“Since Myanmar gained independence from the British in 1948, it has been wracked by armed conflicts and fragile ceasefires with civilians and ethnic rebels,” and “[t]he health of Myanmar’s women has been one of the biggest casualties,” GlobalPost reports. Though recent news coverage has focused on political reform in the nation, “little attention has been paid to a more immediate need: affordable, decent health care,” the news service states. The “military junta that ruled the country for a half century spent very little on health care,” little international aid has come into the country, and “the government restricts where and how aid organizations can operate, blocking the delivery of medical services,” the news service writes, adding, “The result has been a health care system that in conflict areas, does not exist, and in large cities, is too expensive for ordinary people, according to experts inside Myanmar and on the Thai border.”
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
“Progress on maternal, newborn and child health, in the 75 highest-burden countries, most in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where more than 95 percent of all maternal and child deaths occur, has been laid out in a new 220-page report, ‘Building a Future for Women and Children,’ which is published by the Countdown to 2015 initiative,” a Countdown to 2015 press release reports. “Since 1990, annual maternal deaths have declined by almost one half and the deaths of young children have declined from 12 million to 7.6 million in 2010,” the press release states. It details a number of the key findings from the report and notes that the report’s release “coincides with a two-day [Child Survival Call to Action] forum to chart a course toward the end of preventable child deaths, taking place June 14-15 in Washington, D.C.” (6/13).
“The governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia will in collaboration with UNICEF convene the Child Survival Call to Action in Washington, D.C.,” a two-day event beginning Thursday, which “brings together 700 leaders and global experts to launch a sustained effort to save children’s lives,” a UNICEF press release reports. The initiative “challenges the world” to reduce child mortality to 20 per 1,000 by 2035 worldwide, the press release states, adding, “Reaching this historic target will have saved an estimated additional 45 million children’s lives between 2010 and 2035, bringing the world closer to the ultimate goal of ending preventable child deaths” (6/12).
In this post in the Huffington Post’s “World” blog, Cecilia Attias, former first lady of France and president and founder of the Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women, responds to a recent paper, published by the World Bank, which discusses significant declines in infant and under-five mortality in Kenya and across sub-Saharan Africa. She writes, “Africa’s swift economic growth has become a familiar story; but the fact that fewer children are dying than before — that people’s lives are getting better on the ground — is arguably more heartening than accounts of improvements in African industry or infrastructure or business (though the trends are probably connected).”
In this post in the Management Sciences for Health’s (MSH) “Global Health Impact” blog, Scott Kellerman, global technical lead for HIV/AIDS at MSH, discusses USAID’s “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday” campaign and recent attention to the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. He notes that U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe “have called for the elimination of pediatric HIV by 2015,” and writes, “We can move closer to the goal of eliminating pediatric HIV by 2015 by treating the mother, treating the baby, and continuing to treat the mother” (5/31).
The Nairobi-based African Institute for Development Policy on Tuesday presented a report called “Africa on the Move!” at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, VOA News reports, noting the report “says that in some African countries, political will, maternal and child health concerns as well as more and more funding are helping to develop effective family planning.” According to VOA, “Steve McDonald, the host of the event and Africa director at the Wilson Center, said partnerships between governments and religious organizations, which sometimes provide the bulk of health services in remote areas, are also crucial.”
The “groundbreaking” London Summit on Family Planning, scheduled for July 11, “aims to provide an additional 120 million women … lifesaving contraceptives, information, and services by 2020,” Gary Darmstadt, who heads the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. If that goal is reached, the health and economic benefits would be “staggering,” he says, laying out the five guiding principles to the world’s “collective efforts to revitalize family planning.” Those principles include improving “political commitment, funding, and collaboration”; promoting equal rights among women and girls; strengthening voluntary family planning programs under existing infrastructure; and holding stakeholders accountable, he writes, and concludes, “The time to come together is now. The global community has the chance to achieve transformational results that will save millions of lives” (6/28).
“Tens of thousands of people uprooted or trapped by conflict in northern Mali are going without enough food, leading to a spike in cases of children suffering from malnutrition, medical aid groups say,” AlertNet reports. “The situation in northern Mali is also being compounded by a wider food and nutrition crisis across the Sahel region of West Africa, where the United Nations estimates that 18 million people are facing hunger due to a combination of drought, failed crops, insect swarms, and high food prices,” the news service writes. “Aid workers warn that living conditions in Mali’s troubled north will worsen unless security improves, enabling better access for humanitarian groups, and donors provide more funding for relief operations,” AlertNet notes, adding that charity groups working in the region say mothers and children are being affected most by malnutrition (Fominyen, 6/28).
In a feature story, Al Jazeera examines Cuba’s national health care system, which “works — or is supposed to work — by emphasizing primary and preventative health care.” However, after subsidies from the former Soviet Union “ended and Cuba’s economy went into a tailspin, nothing was the same again,” according to the news agency, which notes the system experiences drug shortages, patients have long wait times, and some hospitals are dirty or malfunctioning. “In all fairness, in the past five years, the government has made great efforts to improve hospitals and health centers, but again, lack of resources is making the process painfully slow,” Al Jazeera writes, adding, “The system is free, but it is neither fast nor efficient for two important reasons. One is obviously the lack of financial resources, and the other — which is related to the first — is the ‘export’ of doctors, nurses and dentists in exchange for hard currency.” The feature concludes, “But for all its shortcomings, Cubans do have better access to health care than the majority of those living in many ‘developing nations,’ where public health is shockingly inadequate” (Newman, 6/18).
In this post in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, Doug Horswill, senior vice president of the Canadian resource company Teck, and Venkatesh Mannar, president of the Micronutrient Initiative, which works to eliminate vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the world’s most vulnerable populations, examine global efforts to end child deaths from diarrhea, a campaign they say “many are calling the next revolution in child survival.” “Diarrhea kills up to one million children every year,” they write, adding, “It is a terrible waste of life and untapped potential, made even more terrible by the fact that it costs less than a dollar to treat” with oral rehydration salts and zinc supplements.