In a joint statement (.pdf), UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin and Agneta Bridges, secretary-general of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), recognize the International Day of the Midwife on May 5. “The right to health is a basic human right that every woman should enjoy. Yet, every day, almost 1,000 women die in pregnancy and childbirth â€¦ One of the main causes for these tragedies is lack of access to maternity services, including the care of midwives or others with midwifery skills at childbirth,” they write, continuing, “Urgent action is needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 on child and maternal health before the target year of 2015, and investing in human resources for health, especially midwifery, is one the soundest investments a country can make to accelerate progress” (5/4).
Health Workforce & Capacity
In this post in IntraHealth International’s “Global Health” blog, editorial manager Susanna Smith examines how health care workers operating in areas of conflict are “being used as pawns of warfare.” Smith highlights the decision by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) last month to suspend services in prisons in the Libyan city of Misrata due to reports of torture and notes, “[MSF] General Director Christopher Stokes called the situation an obstruction and exploitation of the organization’s work.” Smith cites a Center for Strategic and International Studies report released last week “calling for ‘the mere handwringing that has largely greeted attack on the health care in the past’ to ‘be replaced by concerted international action and a system on documentation, protection, and accountability,'” and concludes, “The international community owes at least this much to these health workers, who give so much and put themselves at risk to care for others” (2/2).
“Decades of war, neglect, and lack of development have left South Sudan with nine out of 10 of th[e] key neglected tropical diseases [NTDs] — all but Chagas disease, which is endemic to South America,” and health workers in the new nation are hoping that the recent formation of a large public-private partnership to combat the diseases “will finally help to have an impact on South Sudan’s appalling health indicators,” IRIN reports. With only one in four people in South Sudan able to access health care, people “seek other explanations for diseases such as sleeping sickness, as they are liable to blame its symptoms on witchcraft and only seek medical attention as a last resort,” the news service writes. The nation has the highest incidence of guinea worm disease and the third-highest incidence of sleeping sickness, according to IRIN (2/23).
Indian Authorities Vaccinate Children Crossing India-Pakistan Border; Distrust Of Polio Vaccines Grows In Pakistan
After going a year without recording a polio case, Indian health officials have begun vaccinating young children who cross the border to or from Pakistan at the Munabao railway station in Rajasthan state, BBC News reports. “The drive was launched after more than 175 cases of polio were reported in Pakistan, officials said,” the news agency writes (2/16).
In this Global Health and Diplomacy opinion piece, Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete examines efforts to meet Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets on maternal and child mortality in Africa, noting, “Although Africa has just 12 percent of the global population, it accounts for half of all maternal deaths and half the deaths of children under five.” He writes, “Though global maternal deaths are in decline and women’s health has at last become a global priority, our goal of reducing maternal mortality by 75 percent in 2015 is still a long way off. … It is unacceptable to allow mothers and children to die when we have the knowledge and resources to save them.”
This post in the UHC Forward blog describes the second meeting of the Universal Health Coverage Roundtable Series, “Toward Sustainable Universal Health Coverage,” which was hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City on February 9. The panelists “examined the possibilities, challenges, and paths toward achieving Universal Health Coverage in different resource settings by exploring the methods for expanding and supporting coverage worldwide” and discussed issues such as how to define UHC, the importance of quality in health care, improving cost-effectiveness, and how to increase utilization of existing services, according to the blog (Wellington, 2/20).
PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog features an interview with Barbara Pierce Bush about her founding of and work with the Global Health Corps. PSI President and CEO Karl Hofmann speaks with Bush, who discusses how young people can make a difference in global health (2/9).
The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” examines how the government of Benin “is making headway in attempts to reduce deaths from malaria” by cracking down on counterfeit treatments, offering malaria treatment free-of-charge in public clinics and hospitals, and creating “an army of ordinary citizens in the battle against preventable diseases like malaria.” The article describes a UNICEF-supported program that trains and employs local residents as community health extension workers, who often serve as the front line in providing treatment for malaria or maternal and child health care (Smith, 2/10).
The medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Thursday said the conditions for hundreds of thousands of refugees living in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp are worsening and people there “are experiencing a ‘humanitarian emergency’ because of the scaling back of aid work,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (2/16). MSF “said the health of refugees at the complex is deteriorating, with recent outbreaks of measles, cholera and acute diarrhea,” and said an estimated one in 12 children is malnourished, VOA News writes. “Most of the refugees at Dadaab are Somalis who fled last year’s severe drought or Somalia’s chronic conflict,” the news agency notes. MSF “called on the Kenyan government, international aid groups, and the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to provide ‘continuous support’ to the Dadaab camp, saying thousands of refugees are relying on their support,” according to the news agency (2/16).
“A typhoid outbreak that began in Harare last year is steadily spreading across Zimbabwe with more than 3,000 cases reported although only one death due to the disease has been reported so far, health officials have said,” ZimOnline reports (Marimudza, 2/29). “We have reported 203 new typhoid cases this week only … So we actually have an outbreak that is raging,” Ministry of Health Epidemiology and Disease Control Director Portia Manangazira told VOA News, according to the news service (Gonda/Chifera, 2/28). Speaking to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Welfare on Tuesday, Manangazira “said the ministry did not have adequate supply of drugs for patients,” NewsDay notes (Chidavaenzi, 2/29).