“Every child should have the opportunity to celebrate his or her fifth birthday,” but 7.6 million “kids die within the first five years of life,” a VOA editorial writes. “That is why [USAID] recently launched ‘Every Child Deserves A Fifth Birthday,’ an awareness-raising campaign leading up to the mid-June ‘Child Survival: Call to Action’ two-day conference,” the editorial states, adding, “This high-level forum, convened by the governments of the United States, India and Ethiopia, together with [UNICEF], will mobilize political, non-governmental and private actors to end preventable child deaths.”
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
“Each year, nearly 400,000 children are born with HIV globally, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) is a particular challenge in sub-Saharan Africa, an area characterized by weak health systems,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby writes in the State Department “DipNote” blog. “Last year PEPFAR and UNAIDS joined with other partners to launch the Global Plan, an initiative to eliminate new HIV infections among children and keep their mothers alive,” Goosby writes and reflects on a two-day mission to Nigeria with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe last week. He concludes, “Preventing new HIV infections in children is a smart investment that saves lives, and the United States is proud to partner with Nigeria and other countries in this cause” (4/30).
In this post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Chris Thomas, a health and development officer at USAID, reports on an event held on Capitol Hill on Tuesday during which “the U.S. Government celebrated remarkable country-level success in saving the lives of women during pregnancy and childbirth.” “Health ministers from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, and the head of maternal and child health from Rwanda took center stage on Capitol Hill,” where “each told a unique and personal story,” he writes, noting, “USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah keyed in on drivers of successful maternal health programs and how such efforts can be accelerated and sustained throughout the developing world” (4/27).
In a post on USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Amanda Makulec of John Snow Inc. describes the Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) initiative, which was developed “to equip birth attendants in developing countries with the skills they need to successfully resuscitate babies born without the ability to breathe on their own.” She continues, “[I]t was the power of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) model — public-private partnership on a global scale — that dramatically expanded access to newborn resuscitation in remote health facilities and communities in 34 countries within 18 months of the launch of the partnership … by leveraging the commitment, resources, and support of a diverse group of program implementers, NGOs, private sector organizations, government institutions, U.N. agencies, professional associations to enable the rapid roll out of the intervention globally” (4/30).
“The Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday theme for this week is prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT),” an e-mail alert from USAID reports, noting, “PMTCT provides HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services for the whole family and is the most effective way to create an HIV-free generation.” According to USAID, “when a mother receives antiretroviral therapy, the risk of mother-to-child transmission drops from about 40 percent to near zero.” The e-mail states, “USAID and the global community are committed to accelerating progress and scale-up of PMTCT, with the goal of eliminating new pediatric HIV infections by 2015 and improving maternal, newborn, and child survival and health in the context of HIV” (5/29).
Citing a U.N. report released in May, titled “Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010,” which shows “the number of women worldwide dying of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications has almost halved in the last 20 years,” Agnes Odhiambo, a researcher for women in Africa at Human Rights Watch, writes in this Inter Press Service opinion piece, “Although there was a 41 percent reduction in sub-Saharan Africa, the progress is slow and uneven. â€¦ Greater effort is urgently needed to save pregnant women.” She continues, “African governments need to invest in strong health care systems and to ensure that there are enough health care facilities that can provide emergency obstetric care, equitably dispense suitable drugs and supplies, and employ a sufficient number of adequately trained health professionals, including those with midwifery skills.”
“U.N. officials say they expect 18 million people in West Africa will go hungry this year, including three million young children whose lives or health will be at risk,” the Associated Press reports. David Gressly, the U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for nine countries in Africa’s Sahel region, told reporters on Tuesday that at least one million children’s lives will be threatened by malnutrition in 2012, and malnutrition will cause health problems for another two million children under age five, according to the news agency. Gressly said drought, failed harvests, and political instability were making this the worst hunger crisis to hit the region since 2005, the AP notes (5/29).
“[I]n an exclusive interview with Newsweek,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discussed how “she has decided to make family planning her signature issue and primary public health a priority.” Gates said, “My goal is to get this back on the global agenda,” the news service writes. “Gates believes that by focusing on the lives of women and children, and by making it clear that the agenda is neither coercive population control nor abortion, the controversy over international family planning programs can be defused,” according to Newsweek.
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog notes that PEPFAR recently released its 8th annual report (.pdf) to Congress. “The five-page document outlines the program’s progress as of the end of fiscal year 2011 in various areas,” including the provision of antiretroviral treatment, care, and support; HIV testing and counseling for pregnant women; and prevention of mother-to-child transmission services, the blog notes. The report includes sections on “leading with science,” “smart investments,” “country ownership,” and “shared responsibility,” according to the blog (Mazzotta, 5/4).
The March of Dimes Foundation, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Save the Children, and the WHO on Wednesday released a new report, titled “Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth,” showing that 15 million infants are born prematurely each year, 1.1 million of those infants die, but 75 percent of those deaths are preventable. The following blog posts addressed the report and its findings.