PRI’s “The World” reports on malnutrition in India, where “eight million children … suffer from severe acute malnutrition, according to the Indian government.” However, the news service writes that “when it comes to treating those children, India lacks what many consider one of the best tools available: so-called ready-to-use therapeutic foods,” such as “the most well-known therapeutic food, Plumpy’Nut, … a patented concoction of peanut butter and micro-nutrients that allows severely malnourished children to be treated at home instead of at a hospital.” PRI notes, “Plumpy’Nut is not authorized for the treatment of malnutrition in India, and some doctors feared that dependence on a foreign import would come at the expense of the kind of locally produced food that Indian families prepare at home.”
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
Preliminary Results Of MSF Malaria Prevention Program Suggest Malaria Drugs Prevent Disease In Healthy Children
A large-scale malaria prevention program through which medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) gave intermittent doses of anti-malaria drugs to 175,000 children in Mali and Chad suggests that “widely distributing anti-malaria drugs to healthy children in African countries can significantly reduce the number of new cases of the disease,” VOA News reports. “The [program] was launched in July and will continue through next month, a period of high transmission for malaria,” the news service notes (9/24). “Preliminary results from the program, known as seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC), show that the number of cases of simple malaria dropped by 65 percent in the intervention area in Mali, and by up to 86 percent in Chad,” according to an MSF press release, which adds, “A significant decrease in cases of severe malaria has also been recorded.”
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Gary Darmstadt, head of the family health division of the foundation, family planning expert Monica Kerrigan, and Wendy Prosser, a research analyst with the foundation’s family health division, examine global initiatives “launched in recent months and years” that bring “needed attention to women’s and children’s health,” including “the Muskoka Initiative, Every Woman Every Child, the Child Survival Promise to Keep, and the Millennium Development Goals.” They highlight the goals and metrics established at the Summit on Family Planning in July and write, “We hope this is not just another commitment that generates a lot of attention and then fades away” (9/21).
Scaling Up Access To Maternal, Child Health Care Would Prevent Most Deaths During Pregnancy, Childbirth
“Every day, 800 women lose their lives giving birth — 287,000 each year — and the vast majority of these deaths occurs in developing countries. … These deaths are unacceptable, particularly because they are preventable,” the heads of the Health 4+ (UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, U.N. Women, the WHO, and the World Bank, known as H4+) write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. They continue, “Every woman giving birth should be able to turn to a skilled health worker, and be given the life-saving — and cost-effective — medicines so critical to her and her baby.” They note the group is meeting “[o]n 24 September — during the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly, … to advocate at the highest levels for the health of women and children globally” and “bolster joint efforts towards meeting the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly in countries that are lagging the furthest behind.”
Joint Report Calls For Action On Child Nutrition In Countries With Highest Numbers Of Malnourished Children
“Countries with the highest numbers of malnourished children urgently need to step up the way they respond to the problem in order to prevent millions of unnecessary deaths, according to a joint report,” titled the “Nutrition Barometer” and released on Friday by Save the Children and World Vision, AlertNet reports. According to the news service, the report, “which provides a snapshot of national governments’ commitments to addressing children’s nutrition, found that of 36 countries, where 90 percent of the world’s malnourished children live, almost a quarter have shown little progress in tackling the crisis” (Win, 9/21).
Citing President John F. Kennedy’s “moon speech” — in which Kennedy said, “We chooseâ€¦because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win” — Ariel Pablos Mendez, USAID assistant administrator for global health, writes in USAID’s “IMPACTblog” that the speech “rings true of the promise for global health today.” He describes several health improvement efforts, including the Child Survival Call to Action, and says, “For health, ‘reaching the moon’ will advance human progress.” He concludes, “This is a shared vision and opportunity we can all work toward, and neither the moon nor the end to preventable child death are too far away” (9/23).
Though the global community has “made incredible inroads” on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), “the majority of developing countries are still expected to fall short of the MDG targets for reducing maternal and child mortality by 2015,” Carole Presern, director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. A report released recently by PMNCH “sheds light on the reasons why more progress is not being made to end these needless deaths” by examining “commitments made to advance the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health” launched by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2010, she notes.
“An infant’s first moments and the twenty-eight days that follow are the most precarious, and her risk of death is never higher,” but “[s]imple and inexpensive techniques, … such as drying her, clearing her airway, keeping her warm or using a simple ventilation device to stimulate her breathing, can help,” and frontline health workers “deliver these lifesaving techniques,” Sharon D’Agostino, vice president of worldwide corporate contributions and community relations for Johnson & Johnson, and Winifred Mwebesa of Save the Children write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. They discuss the “Helping Babies Breathe” education initiative that trains health workers on skills such as resuscitation. The authors continue, “Frontline health workers are our global health heroes but, according to World Health Organization, we do not have nearly enough of them, especially in Africa, where there may be fewer than two trained doctors for every 1,000 people.”
“Niger has nearly halved the death rate of children below five years old since 1998, a significant drop highlighting the benefits of free universal health care for children and pregnant women as well as increased donor funding for health,” according to a analysis published in the Lancet, IRIN reports. “The mortality rate reduced from 226 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1998 to 128 deaths in 2009, an annual rate of decline of 5.1 percent, said the study, noting that the slump bettered the fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to cut the child mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015,” as well as neighboring countries’ achievements, the news service notes. “Provision of insecticide-treated bednets, improved nutrition, giving vitamin A supplements, treatment of diarrhea, fevers, malaria, childhood pneumonia, and vaccinations also boosted child survival, the study found,” IRIN writes. Agbessi Amouzou, a co-author of the study, said, “The research demonstrates the success of the strategy implemented by the government and its partners, an important step toward the well-being of the Niger population,” according to the news service.
“Spending on maternal and child health has stalled, according to an expert analysis, raising concerns that efforts to cut deaths in poor countries to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) may falter,” the Guardian reports. According to a report (.pdf) from the Countdown to 2015 Group published in the Lancet, there has been “a downturn in the total amount of overseas development aid earmarked for these goals between 2009 and 2010 — the latest year for which there is data,” the newspaper notes. “Over the period that Countdown has been tracking, funding for maternal and child health has more than doubled, from $2,566 million in 2003, to $6,480 million in 2010,” but after years of steady increases, the latest data show a slight decrease of 0.5 percent, or $32 million, in funding, the Guardian states.