NPR’s “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep on Monday interviewed reporter Jason Beaubien, who is traveling in northern Nigeria, about the country’s increase in polio cases this year. Beaubien discussed myths and fears surrounding polio vaccination in Nigeria, including beliefs that the immunization will sterilize children, but also said “one of the most encouraging things … is that the religious leaders in northern Nigeria are now really united. And they are coming out and saying you should get your children vaccinated. And some of them are being quite harsh as well, saying you have to get your children vaccinated.” NPR notes Nigeria has recorded 90 polio cases this year (10/1).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
During last week’s events in New York, including the U.N. General Assembly, the Clinton Global Initiative, and the Social Good Summit, Devex interviewed several newsmakers on the sidelines of the meetings. WHO Assistant Director-General on Family, Women and Children’s Health Flavia Bustreo in an interview with Devex said three challenges to continuing to lower maternal, child, and infant death rates include improving accountability, channeling resources to areas with the least improvement, and keeping a focus on women and children (Lieberman, 10/1). In another interview, Jill Sheffield, founder and president of Women Deliver, “sat down with Devex to discuss the private sector’s role in implementing global health strategies and how reproductive rights is factoring into donors’ perspectives,” according to the news service (Lieberman, 10/1).
ABC News profiles Edna Adan, a 75-year-old former U.N. diplomat responsible for building the first maternity hospital in her country of Somalia. “I could have retired and lived somewhere else in the world, but I think I would have found it difficult to live with myself,” Adan told ABC News, according to the news service. In 1991, she “cashed in her pension from the World Health Organization, sold all of her jewelry and belongings — including her favorite car, a Mercedes — and spent $300,000 of her own money to build a hospital,” the news service writes. “Today, the Edna Adan University Hospital has treated over 14,000 patients and delivered more than 12,000 babies,” ABC News notes. The news service says Adan plans to train 1,000 midwives throughout the country (Whitcraft, 10/1).
“I’m encouraged by the focus on children’s health alongside other pressing global issues” at the U.N. General Assembly meeting last week, Dagfinn Hoybraten, vice president of the Norwegian Parliament and chair of the GAVI Alliance Board, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, adding, “These discussions come in the wake of UNICEF’s latest report on declines in child mortality around the world.” He provides some statistics from the report and notes, “In June, the governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia, along with UNICEF, launched a renewed global commitment to child survival at a meeting in Washington.”
“While reports from the United Nations as well as the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) indicate that maternal deaths are declining around the world, far too many women continue to die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth,” Ana Langer, director of the Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard School of Public Health, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “In fact, every 90 seconds a young woman dies unnecessarily when she is giving life,” she continues, noting, “More than 90 percent of these deaths could be avoided, if all women had timely access to good quality care.”
In the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Leslie Elder, a senior nutrition specialist at the World Bank, and Yurie Tanimichi Hoberg, a senior economist at the World Bank, write about the intersection of policies and programs in nutrition and agriculture, saying they “are not always closely coordinated.” They continue, “Without the explicit consideration of nutrition objectives and indicators from the outset, investments in agriculture are less likely to achieve nutrition impact,” and describe how the SecureNutrition Knowledge Platform aims “to address critical operational knowledge gaps regarding how to improve the nutrition of vulnerable populations using nutrition sensitive investments in agriculture, and how to measure the impacts of agriculture and food security interventions on nutrition.” They note “SecureNutrition is a community of members from the nutrition, agriculture and food security metrics communities, working with 14 partner organizations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, GAIN, Save the Children, USAID and the [World Food Programme]” (9/28).
Political and private sector leaders met on Thursday at a High-Level Meeting on Scaling Up Nutrition, held in New York on the sidelines of the 67th U.N. General Assembly session, the U.N. News Centre reports. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “praised the progress made by the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, which has been joined by 30 countries … which are home to 56 million children suffering from stunted growth due to chronic malnutrition,” according to the news service. Ban also highlighted the Zero Hunger Challenge, which he launched at the Rio+20 meeting in Brazil in June, and said, “In our world of plenty, no one should be malnourished. … And in a world with no hunger, all food and agriculture would be sustainable, and no food would be lost or wasted,” the news service notes (9/27).
“Supplies — the essential medicines and medical equipment frontline health workers need to successfully do their jobs — are a vital part of the solution to saving the lives of mothers and newborns,” Catharine Taylor, a maternal health expert with PATH, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, adding, “And yet, they are frequently overlooked in the ongoing conversation about how to improve maternal health in the developing world.” She continues, “All the skilled health care workers in the world can’t deliver the care women need if a clinic’s stock is empty and the next round of supplies is weeks away. Reliable availability of maternal health medicines and supplies will ultimately strengthen health care systems and make frontline health workers more effective.”
In the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Gary Darmstadt, Monica Kerrigan, and Wendy Prosser of the foundation discuss a new partnership announced on Wednesday at the U.N. to improve access to contraceptive implants for women in the developing world. The program, part of the FP2020 initiative to increase access to modern contraceptives, “will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of mothers and children and prevent millions of unwanted pregnancies by giving women access to information, supplies and services to delay, space and limit her births,” they write. “This new development puts the power in women’s hands with information, services and contraceptive methods they need and want,” they state, concluding, “Most importantly, though, it allows women in some of the poorest regions of the world the chance to make their own choices about how to plan their families” (9/27).
Noting the U.N. Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children on Wednesday “released 10 bold recommendations which, if achieved, will ensure women and children will have access to 13 life-saving commodities,” Jennifer Bergeson-Lockwood, a maternal health adviser with USAID, writes in USAID’s “IMPACTblog” that the agency is working “to integrate systems across commodities to better and more efficiently serve women and children everywhere, and scale up programs to have nation-wide impact.” She adds, “Country leadership is also a vital component to successfully addressing many of the Commission’s recommendations.” Saying that integration and country ownership “form the cornerstones of our work,” she continues, “With our host country partners in the lead, we are working to strengthen supply chains for commodities, which include use of mHealth solutions; support local market shaping; improve the quality of medicines; and increase demand by mothers for necessary medicines” (9/26).