“Just two years ago, our country had one of the worst maternal and infant death rates in the world,” Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma writes in a Huffington Post U.K. “Impact” blog post, adding, “We knew something had to be done.” So in September 2009, the government announced “that all health user fees would be removed for pregnant and lactating women and children under the age of five” and “introduced the Free Health Care Initiative [FHCI] in April 2010, which would give around 460,000 women and a million children a much better chance of having a longer and happier life,” Koroma writes. In one year, the FHCI facilitated a “214 percent increase in the number of children attending outpatient units” and a 61 percent reduction in “the number of women dying from pregnancy complications at facilities,” and “increased the number of health workers and ensured they were given big salary rises to reflect the importance of their positions,” he notes.
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
The March of Dimes Foundation, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Save the Children, and the WHO on Wednesday released a new report, titled “Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth,” showing that 15 million infants are born prematurely each year, 1.1 million of those infants die, but 75 percent of those deaths are preventable. The following blog posts addressed the report and its findings.
“Chagas disease — a parasitic infection transmitted through an insect commonly known as the ‘kissing bug’ — is one of the most common infections among pregnant women in the Western Hemisphere,” Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “It can be found all over Latin America, from Mexico and Central America to Paraguay and Argentina,” he writes, adding, “For expectant mothers, what makes Chagas disease especially harmful is that it can be passed to their unborn children, causing highly lethal congenital infections.”
India “has to actively and aggressively address the issue of family planning” in order to improve human development indicators, including health, education and living standards, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin said Wednesday, Reuters reports. “India, Asia’s third-largest economy, is set to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030,” but, “despite its impressive economic growth over the last two decades, it has failed to substantially reduce hunger as well as child and maternal mortality rates,” the news service writes, noting that “[a]bout 60 percent of Indian women have no access to family planning services.”
Fifteen million infants, or nearly one in 10 worldwide, “are born premature every year, and 1.1 million of those infants die, according to a U.N.-sponsored report released Wednesday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Premature birth is the leading cause of death for newborn infants and is on the rise globally, said the report led by the March of Dimes, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Save the Children and the World Health Organization,” the news service writes (5/2). “For the report, preterm was defined as 37 weeks of completed gestation or less, the standard World Health Organization definition,” USA Today notes (Healy, 5/3). According to the report, “[p]reterm births account for 11.1 percent of the world’s live births, 60 percent of them in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,” and, “[i]n the poorest countries, on average, 12 percent of babies are born too soon, compared to nine percent in higher-income countries,” the U.N. News Centre writes (5/2).
UNICEF “has voiced alarm at the decline of breastfeeding across East Asia, stressing the need for mothers to understand its long-term benefits for the survival and development of their children,” Bernama reports (5/2). In Thailand, as few as five percent of all mothers breastfeed, about 10 percent of mothers breastfeed in Vietnam, and approximately 28 percent of mothers do so in China, according to the U.N. News Centre. “The low breastfeeding rates across East Asia result from economic developments that enable more women to enter the workforce, as well as ‘aggressive’ marketing of infant formula in the region, [UNICEF] added in a news release,” the news service reports.
In a post on USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Amanda Makulec of John Snow Inc. describes the Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) initiative, which was developed “to equip birth attendants in developing countries with the skills they need to successfully resuscitate babies born without the ability to breathe on their own.” She continues, “[I]t was the power of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) model — public-private partnership on a global scale — that dramatically expanded access to newborn resuscitation in remote health facilities and communities in 34 countries within 18 months of the launch of the partnership … by leveraging the commitment, resources, and support of a diverse group of program implementers, NGOs, private sector organizations, government institutions, U.N. agencies, professional associations to enable the rapid roll out of the intervention globally” (4/30).
“Each year, nearly 400,000 children are born with HIV globally, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) is a particular challenge in sub-Saharan Africa, an area characterized by weak health systems,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby writes in the State Department “DipNote” blog. “Last year PEPFAR and UNAIDS joined with other partners to launch the Global Plan, an initiative to eliminate new HIV infections among children and keep their mothers alive,” Goosby writes and reflects on a two-day mission to Nigeria with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe last week. He concludes, “Preventing new HIV infections in children is a smart investment that saves lives, and the United States is proud to partner with Nigeria and other countries in this cause” (4/30).
“Every child should have the opportunity to celebrate his or her fifth birthday,” but 7.6 million “kids die within the first five years of life,” a VOA editorial writes. “That is why [USAID] recently launched ‘Every Child Deserves A Fifth Birthday,’ an awareness-raising campaign leading up to the mid-June ‘Child Survival: Call to Action’ two-day conference,” the editorial states, adding, “This high-level forum, convened by the governments of the United States, India and Ethiopia, together with [UNICEF], will mobilize political, non-governmental and private actors to end preventable child deaths.”
In this post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Chris Thomas, a health and development officer at USAID, reports on an event held on Capitol Hill on Tuesday during which “the U.S. Government celebrated remarkable country-level success in saving the lives of women during pregnancy and childbirth.” “Health ministers from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, and the head of maternal and child health from Rwanda took center stage on Capitol Hill,” where “each told a unique and personal story,” he writes, noting, “USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah keyed in on drivers of successful maternal health programs and how such efforts can be accelerated and sustained throughout the developing world” (4/27).