“British mobile phone group Vodafone and drug maker GlaxoSmithKline are joining forces on a novel project to increase childhood vaccination rates in Mozambique using text messaging,” Reuters reports. With the aim of increasing the proportion of children covered by vaccination by five to 10 percent, a one-year pilot project supported by Save the Children “will register mothers on a ministry of health database, alert them to the availability of vaccinations and allow them to schedule appointments by text,” the news agency notes. In addition, a three-year partnership between Vodafone and the GAVI Alliance, supported by the British government, will “study how health ministries across sub-Saharan Africa can use mobile technology to improve their immunization programs,” Reuters notes, adding, “Britain will match Vodafone’s contribution of technology and services with a $1.5 million cash contribution to GAVI” (12/10).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
“In an effort to fight the human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer, more than 30 million girls will be immunized against HPV by 2020 with GAVI support, the global health alliance announced on Thursday,” Xinhua/Global Times reports. “Rwanda and Uganda have been conducting HPV pilot projects through donations from vaccine manufacturers and are expected to roll out the vaccine nationwide with GAVI support in 2014,” the news service writes, adding, “By 2015, GAVI plans to immunize approximately one million girls with HPV vaccines and a large number of other countries are expected to run HPV pilot projects, and by 2020, more than 30 million girls will be immunized against HPV, [GAVI Alliance CEO Seth] Berkley said” (12/7).
The Lancet examines Indonesia’s efforts to reduce maternal mortality, one of the Millennium Development Goals President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has identified as a national priority. Indonesia’s risk of maternal death is one in 150, compared with one in 4,000 in developed nations, and the government has set a goal of reducing mortality to 102 for every 100,000 live births by 2015, one-quarter of the rate in 1990, according to the journal. Gita Maya Koemara Sakti, recently appointed as director of maternal health, explained the Ministry of Health “has adopted a four-step plan that starts with bolstered family planning campaigns,” the Lancet writes. Other efforts include providing free maternal health care through the national social assistance system, improving the national midwifery program, and providing more funding to rural health clinics, the journal notes. The Lancet includes quotes from other government officials and non-governmental organization representatives regarding these efforts and the challenges faced (Webster, 12/8).
The “progress and momentum” behind stopping mother-to-child HIV transmission is “reason to celebrate,” Charles Lyons, president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and Peter Twyman, CEO of Keep a Child Alive, write in The Hill’s “Congress Blog.” However, “as we set our sights on an AIDS-free generation, we must once again ensure that children currently living with HIV are not left behind,” they state. “Unfortunately, we’re not seeing the same level of progress with access to services for children who are already living with the virus,” they write and describe the challenges children and their families face in gaining access to HIV treatment and care, including stigma and fear and a lack of antiretroviral drug formulations for children.
UNFPA and mobile phone company Nokia announced this week that the “company will donate the equivalent of 3,000 clean delivery kits to the fund,” according to an UNFPA press release. “The kits, designed and distributed by UNFPA, help ensure safe delivery of babies in humanitarian settings,” and are being provided as a result of the fund’s social media campaign “Safe Birth. Even Here.,” the press release states, adding, “The campaign, which reports on and tracks safe deliveries in refugee camps and emergencies around the globe, is active on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, and aims to raise awareness about maternal health and the challenges faced by expectant mothers in crisis settings” (12/4).
Strengthen Health Systems To Integrate Polio Vaccinations Into Routine Childhood Immunizations, Save The Children Report Says
Speaking at the GAVI Partners Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, David Olayemi, senior program adviser at Save the Children in Abuja, Nigeria, said fewer than half of children in Nigeria are receiving routine immunizations for diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (DTP), and the rate is dropping, Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley reports in her “Global Health Blog.” Launching a Save the Children report that “calls on GAVI to step up efforts to reach the last 20 percent of children across the developing world who are not getting routine immunization,” Olayemi said part of the reason for the lack of coverage are large efforts to vaccinate children against polio, which offer incentives to health care workers to leave clinics to go into the field, leaving no one to perform routine immunizations, the blog notes.
IRIN examines exclusive breastfeeding practices in Kenya, writing, “The country’s push for exclusive breastfeeding appears to be working; according to the 2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, 32 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed up to the age of six months, up from just 13 percent in 2003.” Kenya hopes “a new law (.doc) banning the promotion of infant formula … will contribute to the government’s push to encourage all mothers to breastfeed exclusively for at least six months,” the news service writes. IRIN continues, “Kenya has adopted the [WHO] recommendation that HIV-positive mothers should exclusively breastfeed their infants for the first six months of life, introducing appropriate complementary foods thereafter, and continue breastfeeding for the first 24 months of life.”
Last week, the U.S. government announced up to $7.5 million in grants over the next two years to fund “implementation science projects exploring how to achieve the goal of eliminating new pediatric HIV infections while keeping mothers alive,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports (Barton, 12/5). According to a State Department press release, “Implementation science is critical to ensure that evidence-based and scalable interventions address current barriers to effective PMTCT programs. The results from successful operational and implementation science research are essential to improved program and health system performance” (11/28).
In the New York Times’ “Scientist At Work” blog, Alexander Kumar, a physician and researcher at Concordia Station in Antarctica, examines the question of “why humans should venture out to other planets, and perhaps in the process create new problems, when we have so many problems on our own planet,” including HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and other “largely preventable and treatable” conditions. Kumar, who is “investigat[ing] the possibility of one day sending humans to Mars” for the European Space Agency, says he is “repeatedly asked … why the human race would invest its precious and finite resources (money) into space exploration?” He continues, “People have presented valid arguments both ways: those against, about depriving the bottom billion of our planet by diverting much-needed funding; and those in favor, for furthering mankind’s now-desperate need for discoveries and new life-saving technology through exploration in space.
“On World AIDS Day, the fact that the number of children newly infected with HIV continues to decline is welcome news to UNITAID, the international drug purchase facility hosted by the World Health Organization,” Inter Press Service reports, adding, “But UNITAID is also well aware of how much more remains to be done for children already living with the disease.” IPS correspondent Julia Kallas interviews Philippe Douste-Blazy, U.N. under-secretary-general in charge of innovative financing and chair of the UNITAID executive board, “about the progress that has been made in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV but also how the international community must continue providing childhood HIV treatments to developing countries.” The news service writes, “‘There was some progress made but there is still a lot to be done by the international community,’ Douste-Blazy told IPS regarding the fight against HIV/AIDS” (12/1).