“Ten months after the West African country [of Cote d'Ivoire] started to emerge from a presidential election crisis during which almost all hospitals and clinics had to shut down for a good six months because they had been vandalized, looted and occupied, the new government under President Alassane Ouattara is trying to make public health care a priority,” including implementing “[a] new national health regulation, which came into effect on Mar. 1, that offers free health services to pregnant women, children under five years and people suffering from malaria,” Inter Press Service reports. “But in a country recovering from 12 years of political instability since a military coup in December 1999 that was followed by 10 years of [former President Laurent] Gbagbo’s autocratic rule, rebuilding a crumbling public health care system takes time,” IPS writes, adding, “Hospitals have been suffering from lack of skilled staff, basic equipment and technology for years.”
“Poor hospital care poses a risk to the lives of many patients in the developing world,” according to a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Tuesday, BBC News reports (McGrath, 3/13). For the study, which was supported by the WHO, researchers from the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation “looked at patients from 26 hospitals altogether across eight countries” — Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, Sudan, South Africa and Yemen — and “found that harm to patients caused by their health care rather than their disease is a major public health problem and consistent with previous reports from the developed world,” according to a BMJ press release.
The March issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on global shortages of medicines; a public health round-up; an article on breast cancer awareness; a research paper on interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa; and a paper on the global burden of cholera (March 2012).
This week the WHO brought together lawmakers from across Southeast Asia in Bangkok “to discuss how to bolster their health systems back home,” IRIN reports. Meeting participants were “called on to advocate the boosting of health spending, workforces and access to health care in their home countries in addition to drafting ‘healthy public policies,’ such as conducting health assessments before large infrastructural projects are undertaken,” the news service writes.
India's Maternal Health Care Benefit Excludes Many Women Because Of Parity Requirement, Women's eNews Reports
Women’s eNews examines India’s Indira Gandhi Maternity Support Scheme, a health care benefit offering $80 cash assistance to pregnant women older than 18 years and who do not have more than two living children. “The benefit requires a pregnant woman to register her pregnancy at a health center, accept immunization of the mother and child and agree to exclusive breastfeeding and growth monitoring of children,” the news service writes. “One 2011 study, however, based on the latest national family health survey, indicated as many as 63 percent of poor women between ages 15 to 49 would be disqualified from the program because they had more than two children,” according to Women’s eNews. “With the scheme being piloted in four [high fertility] states, … health activists contend the government is promoting a coercive two-child policy in the name of population stabilization by offering incentives for only those women who have two children,” the news service writes, adding the program would benefit poor women who do not have access to adequate family planning or health services, income, or nutrition (Majumdar, 10/23).
U.N. Report Shows Francophone African Countries Lag Behind In AIDS Treatment; NGOs Call For Increased Funding
“Despite great progress within a short time, the 29 French-speaking countries of sub-Saharan Africa are lagging far behind other states in the region in the battle against HIV/AIDS and need a massive increase in international aid, according to a United Nations report” (.pdf) released Friday, the U.N. News Centre reports. The report — titled “Decision Point La Francophonie: No new HIV infections, no one denied treatment” and released at a meeting of the 56-member state International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF) in Kinsasha, Democratic Republic of Congo — said while antiretroviral treatment coverage in IOF countries increased rapidly between 2003 and 2011, resulting in a nearly 30 percent decline in AIDS-related deaths, “an estimated 970,000 people are still waiting to access life-saving HIV treatment in IOF countries, accounting for 14 percent of the global treatment gap,” according to the news service.
The Associated Press examines access to antiretroviral treatment in Myanmar, which “ranks among the world’s hardest places to get HIV care, and health experts warn it will take years to prop up a broken health system hobbled by decades of neglect.” The country, also known as Burma, has been hindered by decades of rule by a military junta and economic sanctions imposed by developed countries, including the U.S., the AP notes, and writes, “Of the estimated 240,000 people living with HIV [in the country], half are going without treatment.” However, “as Myanmar wows the world with its reforms, the U.S. and other nations are easing sanctions,” the news agency writes, adding, “The Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] recently urged Myanmar to apply for more assistance that would make up the shortfall and open the door for HIV drugs to reach more than 75 percent of those in need by the end of 2015,” as well as medications to fight tuberculosis (TB). The AP details one man’s efforts to obtain antiretrovirals, which are reserved for patients with CD4 cell counts below 150 cells, versus the WHO recommended 350 (Mason, 10/22).
Central African Republic Town Struggling To Provide Health Care Since Withdrawal Of Foreign Companies, VOA Reports
VOA News examines how the 2009 withdrawal of foreign diamond-mining companies from the small town of Carnot in the Central African Republic (CAR) affected the local economy and access to health care for residents. Initially, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) “ran emergency nutrition programs for the first year, but then discovered deeper health problems in the region, including a child mortality rate that is three times above what is considered an emergency level, as well as elevated rates of HIV and tuberculosis,” the news service writes.
During a meeting with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe on Tuesday, Indonesia Minister of Health Nafsiah Mboi “pledged to scale up HIV testing and treatment programs” with a “focus on 141 districts where key affected populations are the highest,” a UNAIDS feature story reports. “Indonesia also plans to become one of several countries in the region to offer universal health care by 2014,” with HIV treatment to be covered, according to the health ministry, UNAIDS notes. Sidibe said, “Indonesia is a key partner in the drive to end the AIDS epidemic. … Universal health coverage is a game changer for Indonesia. I am delighted to know that HIV treatment will be included in this national program. This sets the stage for sustainable funding of HIV programs,” the article states. “The Ministry of Health estimates that more than 600,000 people are living with HIV and that there are more than 76,000 new HIV infections each year,” according to UNAIDS, which adds, “Currently HIV treatment coverage is at less than 20 percent” (10/23).
Speaking on Monday in Luanda, Angola, at the opening session of the inaugural meeting on Medical Education, sponsored by the Faculty of Medicine of Agostinho Neto University, WHO Regional Director for Africa Luis Gomes Sambo said communicable diseases account for 63 percent of deaths in Africa, with HIV and tuberculosis (TB) responsible for the majority of those, the Angola Press reports. Nonetheless, Africa has made significant progress against HIV/AIDS and malaria, as well as in improving child and maternal mortality, he said, according to the news service (10/22). Sambo also “said on Monday in Luanda that the population’s health depends on the provision of health care for those [in] need, as well as the efforts made by the society to protect, promote and re-establish the people’s well-being,” another article from Angola Press notes (10/23).