In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Gary Darmstadt, head of the Family Health Division of the foundation, Wendy Prosser, a research analyst with the Family Health Division, and Damian Walker, a senior program officer at the foundation, examine efforts to stop the transmission of syphilis from mother to child during labor and delivery. “[W]e have been depending on doing only one thing to eliminate the transmission of syphilis from a mom to her baby, and doing it for years: antenatal care,” they write. However, “eliminating congenital syphilis only through screening of pregnant women — is not working,” the authors state, and discuss “other innovative ideas that need exploration,” including the development of a vaccine (9/13).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
Chris Thomas of the USAID Bureau for Global Health writes in the agency’s “IMPACT Blog,” “America’s legacy in child survival is a proud one: With strong bipartisan support, U.S. support of global health has saved many millions of lives.” He discusses a “child survival revolution” launched 30 years ago by USAID, UNICEF, and Congress “aimed at reducing the number of deaths among young children in developing countries,” and he notes the annual number of under-five child deaths has dropped from 15 million worldwide to less than seven million since then. He adds, “But a child dying anywhere in the world is a tragic loss and undermines peace and stability,” and he describes USAID’s work to help implement innovations in child survival, including the Child Survival Call to Action (9/13).
“The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said Nigeria was not on track in the effort to eradicate wild polio virus before the end of December this year,” Leadership/AllAfrica.com reports. Speaking at the 24th Expert Review Committee (ERC) Meeting on Polio Eradication in Abuja, Bruce Aylward, WHO assistant director-general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration, said Nigeria had the tools and capacity to turn back the increasing number of polio cases that pose a “real and growing danger to international public health,” the news service notes. Aylward “recommended eight major steps for polio eradication for the country, including the implementation of the new house-based micro planning and monitoring method,” refresher training for all personnel to emphasize the emergency status declared by the WHO, and the identification and immunization of missed children and those in insecure areas, among others, according to the news service. ERC Chair Tomori Oyewale “called on Nigerians to change their attitude to polio eradication to ensure the success of the fight against the virus,” the news service writes (9/11).
Inter Press Service examines the reaction to calls for the WHO “to reverse its listing in April 2011 of misoprostol among essential medicines that ‘satisfy the health care needs of the majority of the population’ and are ‘available at all times in adequate amounts and in appropriate dosage forms, at a price the community can afford'” as a result of a study published in the August issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. “Originally intended for treating gastric ulcers, misoprostol has since 2000 been gaining in popularity for its ability to induce labor and stop postpartum hemorrhage (PPH),” according to the news service.
“Stunting is a key factor holding back progress on children’s well-being, and Asia faces a significant challenge with millions of children under five stunted,” according to Save the Children’s 2012 Child Development Index (CDI), IRIN reports. The news service examines data from the 2012 State of the World’s Children report (.pdf), noting that nearly 60 percent of children under five in Afghanistan and Timor Leste have moderate to severe stunting, which puts children “at greater risk of illness and death, impaired cognitive development and poor school performance, say health experts.”
“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.
“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.
“As many as 200 million children across the world fail to reach their full potential because their early brain development is held back by poverty, disease and malnutrition, global health experts said on Thursday,” Reuters reports (Kelland, 9/13). The Canadian government-funded Grand Challenges Canada on Thursday “announced $11.8 million CAD [$12 million] in funding over two years for 11 bold ideas from innovators in the developing world, to address health conditions causing diminished cognitive potential and stunting,” according to a Grand Challenges Canada press release (9/13). The projects, which will be implemented in developing countries such as Thailand, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Colombia, “include plans to encourage so-called ‘kangaroo mother care,’ where low-weight newborns are held skin to skin rather than put into incubators, and ways of combating maternal depression to boost interaction between mothers and babies,” Reuters notes (9/13).
Noting the Copenhagen Consensus has stated that “large-scale micronutrient fortification is a proven and cost-effective intervention that can mitigate malnutrition in the form of vitamin and mineral deficiencies and enhance the well-being of millions,” Marc Van Ameringen, executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), writes in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, “On September 9, 2012, [GAIN] launched a partnership in Kabul with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health, the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation (KBZF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to help alleviate the burden of malnutrition in Afghanistan by bringing more nutritious wheat flour, vegetable oil, and ghee to approximately half of the country’s population.”
The annual number of child deaths worldwide has fallen more than 40 percent since 1990, “the result of myriad improvements in nutrition, access to vaccines and antibiotics, cleaner deliveries, better care of infants immediately after birth, and the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets,” according to “the findings of a report released Wednesday by three United Nations agencies and the World Bank,” the Washington Post reports (Brown, 9/12). “In 1990, there were 12 million deaths of young children, but the latest figures … show that deaths had fallen by nearly half, to 6.9 million, by 2011,” the Guardian writes (Boseley, 9/12). “[T]he number of deaths is down by at least 50 percent in eastern, western and southeastern Asia, as well as in northern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean,” the report says, VOA News notes (Schlein, 9/12). However, “[i]n some, mainly sub-Saharan countries, the total number of deaths of children younger than five increased,” BBC News writes, adding, “The Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Somalia, Mali, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso saw annual deaths of children under five rise by 10,000 or more in 2011 as compared with 1990” (Doyle, 9/13).