NPR’s “All Things Considered” on Wednesday examined how Islam influences health and family planning decisions in Pakistan, one of Asia’s fastest-growing populations. In Pakistan, mullahs generally regard contraception as sin, a high rate of illiteracy among women undermines family planning and a lack of access to adequate health care contributes to a high maternal mortality rate, according to the piece, which profiles a mufti, a physician and two families making very different decisions about the size of their families (McCarthy, 8/10).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
With 63 cases of polio diagnosed in Pakistan this year, nearly double the number recorded in the same time period 2010, the U.N. “says that these findings suggest Pakistan could be the ‘last polio reservoir worldwide’ â€“ the country standing in the way of eliminating only the second global epidemic disease after smallpox,” the Atlantic Wire reports.
Almost one-third of infants in the U.S. are delivered by caesarean section (c-section), a trend that is now growing globally, PRI’s The World/PBS NewsHour reports. “The c-section rate in Thailand has reached 34 percent, in Vietnam, it is 36 percent, and in China, nearly half of all births are by c-section,” the article states.
Despite its status as “the world’s fifth largest exporter of sugar, coffee and bananas,” Guatemala “has the highest rate of child malnutrition in Latin America,” with “half of all children under five” reportedly malnourished, Agence France-Presse reports. In a phenomenon being called “green hunger,” the failure of subsistence crops because of droughts and floods over the last few years has forced families to buy “their basic staples of corn and beans and rice from local markets,” according to the news agency, which also published an accompanying video.
“A shortage of health facilities and health workers, frequent drug shortages and a weak government policy mean HIV-positive pregnant women in Burundi often give birth without taking any precautions to prevent transmission of the virus to their children,” PlusNews reports.
“Outbreaks of measles and cholera are striking down Somali children already weakened by hunger, resulting in dozens of new fatalities,” the Guardian reports (Rice, 8/13). According to the WHO, “181 people have died from suspected cholera cases in a single hospital in Mogadishu, and there have been several other confirmed cholera outbreaks across the country,” the New York Times writes (Gettleman, 8/12). UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado “said Friday that tens of thousands of children have died and countless more are particularly at risk of cholera and other diseases because of drought and violence in East Africa,” the Associated Press/NPR notes (8/12).
The East African profiles Seth Berkley, the new CEO of the GAVI Alliance and founder and former CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. “‘In my time at GAVI, I would like to see the vision of polio eradication and measles elimination come to pass. We want all the existing childhood immunizations and new generation vaccines, including those for malaria, TB and HIV, to be available to all children that need them,’ Dr. Berkley said,” the newspaper writes (Mwangi, 8/14).
“Outside of immediate crisis relief,” such as the administration of measles vaccinations or oral rehydration therapy for children affected by diarrheal diseases, the U.S. government’s “past investments clearly are paying off” in the fight against drought and famine the Horn of Africa, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. “U.S.-supported early-warning networks identified the famine threat a year ago,” the government is working with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the U.N. to lessen the risk of corruption and looting of food aid, and “the multi-year, multi-agency Feed the Future program [is] stimulat[ing] research into making plants more nutritious and crops more drought-resistant,” he notes.
Cassandra Clifford, founder and executive director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, calls for safer birth practices in Timor-Leste in this Aid Netherlands blog post. Clifford says that unsafe traditional birth practices, “the countryâ€™s history and lack of infrastructure, especially regarding healthcare,” and “a lack of education and understanding on maternal health, safe birth practices, and family planning” are contributing to a high maternal mortality rate and health complications among newborns. She says birth spacing, the “training of midwives, [and] training [in] hygiene methods for at-home deliveries is a must to bridge the gaps to safer birth practices” (8/15).
“Ten Somali children under the age of five are dying every day of hunger-related causes in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, according to the U.N. refugee agency,” the Guardian reports (Rice, 8/16). UNHCR “said high child mortality levels had been compounded by a suspected measles outbreak at the 25,000-capacity Kobe camp,” but children are now receiving vaccinations, according to BBC News (8/16).