The governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia, in collaboration with UNICEF, today are scheduled to launch the Child Survival Call to Action in Washington, D.C., a two-day event that brings together world leaders, public health experts, child health advocates and others in an effort to reduce child mortality to 20 per 1,000 by 2035 worldwide, with the ultimate goal of ending preventable child deaths. The following summarizes several opinion pieces and blog posts addressing the effort.
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
“Deaths of mothers giving birth in developing countries have dropped by nearly half since 1990, while deaths of children under five have fallen from 12 million to 7.6 million, according to a new report released Wednesday by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF),” the Los Angeles Times reports. “A few countries have made ‘spectacular progress’ toward lowering death rates, but some others have made virtually no progress at all, according to the report, ‘Building a Future for Women and Children,’ which was published under the auspices of the Countdown to 2015 Initiative,” the newspaper writes (Maugh, 6/13). “The report assesses the progress that the 75 highest-burden countries are making towards achieving U.N. Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 (MDGs),” a Countdown to 2015 press release states, noting, “These MDGs call for reducing maternal deaths by three-quarters and the deaths of children under five by two-thirds, both by 2015 compared to 1990 levels” (6/13).
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah on Wednesday spoke with GlobalPost’s John Donnelly about the Child Survival Call to Action, a two-day high-level meeting convened by the governments of Ethiopia, India, and the U.S., in collaboration with UNICEF, according to a post in GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog (Donnelly, 6/13). “The Call to Action challenges the world to reduce child mortality to 20 or fewer child deaths per 1,000 live births in every country by 2035,” a UNICEF press release notes, adding, “Reaching this historic target will save an additional 45 million children’s lives by 2035, bringing the world closer to the ultimate goal of ending preventable child deaths” (6/14).
Ugandan Civil Organizations Ask Supreme Court To Declare Death During Childbirth Violates Women's Rights
In an effort to lower the maternal mortality rate in Uganda, activists from more than 50 civil service organizations on Tuesday asked the country’s Supreme Court “to declare that women’s rights are violated when they die in childbirth,” which could help make the government put more resources toward maternal health care and lower the rate of maternal deaths, currently about 100 per week, the Associated Press/Fox News reports. “All we want is a declaration that when women die during childbirth it is a violation of their rights,” Noor Musisi of the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development in Kampala said, according to the news agency.
With “the highest level of chronic malnutrition after Afghanistan, affecting 60 percent of under fives,” Yemen is facing levels of acute malnutrition that are equal to or worse than those in Africa’s Horn or Sahel, UNICEF’s Yemen representative Geert Cappelaere said on Friday in London, AlertNet reports. “If you don’t do anything about these incredible high levels of malnutrition, in the short term you may have more and more children dying. In the long term, the cost of inaction for a country like Yemen may be up to $1.5 billion a year,” he said. According to AlertNet, “The figure comes from a World Bank estimate that the cost of failing to address malnutrition could be 2-3 percent of a country’s GDP.” Cappelaere “said that in some areas it had almost nothing to do with access to food, but rather to lack of access to drinking water or sanitation. He said bringing down malnutrition levels would require integrated investment in water, sanitation, nutrition, education, and health,” the news service writes (Batha, 6/15).
“Last week in Washington, D.C., a coalition of global leaders and international organizations launched the Child Survival Call to Action in an effort to drive down the risk of preventable child deaths to roughly equivalent levels in all countries by 2035,” Victoria Fan, a research fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), writes in this post in the center’s “Global Health Policy” blog. “[I]t’s a (relatively) old agenda in global health, arguably dating back to the time of UNICEF’s third Executive Director James Grant (1980-1995) who pushed to recognize the ‘global silent emergency’ and to reduce preventable child deaths,” she writes, concluding, “For this agenda to survive, the world will need not only renewed commitment on old things (to save new people, no less!), [but] we’ll need unified strategies buttressed by new financial resources, not unlike on the response previously driven in fighting AIDS” (6/19).
In this post in PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog, Deputy Editor Tom Murphy discusses the Saving Mothers, Giving Life initiative, which “support[s] the aggressive reduction of maternal mortality in countries with the highest mortality rates.” He notes that the “founding partners include the U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI), Merck for Mothers, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), Every Mother Counts (EMC), and the Government of Norway,” and that they have pledged $200 million over five years. Murphy outlines the objectives of the initiative and highlights some of the comments made at its launch last week during the Child Survival Call to Action summit (6/19).
“USAID promotes Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy as a vital family planning intervention that helps ensure that pregnancies occur at the healthiest times in a woman’s life,” Maureen Norton, healthy timing and spacing technical adviser for USAID, writes in USAID’s IMPACTblog. “A USAID analysis found that, by preventing closely spaced births, family planning could save the lives of more than 1.6 million children under five annually,” she notes. Norton outlines “three key programmatic actions to strengthen family planning as an essential intervention for child survival,” including educating families on pregnancy timing, expanding the type of available contraceptives, and enacting “policies to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend.” She concludes, “Increasing access to family planning is essential to help women … and their children survive and stay healthy” (6/19).
Family Planning Summit Offers Opportunity To Integrate Reproductive Services With HIV, Other Health Initiatives
Noting that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.K. government will co-host an international family planning summit in London in July, Gavin Yamey of the Global Health Group at the University of California, San Francisco; Craig Cohen, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive services at the University of California; and Elizabeth Bukusi, chief research officer and deputy director of research and training at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, write in a BMJ commentary, “More than 120 million women worldwide aged 15-49 years have an unmet need for family planning, which is due a renaissance after years of neglect.”
VOA News examines the South African government’s decision in September 2011 to stop providing a free six-month supply of infant formula to mothers with HIV and have “its health facilities … encourage the women to exclusively breastfeed for at least the first six months of their babies’ lives.” Though some criticized Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi for implementing the policy, “doctors at a hospital in an isolated part of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province praised the minister’s action as brave and visionary and said it would ultimately result in many lives being saved,” the news agency writes. The article profiles the experience of doctors at Zithulele Hospital in Oliver Tambo District, which has followed the exclusive breastfeeding policy since 2006 and where one of every four mothers is infected with HIV; outlines why exclusive breastfeeding is preferable to mixed feeding; and discusses the challenges to implementing the policy nationwide (Taylor, 6/19).