Noting the recognition of International Human Rights Day on December 9, Purnima Mane, president and CEO of Pathfinder International, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, “[E]very person should be able to make decisions about her or his body,” making reproductive rights a human rights issue. “From the London Summit on Family Planning supported by Melinda Gates, where thousands gathered to commit future investments in family planning, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s strong advocacy to ensure U.S. leadership in global health that includes reproductive rights as human rights, to the work that’s happening on the ground in myriad countries around the globe to provide contraception, improve maternal health, ensure HIV prevention and treatment, and much more — progress is happening,” Mane writes, noting some of the barriers and challenges that remain in “[e]stablishing reproductive rights as human rights for all” (12/9).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
“Even with the knowledge and medicines to prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to children, there are still babies being born with HIV [in the U.S.] and around the world,” Jake Glaser, Janice McCall, and Cristina Pena — all persons living with HIV who contracted the virus through mother-to-child transmission and who work as ambassadors for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation — write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “Without early treatment, half of those children will die by their second birthday. Their journeys will end far too soon,” they continue, adding, “But it doesn’t have to be that way.”
The latest issue of PSI Impact magazine reviews “the top 10 milestones in global health in 2012” and includes exclusive authored pieces about each, Marshall Stowell, editor-in-chief of the magazine, writes in PSI’s “Impact” blog. Stowell lists the 10 issues and links to the articles, which include, among others: Gary Darmstadt and Chris Elias of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation writing about the London Summit on Family Planning; Ariel Pablos-Mendez, assistant administrator for global health at USAID, writing about the Child Survival Call to Action; U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby writing about the goal of an “AIDS-free generation”; and Anne Peniston, nutrition chief at USAID, writing about the nutrition movement (12/13).
“Despite good rains across much of the Sahel this year, 1.4 million children are expected to be malnourished — up from one million in 2012, according to the 2013 Sahel regional strategy,” IRIN reports. “The strategy, which calls on donors to provide $1.6 billion of aid for 2013, says fewer people are expected to go hungry in 2013 — 10.3 million instead of 18.7 million in 2012,” the news service writes.
“Twenty years ago this month, the first text message was sent through the airwaves,” Sharon D’Agostino, vice president for worldwide corporate contributions and community relations at Johnson & Johnson, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, adding, “Since then, text messages have been used to communicate all sorts of information. Most inspiring to me is how the technology once used to send a holiday wish is transforming the way women and families receive the information they need to be healthier — no matter where in the world they are.” She discusses several initiatives working with mobile technologies to improve health education and access, and states, “The ubiquity of the mobile phone provides the perfect method to deliver critical health information, as more than a billion women in low- and middle-income countries have access to a mobile phone” (12/20).
“[T]here [is] reason for optimism about the health of the world’s youngest,” columnist Tina Rosenberg writes in the New York Times “Opinionator” blog, noting, “A massive study published last week called the Global Burden of Disease report found that in the past 20 years, the death rate of children under five has dropped in every country in the world save three — Kuwait, Tonga and Zimbabwe.” She details some of the report findings and highlights a number of “cheap global programs” that have contributed to progress over the years, including vaccines, nutritional supplements, family planning, oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhea, and bed nets, among others.
On Wednesday, USAID, “along with representatives from seven government agencies and departments, [launched] the first-ever, whole-of-government strategic guidance on international assistance for children in adversity,” a USAID press release reports. The goal of the guidance — titled “United States Government Action Plan on Children in Adversity: A Framework for International Assistance: 2012-2017” and drafted by the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Health and Human Services, Labor, and State, USAID and the Peace Corps — “is to achieve a world where all children live and grow up within protective family care and free from deprivation, exploitation, and danger,” the press release states (12/17).
“Health programs integrating services for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV into regular maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) clinics, rather than operating PMTCT services as stand-along programs, are showing positive results in Kenya, experts say,” PlusNews reports. “Some 13,000 Kenyan children contract HIV annually; the country is among some 22 nations accounting for 90 percent of all pregnant women living with HIV,” according to the news service. PlusNews examines how “[t]he government is now moving towards the integration of HIV and other public health services, part of efforts to strengthen the overall health system,” in order to reach its goal of eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015 (12/19).
“Nigeria is one of only three countries — along with Afghanistan and Pakistan — that remains blighted by polio,” Aliko Dangote, founder and CEO of the Dangote Group and chair of the Dangote Foundation, writes in a Project Syndicate opinion piece. He notes Nigeria is “one of Africa’s most developed countries,” “the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in Africa,” home to “thriving Nigerian businesses,” and “will soon surpass South Africa to become Africaâ€™s largest economy.” However, “Nigerians cannot hope to lead Africa, economically or otherwise, while neglecting to eliminate preventable diseases like polio,” he writes.
In the New York Times’ “Scientist At Work” blog, Alexander Kumar, a physician and researcher at Concordia Station in Antarctica, examines the question of “why humans should venture out to other planets, and perhaps in the process create new problems, when we have so many problems on our own planet,” including HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and other “largely preventable and treatable” conditions. Kumar, who is “investigat[ing] the possibility of one day sending humans to Mars” for the European Space Agency, says he is “repeatedly asked … why the human race would invest its precious and finite resources (money) into space exploration?” He continues, “People have presented valid arguments both ways: those against, about depriving the bottom billion of our planet by diverting much-needed funding; and those in favor, for furthering mankind’s now-desperate need for discoveries and new life-saving technology through exploration in space.