Noting “[a]round 170 million children under the age of five are stunted” globally, actor and UNICEF ambassador Mia Farrow writes in a CNN opinion piece, “For too long, stunting has been a silent crisis — a personal tragedy for each family,” but “the suffering of some 170 million children constitutes a global catastrophe that calls for an urgent response.” Traveling with UNICEF for more than a decade, Farrow says, “Wherever there is poverty, it is the children who pay the highest price.” She continues, “At this moment, one million children throughout the Sahel region of Africa are at risk of dying.” Farrow highlights progress made in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake “caus[ed] hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries” in the country and writes, “There is more work to do, but we can see that even in challenging circumstances it is possible to work together to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable children, pregnant women, and mothers have access to food and drinkable water.” She concludes, “In the name of some 170 million children, let’s pull together and end the obscenity of hunger and stunting” (10/16).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
On the first annual International Day of the Girl Child, observed October 11, “UNICEF and partners are highlighting joint efforts to end child marriage — a fundamental human rights violation that impacts all aspects of a girl’s life,” the Times of India reports. “[A] series of events and actions are taking place throughout the world to draw attention to this critically important issue,” a UNICEF press statement says, noting, “At U.N. Headquarters in New York, Archbishop Desmond Tutu will join UNICEF, UNFPA, and U.N. Women to discuss ways governments, civil society, U.N. agencies, and the private sector can come together to accelerate a decline in the practice of child marriage” (Gohain, 10/10).
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe “on Wednesday hailed the efforts of the Republic of Congo government in the fight against HIV/AIDS in general, and particularly in the reduction of transmission from mother to child,” Xinhua reports. After meeting with Congolese Health Minister Francois Ibovi, Sidibe said, “The Republic of Congo is one of the African countries that have demonstrated that we can control this infection and that we can significantly reduce the number of new infections. It’s one of the countries that have reduced the rate of new infections by 22 percent and we believe that by 2015, we shall have between two to three percent infections by maximum, something which will be an enormous progress,” according to the news service. He said UNAIDS will support the government’s efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission and provide treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS in the country, Xinhua notes (10/11).
“Pregnancy and childbirth is still the leading cause of death for teenage girls in the poorest corners of the world, and despite all the progress in reducing maternal mortality by 47 percent, we have yet to save these young, vulnerable lives,” Sarah Brown, founding chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “One of the biggest issues to resolve is child marriage; this is rightly front and center of the first International Day of the Girl Child on October 11, 2012,” she continues, adding, “That is why the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood has joined the campaign against child marriage and is calling on its supporters to take the lead with one of their recommended actions.”
“If [Republican presidential nominee Gov.] Mitt Romney and his vice-presidential running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, were to win next month’s election, the harm to women’s reproductive rights would extend far beyond the borders of the United States,” a New York Times editorial says. In the U.S., “they would support the recriminalization of abortion with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and they would limit access to contraception and other services,” according to the editorial, which adds “they have also promised to promote policies abroad that would affect millions of women in the world’s poorest countries, where lack of access to contraception, prenatal care and competent help at childbirth often results in serious illness and thousands of deaths yearly.”
“Every child should have the opportunity to celebrate his or her fifth birthday,” but 7.6 million “kids die within the first five years of life,” a VOA editorial writes. “That is why [USAID] recently launched ‘Every Child Deserves A Fifth Birthday,’ an awareness-raising campaign leading up to the mid-June ‘Child Survival: Call to Action’ two-day conference,” the editorial states, adding, “This high-level forum, convened by the governments of the United States, India and Ethiopia, together with [UNICEF], will mobilize political, non-governmental and private actors to end preventable child deaths.”
“Each year, nearly 400,000 children are born with HIV globally, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) is a particular challenge in sub-Saharan Africa, an area characterized by weak health systems,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby writes in the State Department “DipNote” blog. “Last year PEPFAR and UNAIDS joined with other partners to launch the Global Plan, an initiative to eliminate new HIV infections among children and keep their mothers alive,” Goosby writes and reflects on a two-day mission to Nigeria with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe last week. He concludes, “Preventing new HIV infections in children is a smart investment that saves lives, and the United States is proud to partner with Nigeria and other countries in this cause” (4/30).
In this post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Chris Thomas, a health and development officer at USAID, reports on an event held on Capitol Hill on Tuesday during which “the U.S. Government celebrated remarkable country-level success in saving the lives of women during pregnancy and childbirth.” “Health ministers from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, and the head of maternal and child health from Rwanda took center stage on Capitol Hill,” where “each told a unique and personal story,” he writes, noting, “USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah keyed in on drivers of successful maternal health programs and how such efforts can be accelerated and sustained throughout the developing world” (4/27).
In a post on USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Amanda Makulec of John Snow Inc. describes the Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) initiative, which was developed “to equip birth attendants in developing countries with the skills they need to successfully resuscitate babies born without the ability to breathe on their own.” She continues, “[I]t was the power of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) model — public-private partnership on a global scale — that dramatically expanded access to newborn resuscitation in remote health facilities and communities in 34 countries within 18 months of the launch of the partnership … by leveraging the commitment, resources, and support of a diverse group of program implementers, NGOs, private sector organizations, government institutions, U.N. agencies, professional associations to enable the rapid roll out of the intervention globally” (4/30).
“The Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday theme for this week is prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT),” an e-mail alert from USAID reports, noting, “PMTCT provides HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services for the whole family and is the most effective way to create an HIV-free generation.” According to USAID, “when a mother receives antiretroviral therapy, the risk of mother-to-child transmission drops from about 40 percent to near zero.” The e-mail states, “USAID and the global community are committed to accelerating progress and scale-up of PMTCT, with the goal of eliminating new pediatric HIV infections by 2015 and improving maternal, newborn, and child survival and health in the context of HIV” (5/29).