Instability and insecurity in some West and Central African nations are threatening the success of a 20-country polio vaccination campaign, which aims to immunize 111.1 million children against the disease, IRIN reports. Ongoing insurgent attacks threaten the campaign in Nigeria, the region’s only polio-endemic country and home to 57.7 million of the children targeted, the news service notes. Parts of Mali, Niger, and Chad also pose security problems for health care workers trying to access children in remote or disputed areas, according to IRIN. “Human error and weak health systems also play an important role in sub-optimal immunization reach,” the news service writes, noting so far, “only Ghana, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Gambia, and Togo have achieved the required 90 percent coverage, according to UNICEF” (3/23).
Inadequate Government TB Program, Lax Drug Sale Regulations Contributing To MDR-TB Cases In India, Health Groups Say
“India’s inadequate government-run tuberculosis [TB] treatment programs and a lack of regulation of the sale of drugs that fight the disease are responsible for the [increasing] number of drug-resistant cases that are difficult to treat,” health advocacy organizations said in India last week, the Associated Press/Huffington Post reports. “India adds an estimated 99,000 cases of drug-resistant TB every year, but only a tiny fraction of those infected receive the proper” six- to nine-month antibiotic regimen, according to the AP. In India, government-run TB treatment programs only provide drugs to patients on alternate days, increasing the likelihood of missed doses, and patients increasingly are turning to private physicians who are unaware of how to treat the disease, Medecins Sans Frontieres in India and other health groups said, the news agency reports. “The Indian government had no response Friday to requests for comment on the activists’ allegations,” the AP writes (Naqvi, 3/23).
“Eradicating polio and improving the health of millions of children in Pakistan depend quite heavily on assuring that all children have access to life-saving vaccines,” but “[t]he most recent policy prescription from the Pakistani parliament to improve immunization coverage, however, misses the mark, and badly,” Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center, writes in this Huffington Post “World” blog post. “A draft bill being finalized in the Pakistani parliament would require compulsory vaccination of all children, and would introduce tough penalties — including fines and imprisonment — for parents of unvaccinated children,” Levine says. However, supply issues may prevent some parents from being able to vaccinate children, and the threat of punishment may force some to falsify immunization records, he notes.
Inter Press Service explores how patriarchal tradition, cultural values, low government health spending, and a lack of access to supplies and education pose challenges to women who wish to obtain family planning services in Cote d’Ivoire. In the West African country, “family planning is widely regarded as a ‘women’s issue’ that husbands do not have to concern themselves with,” therefore, “very few men use the small number of public services on offer, while women continue to struggle to realize their sexual and reproductive rights,” the news service writes. The article discusses a clinic “run by the non-governmental health organization Ivorian Association for Family Well-Being (AIBEF),” which is the “one clinic that offers family planning services free of charge” in Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital (Palitza, 3/15).
The “improvement and extension of health care in Africa is … being constrained by gaps in financing,” according to a new report (.pdf) by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) based on research commissioned by Janssen Pharmaceutica, a Belgian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, the Financial Times’ “beyondbrics” blog reports (Wheatley, 3/1). The report, titled “The Future of Healthcare in Africa,” “discusses the continent’s traditional health care issues, such as communicable diseases or financing health care in economically difficult circumstances” and “also addresses less well-known topics, such as the threat of obesity and heart disease, the use of mobile technology, development of more preventive care, and more,” according to the Janssen website (3/1). The report “identif[ies] the key trends shaping African health care systems” and uses them “to develop [five] scenarios that depict the possible health landscape on the continent in 2022,” a Janssen press release (.pdf) states (3/1).
“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).