As more people move into the urban slum areas surrounding Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, basic services such as water, sanitation and health care are being stretched to capacity by “[n]ew residents [who] are increasingly pushed out to the city’s fringes,” the Guardian reports. “According to health care workers, hospitals are already unable to meet the growing demand for treatment and services,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Dhaka’s largest hospital is operating at 50 percent staff capacity and trying to accommodate 3,000 patients in a facility with just 800 beds.” In addition, “no health care facilities are provided in the slums, [so] Dhaka’s newest — and poorest — residents are facing a health care black hole,” according to the Guardian. The news service says women and girls “most often fall through the cracks,” and describes one project “that aims to bridge this gap and prevent urbanization creating a free fall in maternal and infant mortality levels” (Kelly, 9/18).
Health Workforce & Capacity
Noting that the “fifth Millennium Development Goal target for 90 percent of births in low- and middle-income countries to have a skilled birth attendant (SBA) by 2015 will not be met,” researchers from University College London estimate “that there will be between 130 and 180 million non-SBA births in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa from 2011 to 2015 (90 percent of these in rural areas)” in this BioMed Central Pregnancy & Childbirth article. They conclude, “Efforts to improve access to skilled attendance should be accompanied by interventions to improve the safety of non-attended deliveries” (1/17).
Community health workers (CHWs) “are seen to be a key part of a functioning primary health system,” especially in African nations, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes in a post on Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “This system should include a clinic within short walking distance, with supplies, a skilled birth attendant and other staff, electricity, and safe water; an ambulance for emergency transport; an emergency ‘911’ number; a policy of free care at the point of service (so as not to turn away the indigent); and trained and remunerated CHWs, taught also to treat diseases and save lives in the community,” he says.
In this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, examines the role of community health workers (CHWs), “increasingly on the frontlines of disease control in rural Africa,” in providing Africa’s rural population with access to life-saving health care. He writes, “When [my colleagues and I at the Earth Institute] began the work in the Millennium Villages in 2006, Africa’s community health workers were generally unpaid, untrained, unsupervised volunteers with no diagnostic or therapeutic capabilities. … Now the CHWs are seen to be a key part of a functioning primary health system.”
In the National Geographic News blog “Mobile Message,” “a series of posts from FrontlineSMS about how mobile phones and appropriate technologies are being used throughout the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives,” Laura Stachel, an obstetrician-gynecologist and the co-founder and executive director of WE CARE Solar, writes about the “‘Solar Suitcase,’ a portable, rugged, complete solar electric kit packed with solar panels, a charge controller, batteries, medical LED lights, phone chargers, headlamps, and a fetal monitor.” She says the suitcases improve lighting so surgeries can be performed 24 hours a day; allow nurses to contact on-call physicians in the case of emergency through a mobile phone; and, with alterations, power blood bank refrigerators (Banks, 1/12).
“Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has shut down two major medical centers in the Somali capital Mogadishu after two of its aid workers were shot dead by a former colleague last month, the international medical aid agency said on Thursday,” AlertNet reports. The closure of the two 120-bed centers, the largest of MSF’s 13 projects in Somalia, cuts in half the organization’s presence in the capital, the news service notes, adding that the centers have treated thousands of malnourished children and provided vaccinations or treatments to tens of thousands more patients since August 2011 (Migiro, 1/19).
Reuters examines cancer in Africa, writing, “Most of Africa’s around 2,000 languages have no word for cancer. The common perception in both developing and developed countries is that it’s a disease of the wealthy world, where high-fat, processed-food diets, alcohol, smoking and sedentary lifestyles fuel tumor growth.” However, according to the news service, sub-Saharan Africa will see an estimated one million new cancer cases this year — “a number predicted to double to two million a year in the next decade,” and, “[b]y 2030, according to predictions from the [WHO], 70 percent of the world’s cancer burden will be in poor countries.”
In a post on USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Jonathan Quick, president and CEO of Management Sciences for Health (MSH), discusses USAID’s “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday” campaign and several MSH programs working to improve child survival. He writes, “Expanding access to quality health care closer to the home will improve child survival in low-income countries. Training and certifying rural medicine dispensers at a national scale, and providing community-based care by community health workers, will help empower rural communities and improve the health of children in these resource-poor areas. Through these cost-effective, high-impact interventions closer to the home, we can accelerate the reduction in child mortality and save millions of lives” (5/10).
PRI’s “The World” profiles Gabon’s Albert Schweitzer Hospital, which “is struggling to achieve the goals of its founder while adapting to a new century and a different Africa.” The story recaps the hospital’s history and its board’s recent efforts to address what one board member described as locals’ “dependency” on historically European directors. However, Lachlan Forrow, a doctor at Harvard Medical School and Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the only American on the hospital’s board, recently became president of the board, and he has worked to establish “a new relationship between locals and outsiders — blacks and whites,” PRI reports. Forrow “found an experienced Gabonese hospital administrator — Antoine Nziengui –” who is now the Schweitzer Hospital director, an African “for the first time since the hospital was founded 99 years ago,” the news service writes, adding that the hospital “still faces huge obstacles: a million-dollar budget deficit, antiquated facilities, a rising burden of HIV and tuberculosis” (Baron, 5/17).
“Supplies — the essential medicines and medical equipment frontline health workers need to successfully do their jobs — are a vital part of the solution to saving the lives of mothers and newborns,” Catharine Taylor, a maternal health expert with PATH, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, adding, “And yet, they are frequently overlooked in the ongoing conversation about how to improve maternal health in the developing world.” She continues, “All the skilled health care workers in the world can’t deliver the care women need if a clinic’s stock is empty and the next round of supplies is weeks away. Reliable availability of maternal health medicines and supplies will ultimately strengthen health care systems and make frontline health workers more effective.”