“Yemen’s populist uprising and the political crisis that followed have pushed the country to the brink of a humanitarian emergency, according to the United Nations and aid agencies,” the Washington Post reports, noting that “children have been hit especially hard.” The newspaper continues, “Fresh conflicts, including a raging battle between the government and Islamist militants, have disrupted basic services; water, fuel and electricity shortages affect nearly every aspect of life, from hospital operations to trash collection. Food prices are rising, and health services have collapsed. In a nation in which half the population is younger than 18, many aid workers fear that the political crisis and the problems it has spawned will be felt beyond this generation of children” (Raghavan, 1/8). The newspaper also provides a graphic on malnourishment rates in Yemen and select other countries (1/8).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
“Nigeria’s 36 Executive Governors and the Federal Capital Territory have signed up to the Nigeria Immunization Challenge launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last year,” a Gates Foundation press release states. “The Nigeria Immunization Challenge sets specific objectives that need to be met during each quarter of 2012. If met, Nigeria will significantly improve its chances of stopping polio and protecting more children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough,” the release adds, noting, “As of December 30, 2011, 51 cases of wild poliovirus had been reported in eight Nigerian states” (1/5).
“The World Health Organization says Somalia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world,” VOA News reports, adding, “In southern Somalia, the situation is grave, and the recent famine has made the health crisis for mothers and infants even worse.” The news service says challenges facing the health care system include a lack of medical supplies and neonatal facilities, poor retention of health care workers in local hospitals, and “the Somali custom rooted in Islam that requires a man’s consent to treat female patients.”
“While the U.S. military has formally withdrawn from Iraq, doctors and residents of Fallujah are blaming weapons like depleted uranium and white phosphorous used during two devastating U.S. attacks on Fallujah in 2004 for what are being described as ‘catastrophic’ levels of birth defects and abnormalities,” Al Jazeera reports. Samira Alani, a pediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital, “told Al Jazeera she had personally logged 677 cases of birth defects since October 2009,” the news service notes, adding, “Just eight days later when Al Jazeera visited the city on December 29, that number had already risen to 699.”
In Nepal, “a child malnutrition epidemic described by humanitarian organizations as a ‘silent emergency’ is claiming the lives of thousands of infants each year,” Agence France-Presse reports. “According to government statistics 1.7 million children — nearly half of all under-fives — suffer from chronic malnutrition, a long-term condition also known as stunting,” the news service writes, adding, “Acute malnutrition, a condition known as ‘wasting’ blamed for half of Nepal’s infant deaths, is thought to affect 18 percent.”
IRIN examines how a lack of sanitation facilities and access to clean water, as well as the onset of the rainy season, are increasing the risk of waterborne diseases in rural areas of Zimbabwe. A 2009 survey, “compiled by the government and U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), listed diarrhea as one of the major causes of infant mortality resulting in around 4,000 deaths in Zimbabwe annually” and “showed a 20 percent increase in under-five mortality since 1990,” IRIN writes.
In this Huffington Post “Impact” blog post, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes that she will be visiting Bangladesh to “lear[n] even more about two of the biggest killers of children — pneumonia and diarrhea,” and says “Bangladesh has made incredible progress in recent years, reducing the number of childhood deaths by 65 percent since 1990.” She writes, “As I reflect back on what I learned this year about the progress and the challenges in women’s and children’s health, I’m struck by the fact that we don’t need to wait for the solutions,” including “[t]hings like life-saving vaccines, contraceptives, healthy practices for mothers and newborns and good nutrition.”
“UNICEF is preparing ambitious plans to update, strengthen and vastly expand its global vaccination program,” and “is gearing up to triple its capacity over the next five years,” according to a UNICEF news story. “A more effective and wide-reaching vaccination program will also help UNICEF fulfill its commitment to reaching the most vulnerable,” the story reports (Niles, 1/3).
The January issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on non-communicable diseases and post-conflict countries; a public health round-up; an article on Arab health professionals; a research paper on caesarean section rates in China; and a series of round table articles on the Global Fund and the interaction of public and private interests (January 2011).
“Ethiopia’s new plan to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015 cannot be attained unless men are more meaningfully involved in reproductive health, experts say,” PlusNews reports. Ethiopia launched an accelerated prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) program in December with “three objectives: reaching 90 percent of pregnant women with access to antenatal care services; ensuring universal access by pregnant women to a skilled attendant during delivery; and providing ARVs to at least 80 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women,” according to the news service.