“Earlier this week the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge, U.K. hosted a conference called New Approaches to Maternal Mortality in Africa,” Paul Simpson, the associate editor at PLoS Medicine, reports in the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog, writing, “The conference brought together diverse expertise from obstetricians to policymakers and historians with the aim of focusing on both the biological mechanisms from determining birth outcomes, as well as the social and historical context of maternal mortality in Africa.” Simpson posts a video interview with conference organizer Professor Ashley Moffett, who discusses the motivations behind the conference, and a second video “featuring Annette Nakimuli, an obstetrician and gynecologist from Uganda, who discusses her research on preeclampsia and her experiences working in Uganda” (7/4).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
In this audio report in PRI’s “The World,” PRI anchor “Aaron Schachter talks to Agnes Odhiambo, a researcher on women’s rights in Africa for New York-based Human Rights Watch, about the terrible toll of teenage pregnancy and childbirth in Africa.” “Teenage pregnancy is an issue of pandemic proportions in Africa,” Odhiambo said, adding, “Teenage pregnancy is really an issue that has serious negative consequences for girls, for the development of communities and for the development of cultures.” She discussed progress toward reducing maternal deaths in various African countries and said that a number of factors contribute to maternal mortality, including a lack of sexual education for young girls, some traditional practices, such as early marriage, and the inadequate provision of health services (7/3).
Annual Report On MDGs Shows Success In Some Areas, But Continued Lack Of Progress In Other Areas, Including Maternal Health
“An annual report card [.pdf] on the ambitious U.N.-led initiative known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) says that in three areas — poverty, slums and water — the goals have been met ahead of the 2015 deadline, but persistent gaps remain, notably in the critical area of maternal health,” Inter Press Service reports (Cortes, 7/2). “The eight MDGs, agreed by world leaders at a U.N. summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development,'” the U.N. News Centre notes.
Though Indonesia is “widely seen as a development success story — indeed, it is sometimes referred to as one of Asia’s ‘rising powers’ … in the area of maternal health, the successes have been modest and much remains to be done,” Andrew Rosser, associate director of the Indo-Pacific Governance Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, writes in an Inside Indonesia opinion piece. “Indonesia is on track to meet many of these goals,” including those related to poverty, child nutrition and mortality, education, and tuberculosis and malaria, “[b]ut it is well off track when it comes to goals related to maternal health,” he states. The country also is “failing to meet its targets on the use of modern methods of contraception and reducing the ‘unmet need’ for family planning — that is, the proportion of couples who want to limit the number of children they have but do not have access to contraception,” Rosser notes.
The London Summit on Family Planning, co-sponsored by the U.K. government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with support from UNFPA and other partners, is scheduled to take place next week. The following blog posts address the summit and the issue of family planning.
Advocates Leave Rio+20 'More Determined Than Ever' To Secure Access To Reproductive Rights For All Women
“There is a direct correlation between access to voluntary family planning, women’s empowerment and environmental sustainability,” author Diane MacEachern writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, adding, “And though the official delegates to last week’s ‘Earth Summit’ tried to water it down, thousands of grassroots activists made it one of the biggest issues to rock Rio+20, as the event was also called.” She continues, “Women took these issues to Rio because more than 200 million women in the U.S. and around the world cannot choose whether or when to have a baby, simply because they don’t have access to voluntary family planning.”
Philippines To Spend Nearly $12M On Contraceptives To Bolster Family Planning, Reduce Maternal Mortality Rate
The government of the Philippines plans to spend nearly $12 million on contraceptives this year in an effort to “save its ‘failed’ family planning program and drastically cut maternal deaths,” according to the Department of Health, IRIN reports. However, “[i]t is a controversial decision that even public health officials and family planning advocates admit may not be carried out by local officials wary of angering the [Catholic] Church or losing the votes of Catholic supporters,” the news service writes. In addition to purchasing and distributing condoms, intra-uterine devices (IUDs), birth control pills, and other contraceptives “on a large scale for the first time in largely underfunded community centers across the country,” health officials say the plan “is aimed at cutting maternal mortality rates, which went from just 162 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006 to 221 in 2011 — a rise [of] 35 percent — according to the government’s 2011 Family Health Survey,” IRIN notes.
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, reports on the “Saving Mothers, Giving Life” (Saving Mothers) initiative, launched by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a health conference in Norway in June. “A partnership between the Government of Norway, Merck for Mothers, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI), and Every Mother Counts, ‘Saving Mothers’ was forged to help reduce maternal mortality in countries that experience extremely high rates of maternal deaths,” she writes, adding, “Providing $200 million in financial and in-kind resources, ‘Savings Mothers’ will push to reduce maternal deaths by up to 50 percent in country districts where maternal mortality is highest” (6/29).
As part of a monthly series of posts guest edited by FHI 360 on behalf of USAID’S Interagency Youth Working Group (IYWG), this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog by Primrose Nanchani Manyalo, a field officer at Restless Development, discusses how “adolescent pregnancy is a harsh reality that many young girls encounter.” Manyalo talks about her work with young women in Zimbabwe, and says everyone has a role to play in helping to prevent adolescent pregnancy. She concludes, “Young women need increased access to equal opportunities, education in sexual and reproductive health, youth-friendly services, social support, education, employment, and empowering life skills, so that unplanned childbearing does not hinder the achievement of their dreams at a young age” (6/29).
“Tens of thousands of people uprooted or trapped by conflict in northern Mali are going without enough food, leading to a spike in cases of children suffering from malnutrition, medical aid groups say,” AlertNet reports. “The situation in northern Mali is also being compounded by a wider food and nutrition crisis across the Sahel region of West Africa, where the United Nations estimates that 18 million people are facing hunger due to a combination of drought, failed crops, insect swarms, and high food prices,” the news service writes. “Aid workers warn that living conditions in Mali’s troubled north will worsen unless security improves, enabling better access for humanitarian groups, and donors provide more funding for relief operations,” AlertNet notes, adding that charity groups working in the region say mothers and children are being affected most by malnutrition (Fominyen, 6/28).