“Measles cases surged in Pakistan in 2012, and hundreds of children died from the disease, an international health body said Tuesday,” the Associated Press/CBS News reports. “A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization, Maryam Yunus, said that 306 children died in Pakistan of measles in 2012, compared to 64 the year before,” the news agency writes (1/2). “She added that most of the children who died were from districts affected by floods for the past three years, and that malnourishment was a major reason for the high rate of measles deaths in Sindh,” GlobalPost writes (Langlois, 1/1).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
A new issue of Global Health Governance is available online and features articles focused on human security and health. The issue includes articles on nodding syndrome in Northern Uganda and child nutrition in developing countries from a human security perspective, as well as commentaries on a new agenda for global human security and health and human security in the Americas, among other pieces (12/31).
“Thanks to a herculean effort by health advocates, 78 percent of children in low-income countries receive the basic set of childhood vaccines, covering diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza,” a Bloomberg View editorial states. However, “[t]his campaign will be disrupted, and lives lost, if immunization critics win their latest battle for an international ban on a vaccine component” — thimerosal, a mercury-containing organic compound — “that has proved to be safe time and time again,” the editorial writes, noting, “Groups such as the Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs and the Coalition for SafeMinds are pressing their case before the United Nations Environmental Program [UNEP] meets on Jan. 13 to prepare a global treaty reducing mercury use.”
“Stung by the realization that it faced a child malnutrition crisis worse than in most African countries, India is finally waking to the scale of the problem,” the Washington Post reports in an article examining the country’s efforts to combat child malnutrition. “Progress is slow and political will patchy, but there are signs that a new approach to fighting malnutrition is beginning to reap dividends,” the newspaper continues and details several nationwide and state-level efforts. “Despite the progress, India has a long way to go,” the Washington Post adds, noting, “India’s progress in fighting malnutrition fails to impress many experts.” According to the newspaper, many programs established to fight malnutrition lack methods to measure progress or track accountability. The Washington Post also features a photo slide show and a graphic on child malnutrition in India (Denyer, 12/26).
Several newspapers published opinion pieces regarding the recent murders of polio vaccination workers in Pakistan. The following summarizes two opinion pieces and one editorial on the issue.
“Despite good rains across much of the Sahel this year, 1.4 million children are expected to be malnourished — up from one million in 2012, according to the 2013 Sahel regional strategy,” IRIN reports. “The strategy, which calls on donors to provide $1.6 billion of aid for 2013, says fewer people are expected to go hungry in 2013 — 10.3 million instead of 18.7 million in 2012,” the news service writes.
“Twenty years ago this month, the first text message was sent through the airwaves,” Sharon D’Agostino, vice president for worldwide corporate contributions and community relations at Johnson & Johnson, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, adding, “Since then, text messages have been used to communicate all sorts of information. Most inspiring to me is how the technology once used to send a holiday wish is transforming the way women and families receive the information they need to be healthier — no matter where in the world they are.” She discusses several initiatives working with mobile technologies to improve health education and access, and states, “The ubiquity of the mobile phone provides the perfect method to deliver critical health information, as more than a billion women in low- and middle-income countries have access to a mobile phone” (12/20).
“[T]here [is] reason for optimism about the health of the world’s youngest,” columnist Tina Rosenberg writes in the New York Times “Opinionator” blog, noting, “A massive study published last week called the Global Burden of Disease report found that in the past 20 years, the death rate of children under five has dropped in every country in the world save three — Kuwait, Tonga and Zimbabwe.” She details some of the report findings and highlights a number of “cheap global programs” that have contributed to progress over the years, including vaccines, nutritional supplements, family planning, oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhea, and bed nets, among others.
“Health programs integrating services for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV into regular maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) clinics, rather than operating PMTCT services as stand-along programs, are showing positive results in Kenya, experts say,” PlusNews reports. “Some 13,000 Kenyan children contract HIV annually; the country is among some 22 nations accounting for 90 percent of all pregnant women living with HIV,” according to the news service. PlusNews examines how “[t]he government is now moving towards the integration of HIV and other public health services, part of efforts to strengthen the overall health system,” in order to reach its goal of eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015 (12/19).
“Nigeria is one of only three countries — along with Afghanistan and Pakistan — that remains blighted by polio,” Aliko Dangote, founder and CEO of the Dangote Group and chair of the Dangote Foundation, writes in a Project Syndicate opinion piece. He notes Nigeria is “one of Africa’s most developed countries,” “the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in Africa,” home to “thriving Nigerian businesses,” and “will soon surpass South Africa to become Africaâ€™s largest economy.” However, “Nigerians cannot hope to lead Africa, economically or otherwise, while neglecting to eliminate preventable diseases like polio,” he writes.