In this post in PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog, Deputy Editor Tom Murphy discusses the Saving Mothers, Giving Life initiative, which “support[s] the aggressive reduction of maternal mortality in countries with the highest mortality rates.” He notes that the “founding partners include the U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI), Merck for Mothers, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), Every Mother Counts (EMC), and the Government of Norway,” and that they have pledged $200 million over five years. Murphy outlines the objectives of the initiative and highlights some of the comments made at its launch last week during the Child Survival Call to Action summit (6/19).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
“USAID promotes Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy as a vital family planning intervention that helps ensure that pregnancies occur at the healthiest times in a woman’s life,” Maureen Norton, healthy timing and spacing technical adviser for USAID, writes in USAID’s IMPACTblog. “A USAID analysis found that, by preventing closely spaced births, family planning could save the lives of more than 1.6 million children under five annually,” she notes. Norton outlines “three key programmatic actions to strengthen family planning as an essential intervention for child survival,” including educating families on pregnancy timing, expanding the type of available contraceptives, and enacting “policies to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend.” She concludes, “Increasing access to family planning is essential to help women … and their children survive and stay healthy” (6/19).
Family Planning Summit Offers Opportunity To Integrate Reproductive Services With HIV, Other Health Initiatives
Noting that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.K. government will co-host an international family planning summit in London in July, Gavin Yamey of the Global Health Group at the University of California, San Francisco; Craig Cohen, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive services at the University of California; and Elizabeth Bukusi, chief research officer and deputy director of research and training at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, write in a BMJ commentary, “More than 120 million women worldwide aged 15-49 years have an unmet need for family planning, which is due a renaissance after years of neglect.”
In this post in the Guardian’s “Development Talk Point” series, contributors Claire Provost and Jaz Cummins ask readers to weigh in on the issue of family planning and development, asking, “How has such a taboo topic become a global priority? What’s driving world leaders’ growing interest in women’s bodies? And what’s at stake in these debates?” They write, “We’ll discuss these questions — and more — in this month’s global development podcast, and are looking for your comments to shape the discussion” (6/19).
Agence France-Presse examines the abortion debate in Morocco, where “voices calling for a repeal of the [country’s] ban on abortion are growing louder,” according to the news service. “The debate over abortion is just the latest front of an ongoing conflict between conservative supporters of traditional values and more liberal, reform-minded campaigners,” the news service writes. “‘We are going in all directions. It is difficult to move forward with a conservative government,’ [Fauzia Assouli, president of the Federation of the Democratic League of Women’s Rights] told AFP,” the news service notes. “But at the same time, she said, there was a growing sense of awareness, a sense of momentum among activists,” AFP writes. The news service adds, “A national congress will be held on June 12 in Rabat, under the auspices of the Moroccan Association for the Fight against Clandestine Abortion, headed by Professor Chafik Chraibi,” a renowned gynecologist in the country (Mamarbachi, 6/4).
In the first of a series titled “Imagine a world…,” posted on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Paula Franklin, U.K. medical director for Marie Stopes International, writes, “For the most part, only people who really need or want something care much about it being available, and that’s why it can be hard to make people in the developed world tune in to the huge unmet need for contraception globally — 222 million people who want to use contraception can’t get it, at the last count.” She says that the upcoming London Summit on Family Planning is “perhaps the world’s best opportunity to agree together what we’re going to do to rectify the situation,” and she concludes by summarizing some of the upcoming posts in the series by Marie Stopes staff (6/25).
Noting that a “thin place” is “a place or situation that Celtic Mystics believed to be a coming together of heaven and earth,” Gary Darmstadt, head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Family Health Division, and Wendy Prosser, a research analyst with the Family Health Division, write in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, “The London Summit on Family Planning was a ‘thin place’ for the global health community and for millions of women around the world who want to plan their families. It was transformational for so many reasons.” They continue, “The Summit brought family planning back into the mainstream of global health conversations, a place it hasn’t been in decades. And it put the focus of that conversation on women and what they want — voluntary access to contraceptives and the ability to plan their families and their futures” (8/29).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Max Kamin-Cross, a self-proclaimed political junky and youth activist, writes that by improving access to contraceptives, “[w]e could lift millions of people of all races and both genders out of poverty throughout the world,” “we could significantly decrease the number of premature deaths, as well as the number of lives claimed by deadly infections like HIV,” and “the quality of life for millions more people would be drastically improved.” He provides statistics regarding access to contraception and continues, “This issue should not be controversial. The future of my generation truly may rely on the fate of contraceptive access” (8/22).
Access To Quality Health Care, Political Will Essential For Continued Progress In Reducing Maternal Mortality
In this Daily Beast opinion piece, Sarah Brown, an adjunct professor at the Institute for Global Health Innovations at Imperial College in London and global patron of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, and Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, head of obstetrics and gynecology and deputy head of clinical sciences at St. George’s University of London, highlight the Global Health Policy Summit scheduled to take place in London on Wednesday. Led by Ara Darzi, former U.K. heath minister and chair of the World Economic Forum’s global health group, “this event is driving a new, dedicated approach to find radical answers and new collaborations,” they write, noting, “Our particular stake in the summit is the maternal health session that is specifically taking on an assessment of lessons learned and the next critical steps to take in order to reduce maternal mortality.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “expressed concern” over Uganda’s increasing number of HIV infections on a visit to the country last week, part of an 11-day trip to eight African nations, Uganda’s New Vision reports (Mukasa, 8/4). According to the Observer, Clinton “said while America recognizes the strides Uganda made in the 1990s when HIV prevalence dropped from 20 percent to seven percent, prevalence is now rising.” PEPFAR is the largest donor for HIV programs in the country, the newspaper notes, adding that “[t]he U.S. government recently committed $25 million to help Uganda eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission and … [m]ore than 300,000 Ugandans are receiving treatment through PEPFAR” (Mwesigye, 8/5). “The reversal is particularly disappointing to health experts given the time and attention that have been focused on AIDS here, and the billions of dollars spent,” the New York Times writes (Kron, 8/2). “I am hoping that we can work together to make prevention the focus again. We are going to review our strategy because we want to emphasize what will work,” Clinton said, according to the Observer (8/5).