“As representatives of the World Health Organization Member States arrive in Geneva this week for the 65th World Health Assembly, I feel a cautious optimism about the future, and the future health of Africa,” Joy Phumaphi, co-chair of the Aspen Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, writes in this post in the Huffington Post Blog. “With two female heads of state in Africa – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia and Joyce Banda in Malawi – women’s health and gender equality are no longer marginalized, they have become central to a nation’s potential for development and prosperity,” she continues, adding the two “share a vision and passionate resolve to improve the lives of women in Africa — and like me they are founding members of the Aspen Institute’s Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health.”
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
Inter Press Service reports on the Fifth International Parliamentarians’ Conference on the Implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) program of action, taking place May 24-25 in Istanbul, Turkey. According to the news service, about 300 parliamentarians from six continents will meet to “discuss ‘the progress the world’s governments are making in their efforts to protect and empower women in their reproductive health and rights: a promise they made at the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994 in Cairo,’ says the European Parliamentary Forum (EPF), which is co-organizing the event.”
Loss Of U.S. Funding For UNFPA 'Would Be Devastating' To Family Planning Services In Developing Countries
“By voting to ban any U.S. contribution to UNFPA” in the FY 2013 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday “made a judgment call that saving the lives of women and girls around the world is simply not a U.S. priority,” Valerie DeFillipo, president of Friends of UNFPA, writes in a Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece. She notes that “[c]ommittee members voted against amendments that would permit funding to UNFPA for preventing and treating obstetric fistula, ending female genital mutilation, and providing family planning services and contraceptive supplies in nine sub-Saharan African countries with high rates of poverty and maternal mortality where USAID does not provide family planning assistance.”
Newly released “estimates of maternal mortality from the United Nations’ Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group (MMEIG) are good news — but not good enough,” Peter Byass, professor of global health at Umea University in Sweden and director of the Umea Centre for Global Health Research, writes in this post in the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog. He briefly discusses the pros and cons of using “estimates” for maternal mortality data, and he concludes, “There is a risk involved for every woman who gets pregnant. But the global community has the knowledge and resources to manage those risks and minimize adverse consequences. Why can’t we stop mothers dying?” (5/16).
Maternal Deaths Drop By Nearly Half Worldwide Over 20 Years; Greater Progress Still Needed, U.N. Reports
“The number of women dying of pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications has almost halved in 20 years, according to new estimates released [on Wednesday] by the United Nations, which stressed that greater progress is still needed in significantly reducing maternal deaths,” the U.N. News Centre reports (5/16). “The report, ‘Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010,’ shows that from 1990 to 2010, the annual number of maternal deaths dropped from more than 543,000 to 287,000 — a decline of 47 percent,” a UNFPA press release states (5/16). However, “[w]hile substantial progress has been achieved in almost all regions, many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, will fail to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing maternal death by 75 percent through 2015,” Inter Press Service writes (Deen, 5/16). “Countries in Eastern Asia have made [the] most progress on improving the health of expectant and new mothers, said the report,” Agence France-Presse adds (5/16).
At a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Human Rights hearing “on blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng and his campaign against Chinese human-rights abuses,” “Republican and Democratic lawmakers clashed Tuesday over the effects of” the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) on China’s so-called “one-child policy,” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports. “Chen’s escape from house arrest last month is drawing renewed attention to the [UNFPA], which a Republican-controlled House panel voted last week to defund in their annual spending bill for foreign aid,” the blog writes. “Democrats say the U.N. Population Fund enables millions of women around the world to have access to contraception, prenatal care and screenings,” the blog writes, adding, “The program, however, is controversial because it operates in China, whose single-child policy is seen as incompatible with U.S. notions of human rights” (Pecquet, 5/15).
Clinical trials are underway to test an azithromycin-based combination treatment for pregnant women, “which could tackle some of the leading preventable causes of death for babies in sub-Saharan Africa,” according to researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), who published a report on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showing that “[a] large number of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with both malaria and sexually transmitted/reproductive tract infections (STIs/RTIs),” AlertNet reports (Mollins, 5/15). “The researchers looked at 171 studies from sub-Saharan Africa over a 20-year period, which showed whether women attending antenatal clinics were infected with malaria, or with a range of sexually transmitted and reproductive tract infections — syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and bacterial and parasitic infections of the vagina,” IRIN writes, adding, “If left untreated, these can lead to miscarriages, stillbirths, premature births and low birthweight babies” (5/16).
“There should be #NoControversy about a woman’s right to plan when and how many children to have, to have the opportunity to improve her own health and that of her children, to educate her children and to grow her family’s economic productivity,” Gary Darmstadt, head of the family health division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Wendy Prosser, a research analyst with the family health division, write in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. The authors highlight a recent TEDxChange talk by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, in which “she addresses the issues surrounding birth control and how it is literally life-saving for millions of women and children around the world.” They continue, “But of course, any time politics, religion, and sex are intertwined, controversy tends to emerge,” and discuss several viewpoints that have emerged in media coverage of the issue (5/14).
The following are summaries of several opinion pieces published in recognition of Mother’s Day, observed May 13.
Leading up to Mother’s Day on May 13, the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” section, in partnership with Mothers Day Every Day, an initiative of the White Ribbon Alliance and CARE, published opinion pieces from a diverse group of people. The following are summaries of two of those opinion pieces.