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.”
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
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.”
“Ten years ago, I took my first role as a midwife in a refugee camp in Iran. … The situation for women and children was terrible — the maternal mortality rate was among the worst in the world,” Sabera Turkmani, president of Afghan Midwives Association, writes in this Al Jazeera opinion piece. “Today, there are many more trained midwives in Afghanistan, and the situation for mothers has improved,” she continues, adding, “Yet there is still a long way to go in providing mothers and babies with the support they need to save more lives.”
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).
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).