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
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.”
Nature Outlook examines the fight against malaria in Uganda. “Uganda’s tragic failure to abate malaria has numerous political, geographic, economic and social factors — and illustrates the reality that it takes more than scientific breakthroughs and cheap drugs to solve this persistent menace,” according to the article. Nature describes how a primarily rural population, “[f]unding bottlenecks, inefficient procurement processes, transportation problems,” drug stock-outs, and a lack of health care workers affects access to care and treatment for malaria, as well as how aid from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the President’s Malaria Initiative, and other donors is supporting programs to build sustainable solutions to fighting the disease (Newmen, 4/25).
Though HIV prevalence in Nepal has dropped from 0.45 percent in 2005 to 0.3 percent in 2012, “[p]oor understanding of antiretroviral therapy (ART) amongst health officials, clinicians and patients in Nepal could undermine [those] gains … and threaten future progress in lowering the number of new infections,” PlusNews reports. The news service interviews several Nepalese HIV/AIDS specialists about the importance of patients’ adherence to ART, how difficult travel to clinics can inhibit patients from returning for medication refills or counseling, and how “[p]olicies that neglect the comprehensive nutritional, financial, educational, and pharmaceutical needs of people living with HIV/AIDS amount to treatment illiteracy at the policy level.” PlusNews writes, “Observers fear the positive results from national HIV efforts could be diluted if tensions over the administration of HIV programs continue, and adherence issues hamper implementation” (4/17).
Number Of People Worldwide With Dementia Expected To Triple By 2050; Caregivers Need Support, Report Says
The number of people living with dementia is expected to double to 65.7 million by 2030 and more than triple by 2050, with “the [current estimated] cost of treating and caring for those with the condition at $604 billion a year,” according to a report released Wednesday by the WHO and Alzheimer’s Disease International, Agence France-Presse reports (4/11). “Dementia affects people in all countries, with more than half (58 percent) living in low- and middle-income countries,” and “[b]y 2050, this is likely to rise to more than 70 percent,” according to a WHO press release.
The Associated Press/Huffington Post reports on how communications engineers are joining the fight against AIDS in Africa, highlighting a project in Mozambique that brings wireless printers equipped with cell phone technology to remote villages. “Getting AIDS test results from labs to remote villages once took weeks in Mozambique, with the information sent by courier along the impoverished country’s terrible roads. The delay could mean death,” the news agency writes, adding, “Now, communications engineers have adapted office printers and cell-phone technology to wirelessly and immediately relay test results.”
“In many parts of India, teenagers and housewives are now donning the garb of health volunteers and convincing pregnant women to deliver in hospitals, and not at homes,” the Times of India reports, and profiles Lata Ravikar, “one of the many ordinary women who are leading a silent revolution in urban slums and villages across the country.” The news service writes, “The invisible hand of these women” — called didis — “has already improved maternal and child health indicators, according to a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded initiative that has tracked their impact in two states,” noting, “In Maharashtra, for instance, the proportion of hospital deliveries has gone up from 78 percent to 88 percent in four years in the communities where these workers have been active.”
Legislation In Congress Is ‘Good Start’ To Raising Awareness Of, Preventing Attacks On Medical Workers
Attacks, kidnappings, and the murders of health care workers in the uprisings taking place across the Arab world violate principles held in the Geneva Conventions and international human rights treaties, Richard Sollom, deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights, writes in this Global Post opinion piece. “Recently I briefed the U.S. Congress on eight proximate causes — which I describe below — for the recent rise in such abuses across the Arab world,” he says. The eight causes include the unaccountability of military forces; medical workers have first-hand knowledge of the extent and responsible party of attacks; health care workers sometimes are viewed as “helping the enemy” and are attacked out of retribution; “perceived political activism”; “discrimination based on religious identity”; and “[o]f course error is a possible cause for violations of medical neutrality,” he notes.
“A network of global health research training institutions will increasingly focus on the rising levels of chronic diseases in developing countries, the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center announced on Wednesday,” CQ HealthBeat reports (Bristol, 4/4). NIH will award “about $20.3 million … over the next five years to support 400 early-career health scientists on nearly year-long research fellowships in 27 low- and middle-income countries,” according to a press release from the Fogarty International Center. “Program trainees will study the traditional global health problems such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and maternal and child health, and will address the chronic non-communicable diseases that cause a majority of deaths in developing countries, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” the press release states (4/4).
Health workers with Medical Teams International, a medical non-governmental organization, “say they are overwhelmed” by high demand at five health clinics in two southwestern Ugandan refugee centers, PlusNews reports. The refugees, “many of whom came from conflict-prone areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” and local residents are in need of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) prevention information, and care and treatment services, according to the news service. “Uganda suffers from a chronic shortage of health workers — less than half of the vacant health positions are filled — but the recent influx of refugees fleeing violence in neighboring DRC has put even more pressure on [the region’s] health services,” PlusNews writes. Physicians, who see 30 to 50 patients daily and often work double shifts, say gaps in the supplies of antiretroviral (ARV) and TB drugs poses concern, as does trying to follow-up with patients who may not return for visits, the news service notes (3/29).