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).
Health Workforce & Capacity
Al Jazeera examines maternal mortality worldwide, saying, “If the situation continues at its current rate, the world will not meet” the U.N. Millennium Development Goal “to reduce maternal mortality by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015.” Though the estimated number of women who die of maternal mortality has dropped from 546,000 in 1990 to 340,000 today, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying during or following pregnancy in developing countries “is still high at one in 31,” compared with one in 4,300 in developed countries, the news agency reports. “Attaining zero maternal death would require greater community involvement and commitment” and increased access to contraceptives and skilled birth attendants, according to experts, Al Jazeera notes (Arjunpuri, 3/19).
PlusNews examines the challenges and concerns surrounding Zimbabwe’s plan to conduct a door-to-door HIV testing campaign, which has not yet begun but “is already being met with skepticism by activists who feel this is not a priority for the country, especially with global HIV/AIDS funding on the decline.” National AIDS officials say the country’s “AIDS levy — a three percent tax on income — has become a promising source of funding”; in 2010, $20.5 million was collected, with most of that going to purchase antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), PlusNews notes. Of the estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV in Zimbabwe, 347,000 access ARVs through a national program, and another 600,000 people “urgently” need them, according to the news service.
“Tens of thousands of Kenyan nurses agreed Wednesday to end a two-week strike after talks with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who revoked their mass dismissal during the standoff,” Agence France-Presse reports. “‘The meeting agreed that the ongoing health workers strike should be called off immediately and all the officers return to work unconditionally,’ a statement from Odinga’s office said,” the news service notes. “The nurses stopped work on March 1 to protest the government’s failure to raise wages as agreed last year, when they also demanded improved services in Kenya’s mostly ill-equipped public hospitals,” the news service writes, adding, “The strike has crippled hospitals, with patients sometimes being sent home untreated, [with] others languishing in wards unattended” (3/14).
“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.
Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), addresses a recent New York Times article on “medical brain drain” in this CGD “Global Development: Views From The Center” blog post, saying the article’s approval of “a horrific proposal to put recruiters of health workers on trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity … is breathtakingly misguided.” He continues, “Recruiters do not ‘steal’ people. They give information to people about jobs those people are qualified for. The professional ambitions of those people have equal value to yours and mine, and those ambitions cannot be realized without information.” Clemens says “coercively blocking the unconditional right of a health worker to emigrate — such as by declaring her to be owned by a government and prosecuting her recruiter at The Hague — is a crime against humanity,” and cites several other articles he has written on the subject (3/12).
Peace Corps, PEPFAR, Global Health Service Corps Launch Public-Private Partnership To Place Medical Professionals Overseas
The Peace Corps, PEPFAR and the Global Health Service Corps on Tuesday will announce a public-private partnership program to place U.S. health workers overseas to help address medical professional shortages, CQ HealthBeat reports (Bristol, 3/12). “The Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) will address health professional shortages by investing in capacity and building support for existing medical and nursing education programs in less-developed countries,” a joint press release (.pdf) states, adding, “The new program is expected to begin in Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda in July 2013.”
About 2,000 Kenyan health workers attended a demonstration outside the Ministry of Health on Friday, the Associated Press/Seattle Times reports, noting, “Some 40,000 health workers nationwide went on strike on March 1 to protest low pay and poor working conditions.” According to the news service, “[t]he government announced Thursday that it fired 25,000 workers who defied an order to return to work” (3/9). “Anyang Nyong’o, minister for medical services, said on Thursday that the sacked workers would be required to re-apply if they are to be considered for reappointment,” MWC News notes (3/9).
“With its health-care system increasingly eclipsed by rivals, India has a plan to nearly double public spending on health over the next five years,” a goal that would “lift annual spending on health to 2.5 percent of the country’s economic output, from 1.4 percent,” the Washington Post reports. The scheme is “aimed at giving free medicine to all Indians at government facilities, setting up free ambulances in rural areas, doubling the number of trained health workers, and lifting millions of young children and women out of chronic malnutrition and preventable deaths,” the newspaper writes.