“In developing countries where access to health care during pregnancy can be scarce or grossly underused due to lack of education, financial costs, and proximity to health centers, women die unnecessarily from pregnancy and birth complications,” Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. However, “[i]nternational agencies and developing country governments are working in partnership to reduce maternal death rates in order to meet the goal of reducing by 75 percent the number of women who die during pregnancy, childbirth, and immediately afterwards, in the most vulnerable countries,” she writes, and highlights three projects in sub-Saharan Africa that are working to save maternal lives (8/29).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog examines a recent study that found only slightly more than 44 percent of women in the Nyanza province of Kenya deliver their infants in a health care facility, with many women citing fear of stigma and discrimination as a reason for not attending clinics for prenatal care. Janet Turan of the University of Alabama led the study, published in the August edition of PLoS Medicine, as well as a literature review showing the impact of stigma and discrimination on efforts to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, according to the blog. The researchers “conclude that efforts to address HIV-related stigma in and out of health settings are needed, if efforts targeting maternal mortality and parent to child HIV transmission are to succeed,” the blog writes (Barton, 8/29).
PM Cameron Discusses Foreign Aid, Nutrition Summit; Aid Agencies Deliver Petitions To Downing Street Calling For Government Action On Hunger
British Prime Minister David Cameron “has defended the government’s commitment to overseas aid funding at a time of recession, as he prepares to co-host a hunger summit in Downing Street on the closing day of the Olympics,” the Guardian reports. “Co-hosted with Michel Temer, the Brazilian vice-president, where the 2016 Games will take place, the event is designed to show that the Olympic family is aware of the gaping inequalities faced by competitors,” the newspaper notes, adding though the meeting is not aimed at raising funds, “[i]t is likely to set a target to reduce the number of children left stunted by malnourishment worldwide by as much as 17 million by 2016.” Cameron said on ITV1’s Daybreak program, “There are 170 million children who are malnourished. … I think most people recognize that when there are 170 million people around the world suffering from malnutrition, when there are millions of people living on less than a dollar a day, even at a tough time in Britain, we are right to meet our aid commitments,” according to the Guardian (Mulholland/Wintour, 8/10).
“Agriculture and nutrition are deeply intertwined. Not only does increasing agricultural productivity have the potential to improve rural families’ nutrition, but healthier and better-nourished farmers are more productive, earn more income, and contribute to further economic growth,” Gary Darmstadt, Sam Dryden, and Emily Piwoz of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation write in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. The authors note they “recently developed a position paper that describes why and how the agriculture and nutrition strategies of the foundation intersect, highlighting ways that we will work together in the future to make complementary investments in order to improve the lives’ and health of families in developing countries.” They conclude, “Combating undernutrition requires contributions from many sectors, including both nutrition and agriculture” (8/9).
BBC News reports on malnutrition in India, “an enduring problem Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called a ‘national shame.'” “[D]espite supposedly spending billions of rupees on poverty and food-relief programs — and during a period of sustained economic growth — the government has made only a dent in the problem,” the news service writes. “It is estimated that one in four of the world’s malnourished children is in India, more even than in sub-Saharan Africa,” according to BBC, which adds, “India has been arguing over what to do about hunger and the poverty that underpins it for years — while its farms produce ever more food.”
UNICEF Official Calls For Increased Investment In Child Mortality To Achieve MDGs; New U.N. Estimates Due Next Month
Mickey Chopra, chief health officer at UNICEF, has called for increased investment in reducing child mortality, the Guardian reports, writing Chopra “said investment now would lead to massive strides in meeting the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] of reducing maternal deaths by three-quarters (MDG4) and the deaths of children under five by two-thirds (MDG5), both by 2015.” The newspaper adds, “Since 1990, annual maternal deaths have declined by almost half and the deaths of young children have fallen from 12 million to 7.6 million in 2010,” but “many countries — especially in Africa and south Asia — are not making progress” (Tran, 8/28) “Given current trends, the child mortality goal set out by U.N. officials won’t be reached until 2038,” according to U.N. researchers, LiveScience notes.
Peruvian President Ollanta Humala on Monday said the country’s central government and regional governments would provide $1.03 million to a fund aimed at reducing child malnutrition, Andean Air Mail & Peruvian Times reports. “Humala said the government aims to lower the [child malnutrition] rate to 10 percent by 2016, from 23 percent in 2010,” according to the news service (8/28). “These funds, he said, will be used for the comprehensive care of children and pregnant or breastfeeding women, the provision of vaccines, social programs, among others,” Bernama/NNN/Andina write. According to the news services, “The announcement was made during the signing of the National Commitment to the Coordinated Fight Against Child Malnutrition, which Humala described as a ‘concrete measure which must bring together all regional governments.'” He said, “What we want to do is eradicate malnutrition. As a government, we are going to fight as hard as we can to eradicate it,” the news services report (8/29).
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice on Tuesday spoke at a reception at the U.S. Embassy in India meant “to highlight the Call to Action initiative against child mortality,” Zee News reports (8/29). Rice “[l]aud[ed] India’s role for taking on the challenge as a co-convener of the ‘Child Survival Call to Action,’ a global initiative launched jointly by the governments of United States, India and Ethiopia in collaboration with UNICEF,” the Business Standard writes (8/28). According to her remarks, Rice said, “Thanks to advances in technology, knowledge and expansion of health programs, as well as the leadership of countries such as India, today it is possible to eliminate preventable child death. India’s success in nearly stopping the transmission of polio shows what can be achieved with a program of focused and well-coordinated international cooperation” (8/28).
“[T]his Valentine’s Day, perhaps it’s time to celebrate with a gift many of the world’s women desperately want and need: reproductive health,” Robert Engelman, president of the Worldwatch Institute, writes in this Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece. Engelman provides global maternal mortality statistics and notes, “Access to family planning and other reproductive health services safeguard the lives of women and their children and promote families that are emotionally and economically healthy.”
“India is lagging in its effort to reach United Nations goals to reduce poverty and improve health and sanitation, but has shown significant progress boosting education, treating AIDS and addressing environmental concerns,” Noeleen Heyzer, executive secretary of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, said last week, the New York Times’ “India Ink” blog reports. According to an Asia Pacific Millennium Development Goal (MDG) report (.pdf) released last week, which “graded the progress of the eight millennium goals using 22 socio-economic indicators …, India has reached goals set in seven indicators out of 22 and is on track to achieve three others, but is lagging behind in 12,” the blog notes.