The World Bank’s annual World Development Report, which was released on Sunday and this year “focuses on gender equality around the world, offers some stark facts about how women and girls fare in developing countries despite decades of progress,” the Wall Street Journal reports (Reddy, 9/18). “The most glaring disparity is the rate at which girls and women die relative to men in developing countries, according to” the report, Reuters/AlertNet reports (Curtis, 9/19).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
“A health policy shift that saw the introduction in May of free caesarean section operations in 35 hospitals across the Republic of Congo — to curb the growing rate of maternal and infant mortality — seems to have prompted a proliferation of such operations, according to health officials,” IRIN reports. “‘We are virtually living in the hospital because there are so many consultations,’ said Jean-Claude Kala, head of gynecology at Makelekele Hospital, south of Brazzaville,” the news service writes.
“Innovation can transform a company, a culture, and even the world. But innovation doesn’t have to come in the form of a gadget. It can come in the form of a smiling neighbor knocking at a family’s door, toting some basic supplies and the skills to address matters of life and death,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation writes in a Huffington Post opinion piece.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday expressed concern over widespread flooding in Pakistan and “pledged the United Nations’ continued commitment to supporting the government in its efforts to respond to the humanitarian needs of the more than five million people in the affected areas,” the U.N. News Centre reports. In a statement, Ban said he is “particularly worried about the situation in the southern area of Sindh province where people are in urgent need of food, shelter, safe water and access to health services,” according to the news service.
“Afghanistan is intensifying efforts to eradicate polio by the end of next year, but security remains a major challenge especially in the southern provinces where the virus is localized, says” Arshad Quddus, head of the WHO polio program in Afghanistan, IRIN reports. Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan, according to the WHO, IRIN notes, adding that Afghan “[g]overnment data show that 85 percent of the population now live in polio-free areas, but the virus is still circulating in 13 districts, including the seven where  recent cases have been detected.” In addition to security issues, “low literacy rates, poor hygiene practices and low awareness of the benefits of vaccination” are hindering campaigns, according to IRIN (9/15).
A campaign that began in 2000 encouraging women in China to give birth in hospitals instead of at home helped cut the nation’s neonatal mortality rate by 62 percent between 1996 and 2008, according to a study by researchers from Peking University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, BBC News reports. For the study, published Friday in the Lancet, researchers analyzed “data from China’s Maternal and Mortality Surveillance System to examine trends in neonatal mortality by cause and socioeconomic region,” the news service writes (9/15).
Women Urged To Use Clinics For Birthing, Family Planning Counseling In Refugee Camps Along Somalia-Kenya Border
IRIN examines how community health workers and international aid organizations, such as Medecins Sans Frontieres and the International Rescue Committee, are working to provide safe and adequate health facilities in refugee camps on the Kenya-Somalia border where women can give birth.
“The annual number of children who die before they reach age five is shrinking, falling to 7.6 million global deaths in 2010 from more than 12 million in 1990, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday” in their annual report (.pdf) on child mortality, Reuters reports. “Overall, 12,000 fewer children under age five die each day than a decade ago,” according to the report, the news agency notes. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a statement that “many factors are contributing to reductions in child mortality, including better access to health care for newborns, prevention and treatment of childhood diseases, access to vaccines, clean water and better nutrition,” the news agency writes (Steenhuysen, 9/14).
The September/October issue of USAID’s Frontlines focuses on the agency’s efforts in Sudan and the new nation of South Sudan, as well as USAID’s Education Strategy. In his “Insights” column, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah writes, “There is no more powerful tool for creating healthy, prosperous, stable societies than education” (September/October 2011).
Gender Disparities In Developing Countries Relatively Small At Birth But Grow In Adolescence, UNICEF Report Says
A UNICEF report (.pdf) released on Tuesday suggests that gender disparities between boys and girls in developing countries are relatively small in children’s early years, but as children approach adolescence, gaps widen in areas such as education, health, nutrition and protection, Xinhua reports (9/13). According to the report, “[h]ealth and education disparities between boys and girls in developing countries tend not to emerge until adolescence, when girls face increased risks of child marriage, HIV/AIDS infection and domestic violence,” TrustLaw writes.