“Over 600 parliamentarians from more than 100 countries” met in Kampala, Uganda, this week for the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly, where participants discussed child and maternal health and nutrition, UNICEF reports in a news article. Speaking at the opening session, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said, “The damage [malnutrition] causes to a child’s development is irreversible. … I can’t think of any greater inequity than condemning children, while in the womb, to a loss of their ability, of their right, to live fully â€¦ to learn fully â€¦ and to realize their potential,” according to the article (Ponet, 4/5). “During a panel discussion on tackling malnutrition, Dr. Werner Schultink, the UNICEF Chief of Nutrition, urged legislators to be at the vanguard of the fight against malnutrition through application of their legislative power and influence,” Uganda’s The Observer notes (Kakaire, 4/4).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
“Nearly a third of pre-school children in Vietnam suffer from malnutrition and stunted growth, while in urban areas rates of childhood obesity are rising,” according to a report released Thursday by the country’s National Institute of Nutrition, Agence France-Presse reports. The study, based on a survey of more than 37,000 people conducted in 2009 and 2010, showed that more than three million children under the age of five, mainly in poor, rural areas of the country, “were malnourished, underweight or suffered from growth deficiencies,” according to the news agency. Conversely, “[c]hildhood obesity rates have seen a six-fold rise since 2006 and now run at up to 15 percent in wealthier urban areas including the capital Hanoi and southern Ho Chi Minh City, according to the survey,” AFP writes (4/6).
Yaws, a skin and bone disease caused by a treponematoses bacterium that can cause long-term deformities, “has recently been put on WHO’s list of 17 so-called neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)” and, along with Guinea worm, is “slated for eradication,” the Lancet reports. A “massive push to free the world from yaws failed in the 1950s and 1960s,” and the WHO in 1995 estimated “there were 2.5 million cases of endemic treponematoses (mostly yaws),” according to the Lancet. A study published in the Lancet in January showed a single dose of the antibiotic azithromycin was effective at curing the disease among children, a finding that “jump-started the NTD community into action,” the article states.
“The success in reducing the number of children born with HIV is in danger of leaving children who already have the disease with poor access to treatment, experts in HIV and AIDS have warned,” BMJ reports. “Denis Broun, executive director of UNITAID, a not-for-profit organization that purchases drugs for the treatment of HIV and AIDS and other diseases, has welcomed news that the number of new infections in children is falling,” the journal writes, adding, “But he said that because fewer children are born with the virus, drug companies would no longer have an incentive to manufacture treatments and that childhood HIV might become a neglected disease.”
“On World AIDS Day, the fact that the number of children newly infected with HIV continues to decline is welcome news to UNITAID, the international drug purchase facility hosted by the World Health Organization,” Inter Press Service reports, adding, “But UNITAID is also well aware of how much more remains to be done for children already living with the disease.” IPS correspondent Julia Kallas interviews Philippe Douste-Blazy, U.N. under-secretary-general in charge of innovative financing and chair of the UNITAID executive board, “about the progress that has been made in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV but also how the international community must continue providing childhood HIV treatments to developing countries.” The news service writes, “‘There was some progress made but there is still a lot to be done by the international community,’ Douste-Blazy told IPS regarding the fight against HIV/AIDS” (12/1).
“A UNICEF progress report [.pdf] says that more than 850,000 children are expected to have received life-saving treatment for severe acute malnutrition across nine countries in the Sahel region during the course of 2012,” according to a UNICEF press release, noting the number is “based on the more than 730,000 children under five treated at centers between January and the end of September.” The press release continues, “The report says early funding by donors such as the Swedish and Danish Governments, the European Union and USAID meant crucial supplies of ready-to-use therapeutic food were purchased in good time and pre-positioned.” Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s acting regional director, said in the press release, “In 2012 a tremendous effort meant we were able to give every child who was able to arrive at a treatment center appropriate care. But we need to get to the state where more robust systems are in place and treatment centers see far fewer children” (12/11).
IRIN examines efforts to recruit Madagascar’s traditional midwives, called “matronnes,” to “a campaign to get women to deliver in clinics or hospitals, part of a move to lower maternal and newborn death rates.” The country, which has the highest adolescent fertility rate in Africa, has a “moderately high” maternal mortality ratio, despite having “dropped from 710 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 240 per 100,000 live births in 2010,” the news service notes. IRIN describes how health centers and non-governmental organizations are working to provide better maternal and newborn health care by convincing traditional midwives to accompany women in labor to clinics, where skilled birth attendants can attend to them (12/12).
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog features two posts on maternal health in Ethiopia. In the first, Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, writes about her trip to the country to “observe Save the Children’s work with frontline health workers.” She writes, “Ethiopia, a country of 84 million and one of the world’s poorest according to the World Bank, is working diligently to save the lives of women and children; and it’s doing it with the help of an army of thousands of women.” James notes, “The Ethiopian government has trained over 38,000 health extension workers (HEWs) since 2003 — all women” (12/11). In the second post, Tesfaye Arage, a nurse in Ethiopia with Marie Stopes International, notes the WHO recently released guidelines (.pdf) on tasksharing on maternal and newborn health care, and he describes how his team in Ethiopia is implementing tasksharing methods (12/11).
“Canada’s foreign aid agency will work with Grand Challenges Canada in a bid to bring ideas for health innovation to the developing world, International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino says,” the Globe and Mail reports. “Fantino announced the partnership with the federally funded group Tuesday morning as he opened a multi-day Grand Challenges Canada meeting in Ottawa,” the newspaper notes, adding, “Fantino used his opening speech to tout Canada’s contribution to maternal and child health through its landmark Muskoka Initiative and call for new ideas that can help increase maternal and child survival.”
“British mobile phone group Vodafone and drug maker GlaxoSmithKline are joining forces on a novel project to increase childhood vaccination rates in Mozambique using text messaging,” Reuters reports. With the aim of increasing the proportion of children covered by vaccination by five to 10 percent, a one-year pilot project supported by Save the Children “will register mothers on a ministry of health database, alert them to the availability of vaccinations and allow them to schedule appointments by text,” the news agency notes. In addition, a three-year partnership between Vodafone and the GAVI Alliance, supported by the British government, will “study how health ministries across sub-Saharan Africa can use mobile technology to improve their immunization programs,” Reuters notes, adding, “Britain will match Vodafone’s contribution of technology and services with a $1.5 million cash contribution to GAVI” (12/10).