Highlighting a recent report by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine about the use of the drug misoprostol to prevent postpartum hemorrhage and the WHO’s inclusion of the drug on its Essential Medicine List, Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in this post in her “Global Health Blog,” “Seldom has there been a drug that has excited as much controversy as misoprostol.” She continues, “Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, which is why it can stop postpartum hemorrhage, the cause of around a quarter of maternal deaths,” but “there has been a huge fight over whether and how well it works, which in some quarters has been ideologically motivated, because misoprostol can also bring about an abortion.”
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
On the 20th anniversary of World Breastfeeding Week, which begins Wednesday, “UNICEF says strong national policies supporting breastfeeding could prevent the deaths of around one million children under five in the developing world each year,” a UNICEF press release states (8/1). Launched by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and commemorated every year from August 1 to 7 in more than 170 countries, the week aims “to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world,” according to a WHO media note (8/1). This year’s theme is “Let’s celebrate the World Breastfeeding Week Successfully, understanding the past, planning the future,” the Himalayan reports (8/1). USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP) blog notes the Kenya Division of Nutrition, with technical assistance from MCHIP, “developed a Facebook page to provide educational and event information surrounding WBW” and to highlight a different theme each day of the week (7/30).
Access To Quality Health Care, Political Will Essential For Continued Progress In Reducing Maternal Mortality
In this Daily Beast opinion piece, Sarah Brown, an adjunct professor at the Institute for Global Health Innovations at Imperial College in London and global patron of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, and Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, head of obstetrics and gynecology and deputy head of clinical sciences at St. George’s University of London, highlight the Global Health Policy Summit scheduled to take place in London on Wednesday. Led by Ara Darzi, former U.K. heath minister and chair of the World Economic Forum’s global health group, “this event is driving a new, dedicated approach to find radical answers and new collaborations,” they write, noting, “Our particular stake in the summit is the maternal health session that is specifically taking on an assessment of lessons learned and the next critical steps to take in order to reduce maternal mortality.”
“For nearly two years, not a single child with HIV has been born at the public hospital in the Cite-Verte district of Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon,” Inter Press Service reports, adding, “Emilien Fouda, the hospital’s director, says this proud record is the result of combined effort by his staff and community support groups.” The news service discusses efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission at the hospital, highlighting a program run by a community group called the No Limit for Women Project (NOLFOWOP). “‘The [program] includes awareness-raising, voluntary — and confidential — screening for HIV, testing for other sexually transmitted infections, and birthing practices that minimize the risk of HIV transmission,’ Fouda told IPS,” the news service writes. However, IPS notes, “Community support groups like NOLFOWOP are only present at some of the country’s hospitals, and not all public health centers systematically test women giving birth for HIV” (Nzouankeu, 8/3).
“The United Nations has urged the Philippines to pass a bill that will allow the government to provide free contraceptives,” BBC News reports (8/5). “UNFPA country coordinator Ugochi Florence Daniels said the [reproductive health (RH)] bill is important for the Philippines to achieve its health-related targets in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” including maternal health, HIV/AIDS and infant mortality, the Philippine Star writes (Crisostomo, 8/4). “The House of Representatives plans to decide Tuesday whether to end debate on the bill and put it to a vote,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times notes (Gomez, 8/5).
Inter Press Service reports on the successful efforts of Tanzania’s Kigoma Region “to train assistant medical officers to conduct life-saving c-sections at its rural health centers,” allowing pregnant women with complications to deliver at more local facilities instead of having to travel to regional or district hospitals. Tanzania’s maternal mortality rate is high, at 578 deaths for every 100,000 live births, IPS notes. “[A]t one point the Kigoma Region had the highest rate in the country, at 933 per 100,000 live births in the early 1980s,” but “maternal mortality in this region [now] is considered to be lower than in the rest of the country,” according to the news service.
As part of its monthly series Stories Behind the Statistics, “guest edited by FHI 360 on behalf of USAID’S IYWG, which provides technical leadership to improve the reproductive and sexual health of young people,” the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog features a story by Gaj Bahadur Gurung, program coordinator for the National Federation of Women Living with HIV and AIDS in Nepal, who discusses the impact of adolescent pregnancy on girls and young women in South Asia. He writes, “Policies and programs must both help prevent early and unintended pregnancy (for married and unmarried women) and mitigate the negative consequences for girls who do become pregnant. Programs should provide young women access to, control over, and informed choice of their sexual and maternal health services” (8/3).
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday reported that nearly 170 people have died, 400 people are missing, and more than 84,000 people are homeless because of severe flooding in the country, the Guardian reports, noting that the World Food Programme (WFP) “announced on Friday the details of its first batch of emergency food aid to the country, although it did not state when it would arrive” (8/4). “WFP said it would send emergency assistance comprising ‘an initial ration of 400 grams of maize per day for 14 days,'” Reuters notes, adding the statement said a recent U.N. mission to North Korea found significant damage to crop fields.
“For the first time researchers have discovered a link between overweight and obese mothers in sub-Saharan Africa and infant mortality,” Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gate’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, adding, “In a study published in The Lancet this month, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine show a definitive correlation between maternal obesity and the prevalence of neonatal deaths (infants who die in the first 28 days of life) especially before two days of age.” She continues, “Now that there is growing maternal obesity in sub-Saharan Africa — albeit slow — this poses a stark contrast to the traditional indicators of neonatal deaths such as underweight mothers and lack of access to health services and trained health workers for pregnancy and delivery in developing countries” (8/24).
BBC News reports on a $15 million college in northern Nigeria’s Jigawa state that is working to train nurses and midwives. The first class of the three-year program is expected to graduate in September, and “[t]he hope is these new nurses and midwives will stay in Jigawa’s villages once their training is complete, rather than drifting to towns and cities where the work is usually better paid,” BBC notes, adding, “The college represents a start in addressing what has been a gaping lack of resources.” Four years ago, there were 14 midwives trying to serve “the state’s population of 4.5 million people” and “cover more than 600 small health centers,” BBC continues. However, a British-funded project called Paths 2, which aims “to reduce the state’s high level of preventable deaths among pregnant women,” has helped facilitate the creation of training programs for local health care workers, the news service notes (Dreaper, 8/2).