In an opinion piece in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, David Olson, a global health communications consultant who worked as a communications adviser to the Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance in Kenya earlier this year, describes how “abortion rights [in the country] have been liberalized in certain cases in a Constitution approved in a public referendum two years ago.” He continues, “The new constitution says clearly that ‘the life of a person begins at conception’ and ‘abortion is not permitted unless…'” Olson writes, “And that innocuous ‘unless’ is what keeps the abortion issue alive in Kenya, almost two years after the constitutional referendum: ‘…unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.'”
“During the first presidential debate, neither President [Barack] Obama nor [Republican presidential nominee Gov. Mitt] Romney addressed the issue that affects half the world’s population: women’s reproductive rights,” Musimbi Kanyoro, president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog. “As the two square off on foreign policy, women’s reproductive rights must be addressed because whomever becomes president will not only determine U.S. women’s personal, economic and educational choices, but also those of women worldwide,” she writes, adding, “The candidates’ positions on women’s reproductive rights couldn’t be starker.”
“Nothing could be more appropriate than the World Food Day focus on cooperatives this year,” because “[t]he collective power of cooperatives can enable better access to market, better returns, better access to inputs and services, and a better support network for smallholder farmers,” leading to “[h]igher returns” which allow farmers to “better provide for the nutrition, education and health of their families,” Mark Bowman, managing director of SABMiller, writes in an AllAfrica.com opinion piece. Africa is “at the center of the global challenge of food security,” “because one in three of the world’s hungry live on the continent” and “because Africa has the potential not only to feed its own people but also to become a more significant food exporter,” he says. Smallholder farmers are essential to meet this “challenge and potential,” Bowman notes, but he adds they are “cut off” by location or lack of funding from new products and technologies, efficient transport, and information.
Though “conflict and insecurity problems in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria have presented challenges to polio immunization, … these are surmountable obstacles,” Siddharth Chatterjee, chief diplomat and head of strategic partnerships and international relations at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, writes in the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory. “Millions of children have received polio vaccines in countries ravaged by conflict and poverty, thanks to determined action by national governments and the work of courageous health workers from UNICEF, WHO, Red Cross-Red Crescent National Societies, and [non-governmental organizations],” he notes. In addition to providing political will and humanitarian solidarity, “[w]e must ensure the effort is fully funded; not just year-by-year, but for the long term,” he writes, concluding, “We have the opportunity to ensure success, and we must not fail to deliver a legacy of a polio-free world” (10/16).
Noting “[a]round 170 million children under the age of five are stunted” globally, actor and UNICEF ambassador Mia Farrow writes in a CNN opinion piece, “For too long, stunting has been a silent crisis — a personal tragedy for each family,” but “the suffering of some 170 million children constitutes a global catastrophe that calls for an urgent response.” Traveling with UNICEF for more than a decade, Farrow says, “Wherever there is poverty, it is the children who pay the highest price.” She continues, “At this moment, one million children throughout the Sahel region of Africa are at risk of dying.” Farrow highlights progress made in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake “caus[ed] hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries” in the country and writes, “There is more work to do, but we can see that even in challenging circumstances it is possible to work together to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable children, pregnant women, and mothers have access to food and drinkable water.” She concludes, “In the name of some 170 million children, let’s pull together and end the obscenity of hunger and stunting” (10/16).
Though the number of children dying of preventable and treatable diseases worldwide has dropped significantly since 1990, there is “realistic hope for much more” progress, particularly if “[i]mproved hygiene and sanitation … play a key role in the next stage,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. Noting that “diarrhea and pneumonia are the two leading killers of children, accounting for almost 30 percent of under-five deaths globally,” they state, “Vaccines can help, but improved hygiene and sanitation are also vital, and therefore key to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of cutting the child mortality rate by at least two-thirds by 2015.”
“Thirty years ago, the CDC reported the first cases of HIV/AIDS in New York and Los Angeles,” Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Kwei Quartey writes in the Huffington Post World Blog, noting, “Since the beginning of the epidemic, over 600,000 people have died of AIDS in the United States, and 1.2 million people are currently living with HIV.” He briefly recounts a history of the disease in both the U.S. and Africa, writing, “Initially thought to be a disease of gay white men, AIDS is now a global epidemic.” He continues, “Whatever its origins, HIV/AIDS became a severe epidemic in East Africa in the 1980s,” noting, “The initial response by African governments to the AIDS crisis was inadequate, and in some cases absent.”
“Ten years ago, I took my first role as a midwife in a refugee camp in Iran. … The situation for women and children was terrible — the maternal mortality rate was among the worst in the world,” Sabera Turkmani, president of Afghan Midwives Association, writes in this Al Jazeera opinion piece. “Today, there are many more trained midwives in Afghanistan, and the situation for mothers has improved,” she continues, adding, “Yet there is still a long way to go in providing mothers and babies with the support they need to save more lives.”
Uganda “has overcome a violent past, but hope is daily threatened by a force more deadly than any warlord or civil unrest”: the mosquito, Ugandan Health Minister Christine Ondoa writes in a GlobalPost opinion piece. According to the WHO, “Uganda has the highest incidence of malaria in the world,” and the disease is endemic in more than 95 percent of the country, she notes. Malaria “deeply affect[s]” Uganda’s economy, Ondoa says, noting Ugandans spend 25 percent of their incomes to treat and prevent the disease; children miss “countless school days,” and the disease renders some developmentally impaired after becoming infected. “As a result of these tremendous losses, African economists estimate that, if unchecked, malaria’s toll on Uganda’s annual GDP will rise over the next five years to as much as $3.2 billion,” she states.
A report (.pdf) released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation outlines the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) global health work, “present[ing] the first comprehensive analysis of DoD’s activities and budget in this area” and “aim[ing] to contribute to discussions about DoD’s role in global health, understandably regarded as controversial by many observers,” a Lancet editorial states. “The report notes that DoD’s work in global health is varied,” “[n]o overarching policy or strategic document guides the department’s global health-related efforts and there is no single budget for such activities,” the Lancet writes. The report estimates that DoD’s budget for global health work in FY 2012 was more than half a billion dollars, more “than the global health budgets for either the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health during the same period”; however, “the effectiveness of this investment is unclear,” according to the editorial.