat Blamed For Ebola Outbreak In DRC

“Health officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s north-eastern Orientale Province are urging the population to desist from activities that could put them at risk of contracting the Ebola virus, including contact with infected individuals and the consumption of bushmeat,” IRIN reports. “‘Ebola virus is an animal disease … people in some parts of our country rely on bushmeat for their livelihood … and don’t care to avoid eating meat they’ve got from dead animals that they often find in the bush,’ said Mondoge Vitale, head of disease control at WHO’s Kinshasa office,” according to the news service. “The health ministry has established national- and district-level taskforces and is working with partners, including the [non-governmental organization] Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO,” the news service notes, adding, “At least 10 people in the province had died from suspected Ebola by 20 August, according to the [WHO],the news service writes. (8/23).

African Development Bank Report Compares, Analyzes African Countries' Performance In Water, Sanitation Sector

“[A]ccording to a new African Development Bank report that compares and analyzes the performance of sub-Saharan African countries in the water and sanitation sector,” “the two major factors why progress on meeting water and sanitation-related development goals across sub-Saharan Africa is largely uneven” are “[d]ifferences in financial and operational capacities among governments,” the Devex “Development Newswire” reports. Specifically, the “factors the report says affect the sub-Saharan African countries’ progress toward the United Nations-set targets on sanitation and access to water” include “[u]nderstaffing and lack of technical qualification in relevant government agencies,” “[l]ack of adequate operation and maintenance programs in donor-financed projects,” and “[i]nadequate national capacities to implement national strategies,” the news service writes.

Central African Republic Faces 'Dire' Health Situation

“Surrounded by Sudan, Chad and Congo where more high-profile crises are taking place, [the Central African Republic's (CAR)] dire and desperate health situation — in which few people have access to health care and many die of easily treatable diseases — has received little attention and even less assistance,” writes Unni Karunakara, international president of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), in an article on MSF’s webpage. “The international community — donor countries, United Nations and other multilateral agencies, humanitarian and development agencies — needs to be more effectively involved in the setting of health priorities and supporting the delivery of health care in CAR,” Karunakara writes, adding, “If this situation was occurring anywhere else in the world, you would surely have mobilized by now” (8/17).

DR Congo Reports Ebola Outbreak Near Uganda Border

“Nine people have died in an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Health Minister Felix Kabangue said on Saturday,” Agence France-Presse reports (8/18). “Congolese health officials notified the World Health Organization (WHO) Friday, according to a WHO Global Alert and Response (GAR),” Examiner.com adds (Herriman, 8/17). “The outbreak is in Isiro, a busy town in Democratic Republic of Congo’s Oriental province, which shares a border with Uganda, but the strain of the deadly disease is different to the one that killed 16 there last month, [Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)] said,” Reuters writes (8/18).

International Community Observes World Humanitarian Day

On World Humanitarian Day, recognized August 19, “United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has highlighted the power of individual actions to spark global changes, and praised the work of humanitarian workers who provide assistance to vulnerable people around the world,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/17). In a press release, “UNICEF called on all parties in conflicts around the world to allow humanitarian workers safe, unimpeded access to reach children and women in need” (8/19). “World Humanitarian Day gives us the opportunity to show our appreciation to the thousands of workers … who are working every day in difficult circumstances,” the WHO writes in an article on its webpage, noting, “Health is one of several critical dimensions of humanitarian response, and the sustainable recovery of people under hardship” (August 2012).

U.S. Support Of PEPFAR, Global Fund Helping To Achieve Global AIDS, TB, Malaria Goals

In this post in Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, examines “the success of U.S. efforts to promote better global health through support for [PEPFAR] and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” She highlights U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Africa, writing that Clinton’s “encouraging words” at the Reach Out Mbuya health center in Uganda reinforced U.S. commitment to an AIDS-free generation. She notes both PEPFAR and the Global Fund have supported the center and adds that “through hundreds of similar local programs all over the world, the Global Fund provides treatment to 3.6 million people who are HIV-positive.”

Nonsurgical Circumcision Device For Adults To Be Tested In Africa

“PrePex, a bloodless circumcision device for adults, will be tested in at least nine African countries in the next year, according to the backers of the tests,” the New York Times reports. PEPFAR “will pay for PrePex circumcisions for about 2,500 men in Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, said Dr. Jason B. Reed, a technical adviser to the plan,” the newspaper writes. “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will pay for similar studies in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe,” it adds. According to the New York Times, the device “was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in January, and World Health Organization approval is expected soon.” The newspaper notes, “No surgeon is needed for the procedure; a two-nurse team slides a grooved ring inside the foreskin and guides a rubber band to compress the foreskin in the groove,” and adds, “After a week, the dead foreskin falls off like the stump of a baby’s umbilical cord or can be painlessly clipped off, said Tzameret Fuerst, chief executive of PrePex” (McNeil, 8/13).