IRIN examines how the WHO’s recent declaration that the MenAfriVac meningitis A vaccine can be transported or stored for up to four days without refrigeration will affect immunization campaigns in Africa’s meningitis belt, which runs from Senegal to Ethiopia. “As a result, very remote populations will access the vaccine more easily, the logistics of vaccine campaigns will be simpler, and vaccine campaign costs will drop both for partners and for national governments, said Michel Zaffran, coordinator of WHO’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), and Marie-Pierre Preziosi, director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project, a partnership between international NGO PATH and WHO,” IRIN writes. Zaffran said, “I am quite confident that within the next year or two, we’ll have one or two more [vaccines] re-licensed in this way,” according to the news service. “Analysis on the heat stability of hepatitis B and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines is under way; next on the list are yellow fever, rotavirus and pneumococcal disease,” IRIN notes (11/20).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
UNAIDS’ new World AIDS Day report: Results, released on Tuesday, “shows that unprecedented acceleration in the AIDS response is producing results for people,” according to a UNAIDS press release. Between 2001 and 2011, “a more than 50 percent reduction in the rate of new HIV infections has been achieved across 25 low- and middle-income countries — more than half in Africa, the region most affected by HIV,” the press release states, adding, “In addition to welcome results in HIV prevention, sub-Saharan Africa has reduced AIDS-related deaths by one third in the last six years and increased the number of people on antiretroviral treatment by 59 percent in the last two years alone.” According to the press release, “The area where perhaps most progress is being made is in reducing new HIV infections in children,” and the number of AIDS-related deaths has dropped because of increased access to antiretroviral treatment.
Emergency Obstetric Care Reduced Maternal Mortality Rates Up To 74% In Two African Projects, MSF Reports
According to a new briefing paper (.pdf) from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), access to emergency obstetric care, including ambulance service, could help save the lives of up to three quarters of women who might otherwise die in childbirth, AlertNet reports (Batha, 11/19). In two projects, one in Kabezi, Burundi, and the other in Bo, Sierra Leone, MSF showed “that the introduction of an ambulance referral system together with the provision of emergency obstetric services can significantly reduce the risk of women dying from pregnancy related complications,” according to an MSF press release. The services, which cost between $2 and $4 per person annually, are offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are free of charge, the press release notes (11/19). The projects “cut maternal mortality rates by an estimated 74 percent in Kabezi and 61 percent in Bo,” Reuters writes, adding, “The charity hopes its model could serve as an example for donors, governments and other aid agencies considering investing in emergency obstetric care in countries with high maternal mortality rates” (11/19).
November 17 marked the second annual World Prematurity Day, sponsored by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH). The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog published two posts discussing premature birth.
According to a new report (.pdf) released by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) at the Union World Conference on Lung Health in Kuala Lumpur, many tuberculosis (TB) programs “under-diagnose, under-treat or completely leave children with TB out, despite the increase in pediatric TB, and rising numbers of children who are infected with drug-resistant forms of TB strains,” PlusNews reports. The report, based on “data collected over three years from over 2,000 children with TB in 13 MSF projects across six countries,” found that diagnosis of children using the most commonly used TB test is inaccurate and pediatric TB drug formulations and treatment guidelines are inadequate, the news service notes. MSF called for the development of new TB tests that do not require sputum samples or laboratory infrastructure and “urged WHO to provide clear guidance to drug manufacturers on needed fixed-dose combinations of first-line drugs to support implementation of the new WHO-recommended dosages,” PlusNews writes (11/16).
Some pregnant women in Sierra Leone, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, must travel more than 50 miles for health care services, but a Medecins Sans Frontieres clinic and ambulance service established in a remote region has helped reduce maternal mortality in the area by 61 percent, Al Jazeera reports. The aid group estimates the project only costs about two dollars per person annually, the news service states. As it recovers from years of conflict, Sierra Leone is relying on partnerships with non-governmental organizations to help provide health care services while it rebuilds its economy, according to the news service (Boateng, 11/18).
The following opinion pieces and blog posts address actions to prevent preterm birth, after the publication of a Lancet analysis that examines preterm birth in 39 developed countries. The analysis is meant to “inform a rate reduction target for” the report “Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth,” which was published in May by an international coalition including the World Health Organization, Save the Children, U.S. National Institutes of Health, March of Dimes and other groups.
An analysis published Thursday in the Lancet examines trends in and interventions for preterm birth in 39 developed countries, with the authors writing, “Shockingly, very little reduction is currently possible,” Examiner.com reports. The analysis “said there are a handful of proven protections of preterm births and if the U.S. and other developed countries do a better job of using them, together they could keep 58,000 babies a year from being born too soon,” the news service states. The analysis is meant to inform the report “Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth,” which was published in May by an international coalition including the World Health Organization, Save the Children, U.S. National Institutes of Health, March of Dimes and other groups, according to Examiner.com.
“In a breakthrough for the fight against meningitis in poor countries, researchers say the WHO has ruled that a key vaccine can be transported or stored for up to four days without refrigeration,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Called MenAfriVac and made by the Indian company Serum Institute, the vaccine costs less than 50 cents a dose and, according to the latest research, can be conserved without any refrigeration, even an icepack, at temperatures up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) for four days,” the news agency writes (11/15). “Epidemics of meningitis A occur every seven to 14 years in Africa’s ‘meningitis belt,’ a band of 26 countries stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia, and are particularly devastating to children and young adults,” Reuters notes.
Improving access to family planning for the 222 million women who lack such services would bring many benefits, including helping to reduce maternal mortality and improve infant survival, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin says in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, citing the recently released State of the World Population 2012 report. However, “[i]n many poor countries, contraceptives may not be available or families may lack the money to buy them,” and “social barriers and family resistance are also powerful barriers,” he says, adding, “So too is the lack of proper health or distribution systems or trained workers to give confidential advice.” He continues, “This huge unmet need comes despite the fact that there is almost universal agreement that access to family planning is a human right. By denying this right, we are putting other basic rights at risk across the world.”