Newly released “estimates of maternal mortality from the United Nations’ Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group (MMEIG) are good news — but not good enough,” Peter Byass, professor of global health at Umea University in Sweden and director of the Umea Centre for Global Health Research, writes in this post in the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog. He briefly discusses the pros and cons of using “estimates” for maternal mortality data, and he concludes, “There is a risk involved for every woman who gets pregnant. But the global community has the knowledge and resources to manage those risks and minimize adverse consequences. Why can’t we stop mothers dying?” (5/16).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
In this BMJ Groups Blog post, Amanda Glassman, director of Global Health Policy at the Center for Global Development, writes about the challenges the WHO faces in “[s]etting priorities and fully funding those priorities.” She defines the criteria by which the WHO could outline its priorities, including by identifying “global” and “shared” concerns and adequately funding and staffing priority areas. Glassman concludes, “There is tentative movement towards limiting the number of new resolutions based on ‘an assessment of their strategic value, financial and administrative implications, and reporting requirements and timelines.’ That sounds very good, and would inspire more confidence if the assessment were rigorous and transparent to member states and the public. Still, the reform seems to have punted on the WHO’s priority-setting problem” (5/17).
The Huffington Post is running “a series of blogs by leading NGOs to call attention to a range of issues that should be raised at the G8 summit at Camp David in rural Maryland from May 18-19,” according to the news service. The following summarizes some of the posts published this week.
Maternal Deaths Drop By Nearly Half Worldwide Over 20 Years; Greater Progress Still Needed, U.N. Reports
“The number of women dying of pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications has almost halved in 20 years, according to new estimates released [on Wednesday] by the United Nations, which stressed that greater progress is still needed in significantly reducing maternal deaths,” the U.N. News Centre reports (5/16). “The report, ‘Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010,’ shows that from 1990 to 2010, the annual number of maternal deaths dropped from more than 543,000 to 287,000 — a decline of 47 percent,” a UNFPA press release states (5/16). However, “[w]hile substantial progress has been achieved in almost all regions, many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, will fail to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing maternal death by 75 percent through 2015,” Inter Press Service writes (Deen, 5/16). “Countries in Eastern Asia have made [the] most progress on improving the health of expectant and new mothers, said the report,” Agence France-Presse adds (5/16).
“[N]early more than 170 million children under age five suffer from undernutrition, a hidden crisis that robs them — and their countries — of a healthy and prosperous future,” Cat Cora, chef and founder of Chefs for Humanity, writes in an opinion piece on the Feed the Future website. “It’s critical to tackle this problem, placing a particular emphasis on the first 1,000 days from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday, as this is the time to ensure healthy growth and development,” she continues, adding, “I’m thrilled that fighting hunger and poverty remain high on the G8 agenda” (5/18).
Inter Press Service reports on the Fifth International Parliamentarians’ Conference on the Implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) program of action, taking place May 24-25 in Istanbul, Turkey. According to the news service, about 300 parliamentarians from six continents will meet to “discuss ‘the progress the world’s governments are making in their efforts to protect and empower women in their reproductive health and rights: a promise they made at the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994 in Cairo,’ says the European Parliamentary Forum (EPF), which is co-organizing the event.”
“U.N. aid agencies are under attack from doctors working with refugees who have been displaced by fighting in Sudan, with claims that they are not doing enough to get medical supplies through to children in desperate need,” the Guardian’s “The Observer” reports. According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, some doctors working in the area say that UNICEF-provided supplies of vaccines against childhood diseases “dried up nearly a year ago in areas of conflict around the Nuba mountains,” the newspaper writes.
“As representatives of the World Health Organization Member States arrive in Geneva this week for the 65th World Health Assembly, I feel a cautious optimism about the future, and the future health of Africa,” Joy Phumaphi, co-chair of the Aspen Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, writes in this post in the Huffington Post Blog. “With two female heads of state in Africa – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia and Joyce Banda in Malawi – women’s health and gender equality are no longer marginalized, they have become central to a nation’s potential for development and prosperity,” she continues, adding the two “share a vision and passionate resolve to improve the lives of women in Africa — and like me they are founding members of the Aspen Institute’s Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health.”
Christy Turlington Burns, maternal health advocate and founder of Every Mother Counts, notes in this GlobalPost “Global Pulse” opinion piece that “99 percent of women who die during or after childbirth live in the developing world,” and women and girls ages 19 and younger are at a higher risk of maternal mortality and morbidity. But “[w]e know what many of the solutions are,” she says, including “access to health care, inexpensive drugs that stop post-partum hemorrhaging, a scale-up of community health workers, and reproductive health so that pregnancies can be spaced,” as well as education.
“Despite many gains in the fight against AIDS, children still lag far behind adults in access to important medical services, including HIV prevention, care, and treatment,” Jen Pollakusky, communications analyst at USAID’s Bureau of Global Health Office of HIV/AIDS, writes in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” noting that Monday marked the 10th anniversary of World AIDS Orphan Day. “By partnering with national governments, communities, and other organizations, USAID is committed to improving the lives of children orphaned and made vulnerable by AIDS — a critical step in the path to achieving an AIDS-free generation,” she writes, adding “we need to step-up our early intervention efforts for children under five years old” and “work with families to help them become more economically stable so they can access essential services and better provide for their children” (5/7).