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).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
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).
“The United Nations has urged the Philippines to pass a bill that will allow the government to provide free contraceptives,” BBC News reports (8/5). “UNFPA country coordinator Ugochi Florence Daniels said the [reproductive health (RH)] bill is important for the Philippines to achieve its health-related targets in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” including maternal health, HIV/AIDS and infant mortality, the Philippine Star writes (Crisostomo, 8/4). “The House of Representatives plans to decide Tuesday whether to end debate on the bill and put it to a vote,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times notes (Gomez, 8/5).
As part of its monthly series Stories Behind the Statistics, “guest edited by FHI 360 on behalf of USAID’S IYWG, which provides technical leadership to improve the reproductive and sexual health of young people,” the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog features a story by Gaj Bahadur Gurung, program coordinator for the National Federation of Women Living with HIV and AIDS in Nepal, who discusses the impact of adolescent pregnancy on girls and young women in South Asia. He writes, “Policies and programs must both help prevent early and unintended pregnancy (for married and unmarried women) and mitigate the negative consequences for girls who do become pregnant. Programs should provide young women access to, control over, and informed choice of their sexual and maternal health services” (8/3).
IRIN Examines Conditional Cash Transfer Program Aimed At improving Maternal Health In The Philippines
“A nationwide conditional cash transfer program in the Philippines is slowly improving maternal health, but more is needed to reverse the climbing maternal mortality ratio, say women’s groups,” IRIN reports. “Known locally as ‘Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program’ (4Ps), five-year conditional cash transfers (CCTs) were first rolled out in 2007 as a pilot program to cut poverty,” the news service writes, adding, “Now, with a budget of $227 million, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) aims to make CCTs available to 5.2 million eligible households by 2015.”
On the first stop of a 10-day tour of Africa, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stopped at the Phillipe Maguilen Senghor Health Center in Dakar, Senegal, where Awa Marie Coll-Seck, the country’s minister of health, “explained to Secretary Clinton how these operational centers dramatically improve maternal and child health,” according to a post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog.” Coll-Seck “also noted that USAID-supported distribution of insecticide impregnated mosquito nets across the country had drastically reduced the incidence of malaria,” according to the blog, which adds that Clinton “was pleased to hear that the United States is playing a key role in helping meet one of its biggest challenges: decentralizing services so they are available at the village level throughout the country.” In an address several hours later, “Clinton invoked the Senghor center … saying she was highly impressed by the integrated nature of the facility” and that “[i]t was a successful model she hoped could be duplicated throughout Senegal and the entire West African region” (Taylor, 8/1).