“The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said Nigeria was not on track in the effort to eradicate wild polio virus before the end of December this year,” Leadership/AllAfrica.com reports. Speaking at the 24th Expert Review Committee (ERC) Meeting on Polio Eradication in Abuja, Bruce Aylward, WHO assistant director-general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration, said Nigeria had the tools and capacity to turn back the increasing number of polio cases that pose a “real and growing danger to international public health,” the news service notes. Aylward “recommended eight major steps for polio eradication for the country, including the implementation of the new house-based micro planning and monitoring method,” refresher training for all personnel to emphasize the emergency status declared by the WHO, and the identification and immunization of missed children and those in insecure areas, among others, according to the news service. ERC Chair Tomori Oyewale “called on Nigerians to change their attitude to polio eradication to ensure the success of the fight against the virus,” the news service writes (9/11).
Health Workforce & Capacity
Ugandan Parliamentarians Threaten To Hold Up National Budget Unless More Funding Committed To Health Care
In Uganda, where “there are fewer than two health workers for every 1,000 people — a level the World Health Organization defines as a severe shortage” — the nation’s parliamentary “social services committee, which has initial oversight of the country’s health budget, pushed a resolution through parliament last week threatening to hold up approval of the entire budget unless funding to recruit and retain new health workers is increased,” VOA News reports. “Committee members, with support from the Women’s Parliamentary Association, called for a specific increase of at least $103 million to the sector,” the news service notes. “In addition to the funding increase, the parliamentarians are calling for an end to a wage freeze for current employees and a ban on recruiting new health workers,” as well as “demanding a supplementary pool of money to improve health care in communities that are particularly short staffed,” according to the news service.
“International relief officials reported an increasingly grim aid crisis stemming from the Syria conflict on Tuesday, with two million people there not getting desperately needed help, and a sudden acceleration of refugees overwhelming the ability of neighboring countries to absorb them,” the New York Times reports. “In the province of Homs, so many doctors have fled that only three surgeons remained to serve a population of two million, the officials said,” according to the newspaper. “The World Health Organization said that a United Nations mission to Homs last week had found that more than half a million people needed aid, including health care, food and water,” it writes, adding, “The mission found that the biggest hospital in Homs had been destroyed, and that only six of the 12 public hospitals and eight of the 32 private hospitals were still functional.” The newspaper notes, “At the United Nations, the head of UNICEF and the European Union’s top relief official said that only about one-third of the three million people in Syria who needed help were getting any, and that combatants on both sides would be held responsible for respecting international law protecting civilians during war” (Cumming-Bruce/MacFarquhar, 9/11).
“As many as 200 million children across the world fail to reach their full potential because their early brain development is held back by poverty, disease and malnutrition, global health experts said on Thursday,” Reuters reports (Kelland, 9/13). The Canadian government-funded Grand Challenges Canada on Thursday “announced $11.8 million CAD [$12 million] in funding over two years for 11 bold ideas from innovators in the developing world, to address health conditions causing diminished cognitive potential and stunting,” according to a Grand Challenges Canada press release (9/13). The projects, which will be implemented in developing countries such as Thailand, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Colombia, “include plans to encourage so-called ‘kangaroo mother care,’ where low-weight newborns are held skin to skin rather than put into incubators, and ways of combating maternal depression to boost interaction between mothers and babies,” Reuters notes (9/13).
“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.”
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Thursday hosted a panel discussion focusing on the policy implications of findings published by the Lancet in a special series on HIV/AIDS and men who have sex with men (MSM), the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports (Barton, 9/7). Chris Beyrer, a professor of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a contributor to the Lancet series, explained two factors are affecting the expansion of the HIV epidemic among MSM worldwide, according to Inter Press Service. First, HIV “is far more efficiently transmitted through the gut, hence leading to a far higher transmission probability in anal sex, for either a man or a woman — around 18 times more likely than through vaginal transmission,” the news service writes. Second, “because gay men can switch sexual roles in a way that is impossible among heterosexual couples — acting as both the acquisition and transmission partner — the efficiency of transmission among MSM networks appears to be far higher than previously understood,” IPS adds, noting, “These two factors, the new research suggests, account for a full 98 percent of the difference between HIV epidemics among MSM and heterosexual populations.”
“Morocco has made great strides in improving maternal health in recent years, decreasing its maternal mortality ratio by over 60 percent since 1990,” but “a wide maternal health gap” exists between women in urban and rural areas, where deliveries generally are attended by an experienced yet untrained family member, Women’s eNews reports. In 2010, according to a 2011 report from the U.N. Population Fund, the maternal mortality rate in urban areas was 73 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with 148 deaths per 100,000 live births in rural areas, the news service notes. “[W]hen a [rural] woman runs into serious trouble … access to life-saving care is a two-hour walk away, on a rough mountainous path sometimes blocked by snow,” the news service writes, adding Abdelghani Drhimeur, head of communications at the Ministry of Health in Rabat, said, “Seventy percent of mothers who die do so on the way to the hospital.” Women’s eNews examines several organizations’ efforts to educate women about sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, and technical midwifery skills (Bhatia, 9/24).
“An infant’s first moments and the twenty-eight days that follow are the most precarious, and her risk of death is never higher,” but “[s]imple and inexpensive techniques, … such as drying her, clearing her airway, keeping her warm or using a simple ventilation device to stimulate her breathing, can help,” and frontline health workers “deliver these lifesaving techniques,” Sharon D’Agostino, vice president of worldwide corporate contributions and community relations for Johnson & Johnson, and Winifred Mwebesa of Save the Children write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. They discuss the “Helping Babies Breathe” education initiative that trains health workers on skills such as resuscitation. The authors continue, “Frontline health workers are our global health heroes but, according to World Health Organization, we do not have nearly enough of them, especially in Africa, where there may be fewer than two trained doctors for every 1,000 people.”
In this post in the Public Health Institute’s (PHI) “Dialogue4Health” blog, Jeff Meer, director of PHI’s Washington-based advocacy on global health, reports on the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, launched Wednesday, which is “developing support for new investments in the global health workforce, particularly those working at the community level who are the first and often the only link to health care for millions of people.” He outlines the Coalition’s targets and quotes a number of officials indicating “that the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress are coming to adopt the same view” (1/11).
Rwanda is expanding its medical male circumcision program this year, “as the country attempts to reach its goal of medically circumcising 50 percent of men by June 2013 as part of HIV prevention efforts,” PlusNews reports. “The free male circumcision program began in October 2011, and officials at the Ministry of Health say demand is growing,” according to the news service. However, with only 15 percent of men circumcised and a shortage of qualified health care workers, “the goal is unlikely to be met unless lower cadre health workers are involved in the campaign,” PlusNews writes.