“In many parts of India, teenagers and housewives are now donning the garb of health volunteers and convincing pregnant women to deliver in hospitals, and not at homes,” the Times of India reports, and profiles Lata Ravikar, “one of the many ordinary women who are leading a silent revolution in urban slums and villages across the country.” The news service writes, “The invisible hand of these women” — called didis — “has already improved maternal and child health indicators, according to a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded initiative that has tracked their impact in two states,” noting, “In Maharashtra, for instance, the proportion of hospital deliveries has gone up from 78 percent to 88 percent in four years in the communities where these workers have been active.”
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
On Thursday at the TEDxChange conference in Berlin, Germany, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “delivered a powerful case for universal access to contraception for women around the world who need and want it,” the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. “She described birth control as an idea that, if made policy in both developed and developing countries, could save hundreds of thousands of women’s and children’s lives each year,” the newspaper writes, adding that she “noted being brought up a Catholic and being educated at church schools through high school, even that her mother’s great-uncle was a Jesuit priest.”
Government, NGOs Working To Improve Health Services, Education To Prevent Rising Teenage Pregnancy Rate In Guatemala
“Teenage pregnancies are on the rise in Guatemala, along with the drop-out rate in schools, family breakdown and many other related social ills,” Inter Press Service reports, adding that the “impoverished Central American country of 14 million people has an adolescent (under-20) birth rate of 114 per 1,000 women in rural areas, according to the National Mother and Child Health Survey for 2008-2009.” The article discusses efforts by the government and non-profit organizations to prevent unwanted pregnancies, including laws allowing for basic maternity services and sex education classes.
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah “says development assistance to Ethiopia’s health sector has helped save thousands of children’s lives in the past year,” VOA News reports, noting, “The progress came even as the Horn of Africa was hit by the worst drought in more than half a century.” “Twenty years ago, every fifth child died by the age of five. Today, 10 out of 11 make it past their fifth birthday,” the news service writes, noting, “Shah says the results are a credit to Ethiopia’s effective use of aid dollars.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog published several posts in response to the TEDxChange: “The Big Picture” presentation delivered by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, in Berlin on Thursday.
“Nearly a third of pre-school children in Vietnam suffer from malnutrition and stunted growth, while in urban areas rates of childhood obesity are rising,” according to a report released Thursday by the country’s National Institute of Nutrition, Agence France-Presse reports. The study, based on a survey of more than 37,000 people conducted in 2009 and 2010, showed that more than three million children under the age of five, mainly in poor, rural areas of the country, “were malnourished, underweight or suffered from growth deficiencies,” according to the news agency. Conversely, “[c]hildhood obesity rates have seen a six-fold rise since 2006 and now run at up to 15 percent in wealthier urban areas including the capital Hanoi and southern Ho Chi Minh City, according to the survey,” AFP writes (4/6).
“Over 600 parliamentarians from more than 100 countries” met in Kampala, Uganda, this week for the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly, where participants discussed child and maternal health and nutrition, UNICEF reports in a news article. Speaking at the opening session, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said, “The damage [malnutrition] causes to a child’s development is irreversible. … I can’t think of any greater inequity than condemning children, while in the womb, to a loss of their ability, of their right, to live fully â€¦ to learn fully â€¦ and to realize their potential,” according to the article (Ponet, 4/5). “During a panel discussion on tackling malnutrition, Dr. Werner Schultink, the UNICEF Chief of Nutrition, urged legislators to be at the vanguard of the fight against malnutrition through application of their legislative power and influence,” Uganda’s The Observer notes (Kakaire, 4/4).
“The GAVI Alliance has announced that it will include human papillomavirus (HPV) and combined measles-rubella vaccines in its portfolio for the first time” to help protect women from cervical cancer and children from disability or premature death, Africa Science News reports. GAVI already supports the funding of several childhood vaccines in developing countries, including the five-in-one pentavalent vaccine, yellow fever vaccine, meningitis A vaccines, and pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines, according to the news service (Mwaura, 4/5).
In this PBS NewsHour report, NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels interviews obstetrician Laura Stachel about the “solar suitcase,” a “a suitcase containing elements to produce and store solar energy,” devised by Stachel with the aim of reducing maternal mortality rates in the developing world after “witnessing the consequences of power outages in Nigeria’s health facilities.” “We estimate that 300,000 health facilities do not have reliable electricity around the world. So this is a huge problem,” Stachel said in the interview, according to the transcript. Stachel discusses her experiences in Nigeria’s health facilities, the development of the suitcase, and efforts to ramp up production to meet global demand. The news service contains a link to a related slideshow (4/4).
The Jakarta Globe examines maternal mortality in Indonesia, writing, “Indonesia may be progressing slowly and steadily toward fulfilling its targets under the Millennium Development Goals, but the issue of maternal health continues to present many challenges.” According to the newspaper, “Government statistics show that the maternal mortality rate [has] declined,” but “a report last week by health officials in Bali has highlighted a worrying reversal, with the provincial maternal mortality rate increasing from 58 per 100,000 in 2010 to 84 last year.”