The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog published several posts in response to the TEDxChange: “The Big Picture” presentation delivered by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, in Berlin on Thursday.
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
“Nearly a third of pre-school children in Vietnam suffer from malnutrition and stunted growth, while in urban areas rates of childhood obesity are rising,” according to a report released Thursday by the country’s National Institute of Nutrition, Agence France-Presse reports. The study, based on a survey of more than 37,000 people conducted in 2009 and 2010, showed that more than three million children under the age of five, mainly in poor, rural areas of the country, “were malnourished, underweight or suffered from growth deficiencies,” according to the news agency. Conversely, “[c]hildhood obesity rates have seen a six-fold rise since 2006 and now run at up to 15 percent in wealthier urban areas including the capital Hanoi and southern Ho Chi Minh City, according to the survey,” AFP writes (4/6).
“Over 600 parliamentarians from more than 100 countries” met in Kampala, Uganda, this week for the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly, where participants discussed child and maternal health and nutrition, UNICEF reports in a news article. Speaking at the opening session, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said, “The damage [malnutrition] causes to a child’s development is irreversible. … I can’t think of any greater inequity than condemning children, while in the womb, to a loss of their ability, of their right, to live fully â€¦ to learn fully â€¦ and to realize their potential,” according to the article (Ponet, 4/5). “During a panel discussion on tackling malnutrition, Dr. Werner Schultink, the UNICEF Chief of Nutrition, urged legislators to be at the vanguard of the fight against malnutrition through application of their legislative power and influence,” Uganda’s The Observer notes (Kakaire, 4/4).
“The GAVI Alliance has announced that it will include human papillomavirus (HPV) and combined measles-rubella vaccines in its portfolio for the first time” to help protect women from cervical cancer and children from disability or premature death, Africa Science News reports. GAVI already supports the funding of several childhood vaccines in developing countries, including the five-in-one pentavalent vaccine, yellow fever vaccine, meningitis A vaccines, and pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines, according to the news service (Mwaura, 4/5).
In this PBS NewsHour report, NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels interviews obstetrician Laura Stachel about the “solar suitcase,” a “a suitcase containing elements to produce and store solar energy,” devised by Stachel with the aim of reducing maternal mortality rates in the developing world after “witnessing the consequences of power outages in Nigeria’s health facilities.” “We estimate that 300,000 health facilities do not have reliable electricity around the world. So this is a huge problem,” Stachel said in the interview, according to the transcript. Stachel discusses her experiences in Nigeria’s health facilities, the development of the suitcase, and efforts to ramp up production to meet global demand. The news service contains a link to a related slideshow (4/4).
The Jakarta Globe examines maternal mortality in Indonesia, writing, “Indonesia may be progressing slowly and steadily toward fulfilling its targets under the Millennium Development Goals, but the issue of maternal health continues to present many challenges.” According to the newspaper, “Government statistics show that the maternal mortality rate [has] declined,” but “a report last week by health officials in Bali has highlighted a worrying reversal, with the provincial maternal mortality rate increasing from 58 per 100,000 in 2010 to 84 last year.”
According to a study published in the Lancet on Saturday, researchers from the University of Pelotas in Brazil tracking progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5 — which promote maternal and child health — “discovered that the most equitable intervention was early initiation of breast feeding, and that the attendance of a skilled person at birth proved to be the least equitable intervention,” Medical News Today reports. “The findings furthermore revealed that community-based interventions were more equally distributed in comparison with those delivered in health facilities,” MNT writes, noting that the “most inequitable countries of the evaluated interventions were Chad, Ethiopia, Laos, Nigeria, Niger and Somalia, followed by India, Madagascar and Pakistan, with the most equitable countries being Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan” (Rattue, 4/2).
UNICEF Launches Social Media Campaign To Raise Awareness Of Malnutrition Among Children In Sahel Region
UNICEF on Tuesday launched a social media campaign “to raise awareness about children in the Sahel region in northern Africa who are in urgent need of food aid,” CNN reports. UNICEF estimates that one million children in the region are at risk of starvation, and the U.N. says more than 10 million people risk severe acute malnutrition, the news agency notes. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, “the main causes of the humanitarian crisis in the region are ‘drought, chronic poverty, high food prices, displacement and conflict,'” CNN writes. The campaign also aims to raise funds for the crisis, as UNICEF reports having only $30 million of a $120 million appeal in its coffers, according to the news agency (4/3).
Melinda Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation writes in an opinion piece in Nigeria’s Vanguard, “My top priority as a co-chair of the foundation I run with my husband is making sure that all families have access to safe and effective contraception tools that empower them to make a decision about what’s best for them and their family. And that means encouraging aid donors and governments here in Nigeria and across Africa to make family planning a priority.” Improved access to modern methods of contraception and child spacing would save millions of lives, “[b]ut family planning doesn’t just save lives; it also makes life better for families and communities, becoming a key driver of economic development,” Gates continues.
A new report from Advocates for Youth “analyzes youth policies within the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), including its legislative authority, most recent five-year strategy, relevant guidance documents, and all 21 currently available PEPFAR country Partnership Frameworks” and includes “a set of recommendations for the U.S. Congress, [Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC)], and Partner Country governments, to design and implement the bold policy needed to support youth sexual and reproductive health and rights, including promotion of comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly, integrated, HIV and family planning services,” Advocates for Youth Executive Vice President Debra Hauser writes in an RH Reality Check blog post. She concludes, “In the end, it is young people who hold the key to ending this epidemic. That’s why they should be at the center, not the periphery, of our programs and policies” (4/3).