UNICEF and the Syrian government have agreed to expand humanitarian efforts in the country, where tens of thousands of people have been killed and up to one million people displaced since the beginning of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad 18 months ago, Reuters reports. UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake “said the agency’s agreement with Syria will allow it to go beyond its Damascus operations to reach Syrians in conflict areas” and the agency “aims to vaccinate within a couple of months one million vulnerable children against diseases such as measles, he added,” the news service notes. “The deal will expand UNICEF’s partnership with more than 40 Syrian civil groups and the Syrian Red Crescent, he said,” Reuters adds (Al-Khalidi, 10/8). U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “on Tuesday urged President Bashar al-Assad’s government to institute a unilateral ceasefire, and further stressed the need for other nations to halt arms deliveries to both Syrian forces and the opposition,” according to VOA’s “Breaking News” blog (10/9).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
“Among causes of child malnutrition in India are not just poverty or inadequate access to food but also a lack of nutritional knowledge among families,” Nisha Malhotra, an instructor of economics at the University of British Columbia, writes in a Live Mint opinion piece. “Impressive growth and rising prosperity in the past three decades have not alleviated child malnutrition in the country,” she writes, noting, “An alarming 43 percent of children under age three in India are stunted, 48 percent are underweight, and 17 percent are ‘wasted.'” She continues, “In my research, I have emphasized and verified the importance of poor feeding practices in infancy to explain chronic child malnutrition in India,” adding, “Poverty is, of course, a contributor to poor feeding practices, but it is neither the sole reason for the situation nor the most significant reason.”
The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on Friday released a report (.pdf) titled “Improving Maternal Mortality and Other Aspects of Women’s Health,” the center reports on its webpage. Written by Phillip Nieburg, a senior associate at CSIS, the report “uses data and observations from Tanzania and many other countries to describe the specific burdens on women’s health that are associated with pregnancy, labor, and delivery” and “discusses many of the major interventions currently being planned and/or implemented by developing country governments and their supporters,” according to the report summary, which notes “it identifies key challenges for improving maternal mortality and women’s health overall in developing countries” (10/5).
“Women working as female health care volunteers [FHCVs] often provide a vital service for the poorest in mountainous Nepal, and have contributed to a steady improvement in maternal and neonatal survival rates,” IRIN reports. In Nepal, 52,000 FHCVs work nationwide, often in remote regions, to refer women and children to health centers and help raise money for their trips, according to the news service. Many experts believe the FHCVs have played a key role in reducing Nepal’s maternal mortality ratio and increasing the proportion of births attended by a skilled birth attendant or that take place in a health facility, IRIN notes. “The FCHV program was launched in 1988 in 19 districts in the mid-west (Nepal’s poorest region), with the purpose of improving maternal and neonatal care, according to the Health Ministry,” IRIN writes, adding, “Despite being regarded as key to the state’s public health program, the government provides them with virtually no support” (10/5).
Polio Vaccination Campaign In Darfur Shows Immunizations Possible In 'Emergency And Conflict Settings'
In an Inter Press Service opinion piece, Siddharth Chatterjee, chief diplomat and head of strategic partnerships at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Sam Agbo, an independent public health adviser in the U.K., write about the unstable situation in Darfur, Sudan, in 2004, and how “UNICEF and WHO in Sudan along with important NGO partners started planning with local authorities on how best to immunize all children in Darfur.” They outline the major challenges, including staff safety, and discuss how multi-agency teams were able to vaccinate 10,000 children in two immunization rounds. Chatterjee and Agbo add, “The polio immunization campaign was the driver for a wider process of improving and ramping up assistance to communities and this made the campaign attractive to mothers to bring their children to the immunization hubs that were established.”
Forbes features two interviews with global health leaders. Contributor Rahim Kanani spoke with Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, about GAVI’s impact, innovation, public-private collaboration, and leadership and responsibility. In the interview, Berkley said vaccinating children not only protects them from disease, but it “protects families and whole communities. And it reduces ongoing health care costs, expands educational opportunities and creates a more reliable workforce. This, in turn, creates a more stable community, higher productivity and stronger national economies. Immunization provides an important foundation for political stability and economic growth” (10/4).
NPR’s “The Salt” blog examines how some humanitarian organizations are looking to purchase the ingredients for and manufacture a peanut-based nutritional supplement in the countries where it is used. “They see local production as a way to provide jobs and bring money into impoverished communities. But paying the bill is still a struggle. Even in poor countries, local food often turns out to be more expensive food,” the blog writes. “The Salt” looks at the case of a small organization in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, that has built factories that “emplo[y] Haitian workers and bu[y] peanuts from Haitian farmers.” However, the cost of the final product can be up to 20 percent more expensive than if it were made with peanuts imported from Argentina, the blog notes, adding, “For now, at least, UNICEF has agreed to buy local, even if it costs a little more” (Charles, 10/4).
“[W]omen and children everywhere deserve quality health care,” Kathy Bushkin Calvin, CEO of the United Nations Foundation, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “As many in the development community say, investing in the health of women and children isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s also the smart thing to do,” she continues, adding, “When women and children are healthy, they can learn more and earn more, which leads to more stable and productive communities.” Though the world has made “important progress on this front,” “[w]e must continually assess our progress and talk about where we need to do better, because when the international community mobilizes, we can generate meaningful change,” she says, noting “we have more work to do … in order to achieve Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, which set critical targets for reducing child and maternal mortality by 2015.”
Integrating reproductive health and other services, such as HIV care, “makes sense, and there is emerging evidence that it can be associated with a host of benefits, such as improved uptake of services, enhanced program efficiency, and even improved health outcomes when compared to separate services,” Gavin Yamey, who leads E2Pi in the Global Health Group at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), and Craig Cohen, a professor in-residence in the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, write in the PLoS blog “Speaking of Medicine.” They describe five key themes that emerged last month at the Integration for Impact conference, co-hosted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Kenyan government, and UCSF. They write, “The emphasis was on presenting the latest research findings, exploring the policy implications of this evidence, and laying out the unanswered research questions,” and describe the five themes, including keeping human rights at the forefront and better defining and measuring integration (10/3).
Experts Worried Political Commitment, Health Services Delivery Still Lacking Despite Efforts To Improve Family Planning In Uganda
“Family planning advocates in Uganda have scored some major financial and policy wins this year, but experts remain concerned that inadequate political commitment and poor health services will continue to impede women’s and girls’ access to contraceptives,” IRIN reports. With one of the fastest growing populations in the world, Uganda’s “President Yoweri Museveni announced that his government would increase its annual expenditure on family planning supplies from $3.3 million to $5 million for the next five years” and he “pledged to mobilize an additional $5 million from the country’s donors,” the news service writes. In addition, the “Ministry of Health has laid out a roadmap for providing universal access to family planning, involving the integration of family planning into other health services,” the news service notes.