“In a move that is likely to raise the ire of HIV/AIDS activists, maternity clinics in [Harare] are conducting compulsory HIV/AIDS tests on pregnant women before they can register for delivery,” the Zimbabwean reports, adding, “Scores of pregnant women in the high-density suburb of Glen-Norah told this newspaper that they were being asked to bring their spouses [to be tested] if they wanted to register to deliver their babies.” According to the newspaper, “The Zimbabwean visited [a clinic] in Glen-Norah where workers confirmed they had turned away ‘a few’ people so they could bring their spouses for testing.”
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
UNICEF “has voiced alarm at the decline of breastfeeding across East Asia, stressing the need for mothers to understand its long-term benefits for the survival and development of their children,” Bernama reports (5/2). In Thailand, as few as five percent of all mothers breastfeed, about 10 percent of mothers breastfeed in Vietnam, and approximately 28 percent of mothers do so in China, according to the U.N. News Centre. “The low breastfeeding rates across East Asia result from economic developments that enable more women to enter the workforce, as well as ‘aggressive’ marketing of infant formula in the region, [UNICEF] added in a news release,” the news service reports.
“Most deaths of young children around the world are from mainly preventable infectious causes,” according to a study published in the Lancet on Friday, BBC News reports. A team led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at mortality figures from 2010 and “found two-thirds of the 7.6 million children who died before their fifth birthday did so due to infectious causes — and pneumonia was found to be the leading cause of death,” the news service writes. “They found child deaths had fallen by two million (26 percent) since 2000, and there have been significant reductions in leading causes of death including diarrhea and measles — as well as pneumonia,” BBC notes (5/11). However, the authors “caution the decline is not sufficient enough” to achieve the fourth Millennium Development Goal, “which seeks to reduce child mortality by two-thirds in 2015,” a Johns Hopkins press release writes (5/10).
In a post on USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Jonathan Quick, president and CEO of Management Sciences for Health (MSH), discusses USAID’s “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday” campaign and several MSH programs working to improve child survival. He writes, “Expanding access to quality health care closer to the home will improve child survival in low-income countries. Training and certifying rural medicine dispensers at a national scale, and providing community-based care by community health workers, will help empower rural communities and improve the health of children in these resource-poor areas. Through these cost-effective, high-impact interventions closer to the home, we can accelerate the reduction in child mortality and save millions of lives” (5/10).
The June/July issue of USAID’s “Frontlines” focuses on the agency’s efforts to improve child survival and its portfolio of projects in Ethiopia, according to an overview of the issue in USAID’s “IMPACTblog.” In his “Insights” column, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah writes, “Over the past decade, we’ve made tremendous strides to reduce child mortality across the world, thanks in large part to the scaled up distribution of proven interventions and new technologies that are making it easier to reach and save more children,” noting, “In Ethiopia, where families have had to contend with one of the highest rates of infant and child mortality in the world, we’ve seen a dramatic and rapid decline” (Rucker, 5/17).
Most Asian Countries Fail To Include Rotavirus Vaccine In National Immunization Programs Citing Cost As Barrier
“Most countries in Asia have yet to make the rotavirus vaccine part of their national immunization program (NIP), despite a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to do so,” IRIN reports. “Worldwide, rotavirus accounts for 37 percent of all diarrhea deaths in children under five with 95 percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries,” the news service states, noting, “There are no antibiotics or any other drug to fight the infection and since 2009 WHO has recommended the global use of the rotavirus vaccine.” Forty-one countries worldwide include rotavirus vaccine in their NIPs, but “only two countries in Asia — Philippines and Thailand — are vaccinating (or are about to) children against rotavirus,” according to IRIN. An email to IRIN from WHO’s Manila office stated, “Price continues to be an important barrier to introducing rotavirus vaccine,” the news service notes (9/7).
“No woman should die giving birth, and yet maternal mortality, despite progress, remains one of the leading causes of death among women of reproductive age in developing countries,” Mary Ellen Stanton, senior maternal health adviser for the Global Health Bureau, writes in USAID’s “IMPACTblog.” She notes, “Most of these deaths are preventable.” She highlights the Saving Mothers, Giving Life initiative, writing it “represents a unique partnership through which the United States government has enlisted significant support from key public, private and non-governmental players in the global health field with one collective purpose — to reduce maternal mortality” (9/24).
Following the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in July, “delegates left Washington with a clear focus on achieving an AIDS-free generation,” Chip Lyons, president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, writes in the Huffington Post’s “The Big Push” blog. “But in the weeks following, HIV/AIDS and global health have largely disappeared from our political dialogue,” he says, because “[n]ational attention is squarely focused on the November elections, and we haven’t seen the ‘post-conference’ bounce that these issues deserve.” He continues, “Although there was mention of support for PEPFAR and the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] at this summer’s conventions, this kind of high-level call to action was noticeably absent in Tampa and Charlotte.”
Preliminary Results Of MSF Malaria Prevention Program Suggest Malaria Drugs Prevent Disease In Healthy Children
A large-scale malaria prevention program through which medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) gave intermittent doses of anti-malaria drugs to 175,000 children in Mali and Chad suggests that “widely distributing anti-malaria drugs to healthy children in African countries can significantly reduce the number of new cases of the disease,” VOA News reports. “The [program] was launched in July and will continue through next month, a period of high transmission for malaria,” the news service notes (9/24). “Preliminary results from the program, known as seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC), show that the number of cases of simple malaria dropped by 65 percent in the intervention area in Mali, and by up to 86 percent in Chad,” according to an MSF press release, which adds, “A significant decrease in cases of severe malaria has also been recorded.”
“Morocco has made great strides in improving maternal health in recent years, decreasing its maternal mortality ratio by over 60 percent since 1990,” but “a wide maternal health gap” exists between women in urban and rural areas, where deliveries generally are attended by an experienced yet untrained family member, Women’s eNews reports. In 2010, according to a 2011 report from the U.N. Population Fund, the maternal mortality rate in urban areas was 73 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with 148 deaths per 100,000 live births in rural areas, the news service notes. “[W]hen a [rural] woman runs into serious trouble … access to life-saving care is a two-hour walk away, on a rough mountainous path sometimes blocked by snow,” the news service writes, adding Abdelghani Drhimeur, head of communications at the Ministry of Health in Rabat, said, “Seventy percent of mothers who die do so on the way to the hospital.” Women’s eNews examines several organizations’ efforts to educate women about sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, and technical midwifery skills (Bhatia, 9/24).