“In a breakthrough for the fight against meningitis in poor countries, researchers say the WHO has ruled that a key vaccine can be transported or stored for up to four days without refrigeration,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Called MenAfriVac and made by the Indian company Serum Institute, the vaccine costs less than 50 cents a dose and, according to the latest research, can be conserved without any refrigeration, even an icepack, at temperatures up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) for four days,” the news agency writes (11/15). “Epidemics of meningitis A occur every seven to 14 years in Africa’s ‘meningitis belt,’ a band of 26 countries stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia, and are particularly devastating to children and young adults,” Reuters notes.
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
Improving access to family planning for the 222 million women who lack such services would bring many benefits, including helping to reduce maternal mortality and improve infant survival, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin says in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, citing the recently released State of the World Population 2012 report. However, “[i]n many poor countries, contraceptives may not be available or families may lack the money to buy them,” and “social barriers and family resistance are also powerful barriers,” he says, adding, “So too is the lack of proper health or distribution systems or trained workers to give confidential advice.” He continues, “This huge unmet need comes despite the fact that there is almost universal agreement that access to family planning is a human right. By denying this right, we are putting other basic rights at risk across the world.”
“The African Union has launched a new website for its Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality in Africa (CARMMA),” which “aims to promote maternal and newborn survival, and provide evidence on progress to achieving health targets that have been set by African leaders,” according to the Maternal Health Task Force’s blog. In launching the site, African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko said “we hope to bring together in one place evidence and information on maternal, newborn and child survival across the continent” and “to showcase the champions that are working to give African mothers and their babies a future,” according to the blog (Mitchell, 11/14).
UNFPA Calls Family Planning An ‘Essential Human Right,’ Says Meeting Unmet Need Could Save More Than $11B Annually
In its annual State of the World Population 2012 report, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) on Wednesday “called family planning an ‘essential human right’ and urged the world’s nations to help meet the needs of 222 million women in developing countries,” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports (Pecquet, 11/14). According to Inter Press Service, the report “says the huge unmet need for family planning persists, ‘despite international agreements and human rights treaties that promote individuals’ rights to make their own decisions about when and how often to have children'” (11/14). However, “[i]t is the first time the … annual report explicitly describes family planning as a human right,” the Associated Press notes, adding, “It effectively declares that legal, cultural, and financial barriers to accessing contraception and other family planning measures are an infringement of women’s rights” (11/14). “UNFPA insists that family planning is not optional; it is a fundamental right, and the obligation to fulfill it is a formal treaty obligation,” IRIN writes (11/14). But “[i]t is not binding and has no legal effect on national laws,” CBS News notes (11/14).
In a guest post on the Global Health Technology Coalition’s “Breakthroughs” blog, Mandy Slutsker, senior project associate with the ACTION Partnership, describes a new report that calls for increased efforts to fight tuberculosis (TB) among children worldwide (Lufkin, 11/13). The report, titled “Children and Tuberculosis: From Neglect to Action,” “makes some core recommendations for donor governments and high burden countries to tackle the rates of children with TB and the knock-on financial and social difficulties faced by millions,” according to the TB Europe Coalition (11/13). In the GHTC’s blog, Slutsker writes, “It’s time for civil society, health care workers, governments, and the private sector to come together and ensure no child dies from this preventable and treatable disease” (11/13).
U.N., Partners Call For Greater Efforts To Fight Number One Killer Of Children On World Pneumonia Day
On World Pneumonia Day (WPD), recognized on November 12, “[t]he United Nations and its partners … called for greater efforts to eradicate pneumonia, the number one killer of children under the age of five,” the U.N. News Centre reports. According to the WHO, “pneumonia, which is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs, kills an estimated 1.2 million children under the age of five years every year — more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined,” the news service notes (11/12). In a statement recognizing WPD, USAID said, “Thankfully, we have in our possession the tools needed to change the tide on these statistics. Now we need new ways to deliver badly needed health services and new ways to stimulate demand in the most rural pockets of the world” (11/12). “The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia, a partnership of more than 140 government, international and philanthropic organizations, sponsors WPD,” IIP Digital adds (Porter, 11/9).
“The European Commission on Thursday pledged 42 million euros [$53 million] to Liberia’s president and Nobel peace laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to help halve one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates,” Agence France-Presse reports. “The announcement was made during talks between the Liberian leader and the E.U.’s development commissioner Andris Piebalgs,” the news agency notes (11/8). In particular, the funds “will be used for rehabilitating health centers, providing medical equipment, training health staff and many other activities aimed at improving health services in the country,” according to an E.U. press release. “The E.U. funding is part of the E.U.’s â‚¬1 billion [Millennium Development Goal (MDG)] initiative to foster global progress on the Millennium Development Goals before 2015,” the press release adds (11/9).
Pacific Island Nations Show Progress On Child Mortality MDG But Challenged On Reducing Poverty, Report Says
“The Pacific Islands are making steady progress on reducing child mortality, but most are struggling to eradicate poverty and generate employment for young and rapidly growing populations,” Inter Press Service reports in an article examining how 10 of 14 nations in the region are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on child mortality. The 2012 Regional MDG Tracking Report (.pdf), recently released by the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), “comes three years after PIF countries signed a compact to strengthen the co-ordination of resources to boost development progress,” IPS notes. Though many of the countries might reach MDG 4 to halve child mortality by 2015, “[h]alving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015, as mandated by MDG 1, is a considerable challenge across the Pacific,” the news agency states. IPS discusses progress on the MDG goals for specific nations in the region. “The PIF believes that accelerated regional progress on the goals before 2015 is dependent on political will,” the news agency writes (Wilson, 11/7).
“Polio will never be eradicated in Pakistan until a way is found to persuade poor Pashtuns to embrace the vaccine, according to a study released by the World Health Organization” in its November bulletin, the New York Times reports. A survey of 1,017 parents of young children living in “Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and the only big city in the world where polio persists, … found that 41 percent had never heard of polio and 11 percent refused to vaccinate their children against it,” according to the newspaper. Some parents from poor families “cited lack of permission from family elders,” Anita Zaidi, a professor at the Aga Khan University in Karachi, said, adding some wealthy parents said the vaccine was “harmful or unnecessary,” the newspaper notes. “Pashtuns account for 75 percent of Pakistan’s polio cases even though they are only 15 percent of the population,” the newspaper adds, noting poorer children are at a higher risk because they are more likely to be exposed to raw sewage, where the virus travels. According to the New York Times, “the eradication drive is recruiting Pashtuns as vaccinators and asking prominent religious leaders from various sects to make videos endorsing the vaccine” (McNeil, 11/5).
“[I]t has been a banner year for media attention, political will and global resources on family planning and women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment,” Ward Cates, president emeritus of FHI 360; Laneta Dorflinger, a scientist with FHI 360; and Kirsten Vogelsong, a senior program officer with the family planning division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, write in the Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” blog, noting the London Summit on Family Planning, World Contraception Day, and the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child. “To achieve the ambitious goals set forth by these international initiatives, however, the global health and development community must act on the current political momentum and not lose sight of the challenges that remain,” they state. Though there are “many contraceptive choices available to prevent unintended pregnancy,” access to contraception is limited for many women and “the currently available methods do not always meet their needs, preferences or budgets,” they write.