“Ten months after the West African country [of Cote d’Ivoire] started to emerge from a presidential election crisis during which almost all hospitals and clinics had to shut down for a good six months because they had been vandalized, looted and occupied, the new government under President Alassane Ouattara is trying to make public health care a priority,” including implementing “[a] new national health regulation, which came into effect on Mar. 1, that offers free health services to pregnant women, children under five years and people suffering from malaria,” Inter Press Service reports. “But in a country recovering from 12 years of political instability since a military coup in December 1999 that was followed by 10 years of [former President Laurent] Gbagbo’s autocratic rule, rebuilding a crumbling public health care system takes time,” IPS writes, adding, “Hospitals have been suffering from lack of skilled staff, basic equipment and technology for years.”
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) Communications Officer Kim Lufkin discusses USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah’s second annual letter in this GHTC “Breakthroughs” blog post, writing, “Shah rightly emphasizes the role of science, technology, and innovation in meeting USAID’s international health goals.” She adds, “It’s exciting to see that Shah continues, time and again, to recognize how science and innovation can overcome some of the world’s long-standing global health problems,” concluding, “It’s heartening to have a leader at USAID who is so committed to the power of research, and who continues to provide such critical leadership” (3/12).
In this Globe and Mail opinion piece, columnist Andre Picard examines the efforts of a new group, the Global Congenital Syphilis Partnership — which includes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Save The Children, the CDC, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and the WHO — to “make screening for syphilis a routine part of pregnancy care with the goal of eliminating congenital syphilis.” Picard writes, “According to the World Health Organization, some 2.1 million women with syphilis give birth every year,” and notes, “Almost 70 percent of their babies are stillborn, and many of the rest suffer from low birth weight (putting them at great risk for a host of illnesses), hearing loss, vision loss and facial deformities.”
“As Southern African policymakers gather in London this month to discuss strategies for reducing new HIV infections in children, [freelance writer] Karen McColl reports on an initiative that uses affected mothers to provide support” in this BMJ feature article. BMJ provides a brief history of how the mothers2mothers (m2m) initiative — established by obstetrician Mitch Besser and colleagues to develop a model of peer education and psychosocial support — developed, writing, “What started as a few mothers providing education and support to their peers has now evolved, 10 years on, into an international program operating on 589 sites in seven countries” and “now employs 1,457 mentor mothers” (3/12).
“With its health-care system increasingly eclipsed by rivals, India has a plan to nearly double public spending on health over the next five years,” a goal that would “lift annual spending on health to 2.5 percent of the country’s economic output, from 1.4 percent,” the Washington Post reports. The scheme is “aimed at giving free medicine to all Indians at government facilities, setting up free ambulances in rural areas, doubling the number of trained health workers, and lifting millions of young children and women out of chronic malnutrition and preventable deaths,” the newspaper writes.
PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog presents global health-related excerpts of USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah’s annual letter that was published on March 9. Shah touches on programs to improve infant and child health; water, sanitation and hygiene; malaria prevention; HIV/AIDS care; and health care in several countries, including Afghanistan, Ghana and Ethiopia, according to the blog (3/9).
A feature article in the Ugandan Observer examines a recent agreement signed by the U.S. and Ugandan governments “to drum up more support for maternal and reproductive health in Uganda.” U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI) Executive Director Lois Quam spoke at the signing, saying, “Investment in health in Uganda is one of the largest we make anywhere else in the world. Government must do more. They must put in more resources. Too many mothers die because they are giving birth to too many children. Far too many women lose their lives,” according to the Observer.
Former British PM Gordon Brown Publishes Report Examining Child Marriage, Proposes ‘Global Fund For Education’
“Child marriage is a one-way ticket to a life of poverty, illiteracy and powerlessness for girls and the international community needs to take urgent action to stop it,” according to an analysis (.pdf) published Friday by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Guardian reports. “Brown’s review, seen exclusively by the Guardian, says that the issue of child brides has been ‘conspicuous by its absence’ in the efforts to cut global poverty, bring down child and maternal death rates and get children into school, which are stated Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015,” the newspaper notes.
In a plenary presentation at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle on Wednesday, Dorothy Mbori-Ngacha of UNICEF examined the challenges to reaching the goal of an AIDS-free generation, by “eliminat[ing] 90 percent of HIV infections among children by 2015,” and “outlined the four pillars of achieving that goal,” including preventing HIV among women, preventing unintended pregnancies, preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), and supporting HIV-positive women and their families, the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” reports. She called for strengthening family planning programs in the context of PMTCT, prioritizing “pregnant women for access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or microbicides,” implementing strategies to initiate and care for women in treatment programs, and intervening early in pregnancy, according to the blog (Lubinski, 3/7).
Speaking at an event at U.N. Headquarters to commemorate International Women’s Day, which is observed annually on March 8, “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [on Wednesday] joined other senior United Nations officials … in highlighting the potential of rural women to improve the well-being of entire societies if given equal access to resources and set free from the discrimination and exploitation that hold them back,” the U.N. News Centre writes, noting this year’s theme is “Empower Rural Women — End Hunger and Poverty.” “He acknowledged that women are increasingly exercising greater influence in business, government, politics, public administration and other professions” and that “more girls are going to school and are growing up healthier and better equipped to realize their potential,” the news service writes (3/7).