Political and private sector leaders met on Thursday at a High-Level Meeting on Scaling Up Nutrition, held in New York on the sidelines of the 67th U.N. General Assembly session, the U.N. News Centre reports. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “praised the progress made by the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, which has been joined by 30 countries … which are home to 56 million children suffering from stunted growth due to chronic malnutrition,” according to the news service. Ban also highlighted the Zero Hunger Challenge, which he launched at the Rio+20 meeting in Brazil in June, and said, “In our world of plenty, no one should be malnourished. … And in a world with no hunger, all food and agriculture would be sustainable, and no food would be lost or wasted,” the news service notes (9/27).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
Most Asian Countries Fail To Include Rotavirus Vaccine In National Immunization Programs Citing Cost As Barrier
“Most countries in Asia have yet to make the rotavirus vaccine part of their national immunization program (NIP), despite a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to do so,” IRIN reports. “Worldwide, rotavirus accounts for 37 percent of all diarrhea deaths in children under five with 95 percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries,” the news service states, noting, “There are no antibiotics or any other drug to fight the infection and since 2009 WHO has recommended the global use of the rotavirus vaccine.” Forty-one countries worldwide include rotavirus vaccine in their NIPs, but “only two countries in Asia — Philippines and Thailand — are vaccinating (or are about to) children against rotavirus,” according to IRIN. An email to IRIN from WHO’s Manila office stated, “Price continues to be an important barrier to introducing rotavirus vaccine,” the news service notes (9/7).
“No woman should die giving birth, and yet maternal mortality, despite progress, remains one of the leading causes of death among women of reproductive age in developing countries,” Mary Ellen Stanton, senior maternal health adviser for the Global Health Bureau, writes in USAID’s “IMPACTblog.” She notes, “Most of these deaths are preventable.” She highlights the Saving Mothers, Giving Life initiative, writing it “represents a unique partnership through which the United States government has enlisted significant support from key public, private and non-governmental players in the global health field with one collective purpose — to reduce maternal mortality” (9/24).
Following the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in July, “delegates left Washington with a clear focus on achieving an AIDS-free generation,” Chip Lyons, president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, writes in the Huffington Post’s “The Big Push” blog. “But in the weeks following, HIV/AIDS and global health have largely disappeared from our political dialogue,” he says, because “[n]ational attention is squarely focused on the November elections, and we haven’t seen the ‘post-conference’ bounce that these issues deserve.” He continues, “Although there was mention of support for PEPFAR and the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] at this summer’s conventions, this kind of high-level call to action was noticeably absent in Tampa and Charlotte.”
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.”
“Morocco has made great strides in improving maternal health in recent years, decreasing its maternal mortality ratio by over 60 percent since 1990,” but “a wide maternal health gap” exists between women in urban and rural areas, where deliveries generally are attended by an experienced yet untrained family member, Women’s eNews reports. In 2010, according to a 2011 report from the U.N. Population Fund, the maternal mortality rate in urban areas was 73 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with 148 deaths per 100,000 live births in rural areas, the news service notes. “[W]hen a [rural] woman runs into serious trouble … access to life-saving care is a two-hour walk away, on a rough mountainous path sometimes blocked by snow,” the news service writes, adding Abdelghani Drhimeur, head of communications at the Ministry of Health in Rabat, said, “Seventy percent of mothers who die do so on the way to the hospital.” Women’s eNews examines several organizations’ efforts to educate women about sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, and technical midwifery skills (Bhatia, 9/24).
“A report [.pdf] on Afghanistan backed by UNICEF shows the country still has leaps and bounds to go in the areas of maternal and child health and education,” GlobalPost’s “Rights” blog reports. “Nearly 46 percent of women between ages 20 and 24 gave birth to a child before their eighteenth birthday in the Western regions of Afghanistan, and one in four women in the country overall delivered a live birth before reaching adulthood,” the report states, according to the blog. “‘Alarmingly, two percent have had a live birth before the age of 15,’ says the report,” the blog writes, adding, “These women were child brides, sold or given to husbands before reaching maturity. The practice is illegal in Afghanistan, but the tradition remains firmly implanted in certain rural tribal regions of the country to the detriment of both mothers and children.”
“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.”
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.
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).