“The implementation of an ambitious bill that guarantees cheap food grains for India’s poor could be pushed back to the next fiscal year, a top government adviser said,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “[I]mplementing the bill in the fiscal year starting April 2013 would make financial and political sense for the government, which is facing a yawning budget gap and federal elections before May 2014,” according to the newspaper, which adds the bill is “likely to be introduced in the budget session, which is due late February, C. Rangarajan, chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, said in an interview.” After a general debate, parliament would have to approve the bill, which “aims to provide subsidized grains to more than 60 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people, with special provisions for pregnant women, destitute children and others,” for it to become law, the newspaper writes, adding, “A government spokesman declined to comment on the matter Friday” (Sahu/Guha, 10/27).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
While there is “much to be proud of” in the progress in the fight against polio, “there’s still more work to be done,” former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin writes in a GlobalPost opinion piece. Martin, a polio survivor, notes that in 1988, when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched, 350,000 cases in more than 125 countries were recorded annually, but “[s]o far this year, we’ve seen just 171 cases, and only Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria have never stopped transmission.” He continues, “Canada has been a leader in this fight,” but “[t]he credit for this progress, of course, goes far beyond Canada” to “the work of global partners like the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Rotary International and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the frontline workers whose tireless efforts make all of this possible; and the countries that are making the political and financial commitments necessary to see the end of this disease.”
Partners In Health Haitian Food Security Program Easily 'Transplanted' To Other Areas Suffering Malnutrition
“It has been said that hundreds of thousands of dollars and equally as many hours have been spent searching for a cure for malnutrition,” Gillaine Warne, director of Zanmi Agrikol, the agricultural arm of Partners In Health that operates in Haiti, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “The good news is that a cure has been found — it’s called FOOD!,” she says, noting Zanmi Agrikol’s goal is “getting to the root causes of malnutrition [so] we can help create effective and sustainable change.” Warne says even before the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, “one of every three children under five years old suffer[ed] from malnutrition.” She continues, “Our programs at Zanmi Agrikol educate farmers about new and proven ways of planting, conservation, reforestation, and animal husbandry. … We want to enable each family to produce sufficient food for themselves, and enough excess to take to market.”
In the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) “Smart Global Health” blog, Phillip Nieburg, senior associate of the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, discusses a recent report (.pdf) he wrote, titled “Improving Maternal Mortality and Other Aspects of Women’s Health: The United States’ Global Role,” “that addresses key challenges to improving maternal mortality and women’s health worldwide and talks about what the related priorities of U.S. foreign policy should be.” He says, “Rather than continuing what appears to me as a piecemeal approach to global aspects of reproductive health, with separate programs to address, e.g., gender-based violence, women and HIV/AIDS, maternal mortality, family planning, cervical cancer, girls’ education, etc., I argue in my report that the United States should develop and implement a comprehensive global plan for women’s health that includes males as well as females, using coordinated prevention and care programming for each stage of the reproductive health life cycle” (10/25).
Differing Opinions About AMFm 'Unlikely To Be Resolved' After Global Fund Decision On Program's Future
In her “Global Health Blog,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley examines the Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm), “which aims to enable countries to increase the provision of affordable artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs) through not only the public sector but also the private sector and [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)].” Following pilot projects in seven African countries and an independent evaluation by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which hosts AMFm, is set to decide the future of the scheme at a board meeting in November. She notes Oxfam recently released a report criticizing the mechanism, saying the evaluation was flawed because it looked at the number of ACTs sold and not lives saved.
In the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, Christy Turlington Burns, founder of Every Mother Counts, writes, “On the list of health risks women are subjected to, mental health seldom reaches the top. And while there are a lot of stigmas around many diseases, there may not be a close rival to the stigma those with diseases of the mind face each day. Mental illness pushes those who are already marginalized in developed and developing societies, even further into the margins.” In a two-part interview, Burns speaks with Jessica Zucker, a clinical psychologist who specializes in maternal mental health, about perinatal mood disorders and postpartum depression (PPD) among women in developing countries. In the first part, Zucker says that without accurate data on the mental wellbeing of mothers, “we don’t know … how widespread postpartum depression is in the developing world” (10/23). In the second part, Zucker discusses the importance of treatment and counseling, and says, “Women need to be tender with themselves as they enter into uncharted territory — learning about and getting accustomed to their new identity in motherhood” (10/23).
Though Pakistani officials said Monday there has been a significant decline in the number of families refusing polio vaccination in the country, almost a half million children did not receive the immunization, Agence France-Presse reports. “The number of refusing families has declined (44 percent) from 80,330 during the first national polio round held in January to 45,122 in October,” according to a joint statement from the WHO, the U.N., and the Pakistani government, the news agency writes. “The success achieved notwithstanding, every unvaccinated child constitutes a major challenge,” Elias Durry, WHO senior coordinator for polio eradication, said, according to the news agency. Shahnaz Wazir Ali, a senior adviser to the prime minister, said, “We need to take adequate steps to ensure that the number of children missed for reasons other than refusals is also brought down,” AFP writes. Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, where 30 cases have been recorded so far this year, the news agency notes (10/22).
India's Maternal Health Care Benefit Excludes Many Women Because Of Parity Requirement, Women's eNews Reports
Women’s eNews examines India’s Indira Gandhi Maternity Support Scheme, a health care benefit offering $80 cash assistance to pregnant women older than 18 years and who do not have more than two living children. “The benefit requires a pregnant woman to register her pregnancy at a health center, accept immunization of the mother and child and agree to exclusive breastfeeding and growth monitoring of children,” the news service writes. “One 2011 study, however, based on the latest national family health survey, indicated as many as 63 percent of poor women between ages 15 to 49 would be disqualified from the program because they had more than two children,” according to Women’s eNews. “With the scheme being piloted in four [high fertility] states, … health activists contend the government is promoting a coercive two-child policy in the name of population stabilization by offering incentives for only those women who have two children,” the news service writes, adding the program would benefit poor women who do not have access to adequate family planning or health services, income, or nutrition (Majumdar, 10/23).
“If [Republican presidential nominee Gov.] Mitt Romney and his vice-presidential running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, were to win next month’s election, the harm to women’s reproductive rights would extend far beyond the borders of the United States,” a New York Times editorial says. In the U.S., “they would support the recriminalization of abortion with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and they would limit access to contraception and other services,” according to the editorial, which adds “they have also promised to promote policies abroad that would affect millions of women in the world’s poorest countries, where lack of access to contraception, prenatal care and competent help at childbirth often results in serious illness and thousands of deaths yearly.”
In its ongoing series examining efforts to eradicate polio, NPR’s “All Things Considered” aired a story on Wednesday looking at how health care workers in Pakistan are attempting to overcome challenges to immunizing the child population. “Last year, the government declared a national emergency, and with the help of international institutions, embarked on an aggressive vaccination campaign,” NPR’s “Shots” blog reports, adding, “So far, the results have been promising. The number of new polio cases is about a third of last year’s total of 198.” The blog continues, “But the new campaign, like previous efforts, hasn’t been able to overcome one critical problem: getting into parts of Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan to vaccinate the children there” (Northam, 10/17). On NPR’s “Morning Edition” on Thursday, the news service looks at UNICEF’s recruitment of “social mobilizers,” who are working to inoculate 34 million Pakistani children (Northam, 10/18).