In an opinion piece in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, David Olson, a global health communications consultant who worked as a communications adviser to the Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance in Kenya earlier this year, describes how “abortion rights [in the country] have been liberalized in certain cases in a Constitution approved in a public referendum two years ago.” He continues, “The new constitution says clearly that ‘the life of a person begins at conception’ and ‘abortion is not permitted unless…'” Olson writes, “And that innocuous ‘unless’ is what keeps the abortion issue alive in Kenya, almost two years after the constitutional referendum: ‘…unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.'”
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
Aissata Sall Yade, a communications assistant for the Senegal Urban Reproductive Health Initiative, part of IntraHealth International, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog about Aissatou Dia Fall, a head midwife at Senegal’s Gallo Dia Health Center in Yeumbeul, and her efforts to improve access to health care for women in the community. She has reached out to different organizations for monetary assistance for her clients, Yade notes, adding, “Strategies like Aissatou Dia Fall’s will help improve Senegal’s national contraceptive prevalence rate, which is currently only 12 percent. It will also help reduce one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates (410 deaths per 100,000 live births) and reduce the fertility rate (an average of five children per woman)” (10/17).
“During the first presidential debate, neither President [Barack] Obama nor [Republican presidential nominee Gov. Mitt] Romney addressed the issue that affects half the world’s population: women’s reproductive rights,” Musimbi Kanyoro, president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog. “As the two square off on foreign policy, women’s reproductive rights must be addressed because whomever becomes president will not only determine U.S. women’s personal, economic and educational choices, but also those of women worldwide,” she writes, adding, “The candidates’ positions on women’s reproductive rights couldn’t be starker.”
U.N. SG Says Eliminating Discrimination, Providing Nutrition, Health Care Will Help Women Care For Families
“Highlighting the role in women in producing much of the world’s food and caring for the environment, [U.N.] Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his message marking the International Day of Rural Women, [Monday] said that eliminating discrimination that prevents rural women from realizing their full potential is crucial to ending global hunger and poverty,” the U.N. News Centre reports (10/15). “In his message, Ban said rural women typically live without the guarantee of basic nutrition, health services, and necessities such as clean water and sanitation,” UPI writes. “When food and nutrition security are improved, rural women have more opportunities to find decent work and provide for the education and health of their children,” Ban said, according to UPI (10/15). VOA News reports on an initiative launched recently by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP), and U.N. Women, which aims “to speed economic empowerment and gender equality of rural women,” according to the news service (DeCapua, 10/15).
“Between 1970 and 2010, most emerging countries achieved impressive gains in contraceptive coverage,” but, “[b]y contrast, many sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries … have started their contraceptive revolution very late and progress to date has been minimal,” John May, a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and Jean-Pierre Guengant, researcher emeritus at the Research Institute for Development (IRD) in Marseille, France, write in CGD’s “Global Health Policy” blog. “The widespread belief in SSA that ‘development was the best contraceptive’ has been the major reason why countries did not launch organized family planning programs,” they write, adding, “By and large, the lack of progress in contraceptive coverage has precluded significant decreases in fertility in the region” (10/11).
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe “on Wednesday hailed the efforts of the Republic of Congo government in the fight against HIV/AIDS in general, and particularly in the reduction of transmission from mother to child,” Xinhua reports. After meeting with Congolese Health Minister Francois Ibovi, Sidibe said, “The Republic of Congo is one of the African countries that have demonstrated that we can control this infection and that we can significantly reduce the number of new infections. It’s one of the countries that have reduced the rate of new infections by 22 percent and we believe that by 2015, we shall have between two to three percent infections by maximum, something which will be an enormous progress,” according to the news service. He said UNAIDS will support the government’s efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission and provide treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS in the country, Xinhua notes (10/11).
Gender Action recently released a new report (.pdf), titled “Banking on Health: World Bank and African Development Bank Spending on Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa,” according to the organization’s website. The report, based on fieldwork in Cameroon and Uganda, “reviews World Bank and AfDB projects to highlight how good quality matters as much as high quantity in reproductive and sexual health and HIV/AIDS spending,” the website notes. In addition to the report, Gender Action created a database (.xls) “containing comprehensive information about World Bank and AfDB investments (2000-2012) addressing reproductive health and HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan African countries,” the website states (10/9).
“Women working as female health care volunteers [FHCVs] often provide a vital service for the poorest in mountainous Nepal, and have contributed to a steady improvement in maternal and neonatal survival rates,” IRIN reports. In Nepal, 52,000 FHCVs work nationwide, often in remote regions, to refer women and children to health centers and help raise money for their trips, according to the news service. Many experts believe the FHCVs have played a key role in reducing Nepal’s maternal mortality ratio and increasing the proportion of births attended by a skilled birth attendant or that take place in a health facility, IRIN notes. “The FCHV program was launched in 1988 in 19 districts in the mid-west (Nepal’s poorest region), with the purpose of improving maternal and neonatal care, according to the Health Ministry,” IRIN writes, adding, “Despite being regarded as key to the state’s public health program, the government provides them with virtually no support” (10/5).
IRIN examines unsafe abortion and access to contraceptives in Kenya, writing, “Despite the medical risks associated with unsafe abortions, many women in Kenya continue to seek these services. Experts say only a scale-up of access to, and promotion of, contraceptives among sexually active women can reduce it.” According to the news service, “[e]xperts say that for practical purposes, the government must do more to enable women and girls to prevent unwanted pregnancies.” The 2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey showed that about one-quarter of married women in Kenya “have an unmet need for family planning — they would like to space their children or stop having children but are not using any form of contraception,” IRIN notes. According to the news service, “Shahnaz Sharif, director of public health, told IRIN the government was working to increase awareness and uptake of contraceptives” (10/3).
Integrating reproductive health and other services, such as HIV care, “makes sense, and there is emerging evidence that it can be associated with a host of benefits, such as improved uptake of services, enhanced program efficiency, and even improved health outcomes when compared to separate services,” Gavin Yamey, who leads E2Pi in the Global Health Group at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), and Craig Cohen, a professor in-residence in the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, write in the PLoS blog “Speaking of Medicine.” They describe five key themes that emerged last month at the Integration for Impact conference, co-hosted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Kenyan government, and UCSF. They write, “The emphasis was on presenting the latest research findings, exploring the policy implications of this evidence, and laying out the unanswered research questions,” and describe the five themes, including keeping human rights at the forefront and better defining and measuring integration (10/3).