“The Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday theme for this week is prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT),” an e-mail alert from USAID reports, noting, “PMTCT provides HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services for the whole family and is the most effective way to create an HIV-free generation.” According to USAID, “when a mother receives antiretroviral therapy, the risk of mother-to-child transmission drops from about 40 percent to near zero.” The e-mail states, “USAID and the global community are committed to accelerating progress and scale-up of PMTCT, with the goal of eliminating new pediatric HIV infections by 2015 and improving maternal, newborn, and child survival and health in the context of HIV” (5/29).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
Citing a U.N. report released in May, titled “Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010,” which shows “the number of women worldwide dying of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications has almost halved in the last 20 years,” Agnes Odhiambo, a researcher for women in Africa at Human Rights Watch, writes in this Inter Press Service opinion piece, “Although there was a 41 percent reduction in sub-Saharan Africa, the progress is slow and uneven. â€¦ Greater effort is urgently needed to save pregnant women.” She continues, “African governments need to invest in strong health care systems and to ensure that there are enough health care facilities that can provide emergency obstetric care, equitably dispense suitable drugs and supplies, and employ a sufficient number of adequately trained health professionals, including those with midwifery skills.”
“U.N. officials say they expect 18 million people in West Africa will go hungry this year, including three million young children whose lives or health will be at risk,” the Associated Press reports. David Gressly, the U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for nine countries in Africa’s Sahel region, told reporters on Tuesday that at least one million children’s lives will be threatened by malnutrition in 2012, and malnutrition will cause health problems for another two million children under age five, according to the news agency. Gressly said drought, failed harvests, and political instability were making this the worst hunger crisis to hit the region since 2005, the AP notes (5/29).
“[I]n an exclusive interview with Newsweek,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discussed how “she has decided to make family planning her signature issue and primary public health a priority.” Gates said, “My goal is to get this back on the global agenda,” the news service writes. “Gates believes that by focusing on the lives of women and children, and by making it clear that the agenda is neither coercive population control nor abortion, the controversy over international family planning programs can be defused,” according to Newsweek.
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog notes that PEPFAR recently released its 8th annual report (.pdf) to Congress. “The five-page document outlines the program’s progress as of the end of fiscal year 2011 in various areas,” including the provision of antiretroviral treatment, care, and support; HIV testing and counseling for pregnant women; and prevention of mother-to-child transmission services, the blog notes. The report includes sections on “leading with science,” “smart investments,” “country ownership,” and “shared responsibility,” according to the blog (Mazzotta, 5/4).
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).
The following are summaries of several opinion pieces published in recognition of Mother’s Day, observed May 13.