In an opinion piece in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, David Olson, a global health communications consultant who worked as a communications adviser to the Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance in Kenya earlier this year, describes how “abortion rights [in the country] have been liberalized in certain cases in a Constitution approved in a public referendum two years ago.” He continues, “The new constitution says clearly that ‘the life of a person begins at conception’ and ‘abortion is not permitted unless…'” Olson writes, “And that innocuous ‘unless’ is what keeps the abortion issue alive in Kenya, almost two years after the constitutional referendum: ‘…unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.'”
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
Aissata Sall Yade, a communications assistant for the Senegal Urban Reproductive Health Initiative, part of IntraHealth International, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog about Aissatou Dia Fall, a head midwife at Senegal’s Gallo Dia Health Center in Yeumbeul, and her efforts to improve access to health care for women in the community. She has reached out to different organizations for monetary assistance for her clients, Yade notes, adding, “Strategies like Aissatou Dia Fall’s will help improve Senegal’s national contraceptive prevalence rate, which is currently only 12 percent. It will also help reduce one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates (410 deaths per 100,000 live births) and reduce the fertility rate (an average of five children per woman)” (10/17).
“Chelsea Clinton is taking on the discomforting issue of diarrhea, throwing her family’s philanthropic heft behind a sweeping effort in Nigeria to prevent the deaths of one million mothers and children each year from preventable causes, including 100,000 deaths from diarrhea,” Reuters reports. “The 32-year-old daughter of President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined Nigerian officials, the prime minister of Norway and other leaders on Tuesday in promoting expanded access to zinc and oral rehydration solutions or ORS, a treatment that could prevent more than 90 percent of diarrhea-related deaths in the country,” the news agency writes (Steenhuysen, 10/17).
In this episode of CNN’s “Amanpour,” correspondent Christiane Amanpour talks with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter Angelique Kidjo, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, about childhood stunting, which “threatens 180 million children below the age of five all over the world.” According to the show’s summary, “[m]illions of children around the world are threatened with death, lowered I.Q. and deformities by [the] life-altering condition — one that can be avoided simply by eating enough nutrients.” “It’s probably the least understood, most under-appreciated development issue, human issue, perhaps in the world,” Lake says in the video (Burke/Krever, 10/16).
NPR’s “Shots” blog reports on efforts to eradicate polio in Nigeria. “[N]orthern Nigeria is the only place in the world where polio cases are increasing,” the blog writes, noting, “As of Sept. 1, it had recorded 90 polio cases in 2012 — or nearly three times as many as in the same period last year.” The blog highlights the city of Kano in northern Nigeria, which “has been called the ‘epicenter’ of the current polio outbreak,” and where “remnants of the paralyzing disease are visible even on its streets.” “Vaccination campaigns are regular fixtures here,” the blog writes, adding, “In the past few years, religious leaders in this region have gone from opposing vaccination to requiring it.”
Though “conflict and insecurity problems in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria have presented challenges to polio immunization, … these are surmountable obstacles,” Siddharth Chatterjee, chief diplomat and head of strategic partnerships and international relations at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, writes in the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory. “Millions of children have received polio vaccines in countries ravaged by conflict and poverty, thanks to determined action by national governments and the work of courageous health workers from UNICEF, WHO, Red Cross-Red Crescent National Societies, and [non-governmental organizations],” he notes. In addition to providing political will and humanitarian solidarity, “[w]e must ensure the effort is fully funded; not just year-by-year, but for the long term,” he writes, concluding, “We have the opportunity to ensure success, and we must not fail to deliver a legacy of a polio-free world” (10/16).
The following blog posts were published in recognition of Global Handwashing Day, observed annually on October 15.
Noting “[a]round 170 million children under the age of five are stunted” globally, actor and UNICEF ambassador Mia Farrow writes in a CNN opinion piece, “For too long, stunting has been a silent crisis — a personal tragedy for each family,” but “the suffering of some 170 million children constitutes a global catastrophe that calls for an urgent response.” Traveling with UNICEF for more than a decade, Farrow says, “Wherever there is poverty, it is the children who pay the highest price.” She continues, “At this moment, one million children throughout the Sahel region of Africa are at risk of dying.” Farrow highlights progress made in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake “caus[ed] hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries” in the country and writes, “There is more work to do, but we can see that even in challenging circumstances it is possible to work together to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable children, pregnant women, and mothers have access to food and drinkable water.” She concludes, “In the name of some 170 million children, let’s pull together and end the obscenity of hunger and stunting” (10/16).
The international community on Monday observed Global Handwashing Day, GlobalPost reports in a roundup of news coverage surrounding the day. “According to the Guardian, 3,000 children under the age of five die each day from diarrhea alone, making it the second most common cause of child mortality worldwide,” GlobalPost writes. “While it may seem trivial, science has proved handwashing education necessary,” the news service continues, noting Lifebuoy soap estimates that by promoting handwashing “over the last five years the number of deaths caused by diarrhea have been cut in half.” According to GlobalPost, India’s Economic Times reports “a review of 11 countries showed the average rate of handwashing after using the toilet is only 17 percent” (Leasca, 10/15).
Though the number of children dying of preventable and treatable diseases worldwide has dropped significantly since 1990, there is “realistic hope for much more” progress, particularly if “[i]mproved hygiene and sanitation … play a key role in the next stage,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. Noting that “diarrhea and pneumonia are the two leading killers of children, accounting for almost 30 percent of under-five deaths globally,” they state, “Vaccines can help, but improved hygiene and sanitation are also vital, and therefore key to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of cutting the child mortality rate by at least two-thirds by 2015.”