USAID recognizes the fifth annual Global Handwashing Day on Monday, noting on its webpage that “[s]tudies show that washing hands with soap is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diseases,” with the ability to “cut deaths from diarrhea by almost half and from acute respiratory infections by a quarter.” The webpage states handwashing “is an essential behavior to help children and families survive and thrive” and lists several resources for additional information (10/15).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
U.N. Report Shows Francophone African Countries Lag Behind In AIDS Treatment; NGOs Call For Increased Funding
“Despite great progress within a short time, the 29 French-speaking countries of sub-Saharan Africa are lagging far behind other states in the region in the battle against HIV/AIDS and need a massive increase in international aid, according to a United Nations report” (.pdf) released Friday, the U.N. News Centre reports. The report — titled “Decision Point La Francophonie: No new HIV infections, no one denied treatment” and released at a meeting of the 56-member state International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF) in Kinsasha, Democratic Republic of Congo — said while antiretroviral treatment coverage in IOF countries increased rapidly between 2003 and 2011, resulting in a nearly 30 percent decline in AIDS-related deaths, “an estimated 970,000 people are still waiting to access life-saving HIV treatment in IOF countries, accounting for 14 percent of the global treatment gap,” according to the news service.
“Between 1970 and 2010, most emerging countries achieved impressive gains in contraceptive coverage,” but, “[b]y contrast, many sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries … have started their contraceptive revolution very late and progress to date has been minimal,” John May, a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and Jean-Pierre Guengant, researcher emeritus at the Research Institute for Development (IRD) in Marseille, France, write in CGD’s “Global Health Policy” blog. “The widespread belief in SSA that ‘development was the best contraceptive’ has been the major reason why countries did not launch organized family planning programs,” they write, adding, “By and large, the lack of progress in contraceptive coverage has precluded significant decreases in fertility in the region” (10/11).
“Worldwide, evidence-based interventions are being implemented in an effort to drive down child mortality and there are some signs that they are working,” a Lancet editorial states. “However, few countries are on course to meet the targets set by Millennium Development Goal 4,” the editorial notes. “Most maternal and child health programs do not reach the world’s poorest families; it is believed that efforts to do so cannot be successful, cost effective, and equitable,” it continues, adding, “Yet if interventions could reach these families, overall nutrition and health would improve and the lives of millions of children could be saved.”
“Pregnancy and childbirth is still the leading cause of death for teenage girls in the poorest corners of the world, and despite all the progress in reducing maternal mortality by 47 percent, we have yet to save these young, vulnerable lives,” Sarah Brown, founding chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “One of the biggest issues to resolve is child marriage; this is rightly front and center of the first International Day of the Girl Child on October 11, 2012,” she continues, adding, “That is why the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood has joined the campaign against child marriage and is calling on its supporters to take the lead with one of their recommended actions.”
On the first annual International Day of the Girl Child, observed October 11, “UNICEF and partners are highlighting joint efforts to end child marriage — a fundamental human rights violation that impacts all aspects of a girl’s life,” the Times of India reports. “[A] series of events and actions are taking place throughout the world to draw attention to this critically important issue,” a UNICEF press statement says, noting, “At U.N. Headquarters in New York, Archbishop Desmond Tutu will join UNICEF, UNFPA, and U.N. Women to discuss ways governments, civil society, U.N. agencies, and the private sector can come together to accelerate a decline in the practice of child marriage” (Gohain, 10/10).
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe “on Wednesday hailed the efforts of the Republic of Congo government in the fight against HIV/AIDS in general, and particularly in the reduction of transmission from mother to child,” Xinhua reports. After meeting with Congolese Health Minister Francois Ibovi, Sidibe said, “The Republic of Congo is one of the African countries that have demonstrated that we can control this infection and that we can significantly reduce the number of new infections. It’s one of the countries that have reduced the rate of new infections by 22 percent and we believe that by 2015, we shall have between two to three percent infections by maximum, something which will be an enormous progress,” according to the news service. He said UNAIDS will support the government’s efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission and provide treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS in the country, Xinhua notes (10/11).
UNICEF and the Syrian government have agreed to expand humanitarian efforts in the country, where tens of thousands of people have been killed and up to one million people displaced since the beginning of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad 18 months ago, Reuters reports. UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake “said the agency’s agreement with Syria will allow it to go beyond its Damascus operations to reach Syrians in conflict areas” and the agency “aims to vaccinate within a couple of months one million vulnerable children against diseases such as measles, he added,” the news service notes. “The deal will expand UNICEF’s partnership with more than 40 Syrian civil groups and the Syrian Red Crescent, he said,” Reuters adds (Al-Khalidi, 10/8). U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “on Tuesday urged President Bashar al-Assad’s government to institute a unilateral ceasefire, and further stressed the need for other nations to halt arms deliveries to both Syrian forces and the opposition,” according to VOA’s “Breaking News” blog (10/9).
“Among causes of child malnutrition in India are not just poverty or inadequate access to food but also a lack of nutritional knowledge among families,” Nisha Malhotra, an instructor of economics at the University of British Columbia, writes in a Live Mint opinion piece. “Impressive growth and rising prosperity in the past three decades have not alleviated child malnutrition in the country,” she writes, noting, “An alarming 43 percent of children under age three in India are stunted, 48 percent are underweight, and 17 percent are ‘wasted.'” She continues, “In my research, I have emphasized and verified the importance of poor feeding practices in infancy to explain chronic child malnutrition in India,” adding, “Poverty is, of course, a contributor to poor feeding practices, but it is neither the sole reason for the situation nor the most significant reason.”
The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on Friday released a report (.pdf) titled “Improving Maternal Mortality and Other Aspects of Women’s Health,” the center reports on its webpage. Written by Phillip Nieburg, a senior associate at CSIS, the report “uses data and observations from Tanzania and many other countries to describe the specific burdens on women’s health that are associated with pregnancy, labor, and delivery” and “discusses many of the major interventions currently being planned and/or implemented by developing country governments and their supporters,” according to the report summary, which notes “it identifies key challenges for improving maternal mortality and women’s health overall in developing countries” (10/5).