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).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
Some Public Health Advocates Disagree With Indian Government’s Decision To Roll Out Pentavalent Vaccines, IPS Reports
“Ignoring widespread concern over the safety, efficacy and cost of pentavalent vaccines” — which provide protection against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) — “India’s central health ministry has, this month, approved inclusion of the prophylactic cocktail in the universal immunization program in seven of its provinces,” Inter Press Service reports. Pentavalent vaccines have “had a history of causing adverse reactions and deaths in India’s neighboring countries like Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan,” the news service writes, noting that India’s National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) in 2010 “recommended limited introduction of pentavalents in southern Kerala and Tamil Nadu and evaluation of results over a year before extension to other states.” Despite this recommendation and outstanding public interest litigation, the government on April 16 announced the vaccines would be introduced in five additional states, IPS reports.
Caesarean Delivery Provides Cost-Effective Measure To Improve Health In Developing World, Study Shows
“A new study suggests that at least one surgical procedure, caesarean delivery, is a highly effective way of improving health at a reasonable cost in developing countries,” VOA News reports (Chimes, 4/27). “In 2011, pregnancy-related complications resulted in an estimated 273,500 maternal deaths globally, or close to 775 deaths per day,” according to the study, which notes, “Ninety-nine percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries” (Alkire et al., 4/25). “One of the most common” causes of maternal deaths “is obstructed labor, where the fetus cannot move down the birth canal,” VOA writes. Harvard Medical School researcher Blake Alkire “notes that deaths from obstructed labor are virtually unknown in wealthier countries,” where women “almost always have the option of a caesarean birth,” according to the news service.
Youth Facing Greater Health Risks Today Than In Past; Those In Developing World Face Increasing Challenges, Lancet Series Suggests
“Young people today face greater risks to their physical and mental health than generations past, new research has found, with adolescents in the developing world rapidly acquiring the unhealthy habits of their wealthier counterparts,” the Financial Times reports. A series of studies published on Wednesday in the Lancet “present a general portrait of increasing hazard due to drug and alcohol abuse, unprotected sex, violence and inadequate employment opportunities,” the newspaper writes (Rowland, 4/25). Decreasing child mortality rates have led “to the largest generation of adolescents in history: 1.2 billion to be exact,” CNN’s “The Chart” blog notes, adding, “As many of those teens face poverty, natural disasters and wars in addition to overwhelming physical and emotional changes, researchers worry about the lack of available health resources” (4/24).
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday during travel to India met with Indian Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nazi Azad and “commend[ed] the country’s progress on health,” its “continued efforts towards achieving universal health coverage,” and its “commitment to the Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health,” highlighting “its innovative programs in this area” and “the need to do more to promote the well-being of women and children,” the U.N. News Centre reports (4/26). Recognizing the “work still to be done to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, Ban said he would like to showcase India’s experiences and best practices in dealing with maternal and child health issues for others to follow,” according to the IANS/Daily News. Ban also “said [U.N.] member nations … are ready to help India in dealing with polio, malaria, tetanus, measles and HIV transmission-related mortality,” the news service notes (4/26).
In a Huffington Post Blog opinion piece, Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC), describes watching the suffering of an infant with severe pneumonia and his parents while in Ghana on Thursday, writing that the experience was “a personal reminder as to why our work to prevent disease is so perilous, and why disease control so promising in Africa.” Noting that last year in Ghana, “approximately 50,000 young children — nearly seven out of every 100 — died before their fifth birthday,” Levine adds, “I also saw the promise of prevention in Ghana,” with the launch of an immunization campaign to provide both pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. With support from the GAVI Alliance, Ghana is the first country in Africa to introduce two new vaccines against pneumonia and diarrhea at the same time,” he notes.
Lack Of Awareness, Cultural Beliefs, Transport Challenges Leading To High Number Of Maternal Deaths In Ethiopia, Officials Say
“A lack of awareness of the importance of skilled hospital deliveries in Ethiopia, cultural beliefs, and transport challenges in rural areas are causing a high number of deaths during childbirth,” officials say, according to IRIN. “Only 10 percent of deliveries take place within health facilities, according to Ethiopia’s latest (April) Demographic Health Survey results,” the news service writes, adding, “Nevertheless, the figure is a significant improvement on six percent in the previous 2005 survey.”
“[S]tarting this week, Ghana will vaccinate the first babies in a new campaign against rotavirus — a cause of severe diarrhea — and pneumococcal disease, which causes pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis,” Reuters reports. The GAVI Alliance is supporting Ghana’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation in launching the campaign, the news service notes, adding, “While the immediate benefits of vaccinating children against these killers are clear in terms of saving lives and reducing disease, Ghana is also looking at long-term pay-back.”
“When it comes to promoting global health, the American people have much to celebrate and be proud of. With strong bipartisan support, the U.S. government has not only committed many billions of dollars and saved many millions of lives, it has changed the way the world approaches foreign aid,” former U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Mark Dybul writes in an opinion piece in The Hill. He highlights several U.S. initiatives, including the Millennium Challenge Corporation, PEPFAR, and the President’s Malaria Initiative, among others, “that definitively changed how the U.S. serves its global sisters and brothers,” and writes, “[T]hese solid investments in saving and lifting up lives have changed how people around the world view America and Americans.”
“For too long, there has been an unwritten rule that it can take 15 years or more before children in the poorest nations benefit from new life-saving vaccines in use in rich countries,” Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, writes in this post in the Independent’s “Notebook” blog. “But national celebrations in Ghana this week show how this shameful gap is rapidly being closed,” he continues, noting, “This week the rotavirus vaccine to protect against severe diarrhea and the pneumococcal vaccine which targets the primary cause of pneumonia — the two biggest killers of children — are being introduced” in the country, making it the first in Africa to roll these vaccines out simultaneously.