“In the build-up to the London Summit on Family Planning, there have been a lot of opinions expressed on blogs, in mainstream media coverage, in peer-reviewed journals, and even exchanges on the streets and at the water cooler,” Gary Darmstadt, head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Family Health Division, writes in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “And it has been great to see the conversations happening, even with the criticisms and resistance that we have sometimes felt from both conservative and liberal sides of the issue while preparing for the Summit,” he continues. He adds, “I look forward to the exciting times to come as the Summit has concluded, commitments have been made, and now we put the conversations that have been building up for the last few months into action to bring contraceptives to 120 million new users in the next eight years” (7/16).
Programs, Funding & Financing
Gates Foundation's Efforts To Improve Access To Contraceptives Will Improve Health, Lives Of Women, Children
“Supporters of women’s health ought to cheer the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s plan” to provide $1 billion over eight years to increasing women’s access to contraceptives and family planning services because the “effort underscores the critical role of family planning in the international battle to reduce poverty and improve maternal health,” a Seattle Times editorial states. While “Catholic leaders” and “social conservatives” might not agree with the effort, “Bill and Melinda Gates are not looking for a political or religious fight over women’s rights; they’re looking to add their resources to efforts to improve the lives and health of women and children,” according to the editorial.
“High levels of unmet need for contraception around the world have a very negative impact on women’s and children’s health and survival as well as on the prosperity of communities and nations,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “If these women had access to dependable voluntary contraception, unintended pregnancies would fall by more than 70 percent, 100,000 fewer women would die in childbirth, and nearly 600,000 fewer newborns would die each year,” she continues, adding, “If every woman had the option to leave a two-year gap between a birth and a subsequent pregnancy, deaths of children under five would fall by 13 percent.”
“African leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to efforts to eliminate malaria, after they were informed that unprecedented success in scaling up malaria control interventions resulted in one third reduction of malaria deaths in African in the last decade,” PANA/Afriquejet reports, adding “the leaders made the commitment at a high level meeting presided over by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Chair of African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), in Addis Ababa, on the sidelines of the African Union (AU) summit which opened in the Ethiopian capital Sunday.”
“A cure for AIDS remains a distant prospect but a host of drug treatments and other advances have fueled fresh hope that new [HIV] infections may someday be halted for good,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Strategies for ending the 30-year AIDS epidemic through advances in treatment, testing and prevention are high on the agenda of” the XIX International AIDS Conference, “when it returns to the United States next week after two decades,” according to the news agency (Sheridan, 7/14). “Thanks to drugs that can control the virus for decades, AIDS is no longer a death sentence,” Reuters writes in an article examining AIDS vaccine research. “New infections have fallen by 21 percent since the peak of the pandemic in 1997 and advances in prevention — through voluntary circumcision programs, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and early treatment — promise to cut that rate even more,” the news service states (Steenhuysen, 7/15).
“With the help of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and food security experts, IRIN takes a closer look” at how droughts worldwide are affecting grain and cereal supplies, the resulting price fluctuations, and how these issues affect food aid operations. Though experts say a crisis is not imminent, “there is concern that staple grains like maize and wheat could become less affordable for the poor, and sharp fluctuations in prices or volatility could disrupt the efforts of grain-importing poor countries to stay within their budgets,” IRIN writes. In addition, “[t]he price of maize and wheat will affect agencies like WFP, said [Maximo Torero, director of the Markets, Trade and Institutions Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)],” IRIN notes, adding that Torero said, “But at this point I will not be alarmist, although cautious” (7/12).
“[A] surge in money for [insecticide-treated] nets and other interventions” to fight malaria over the past decade has reduced the malaria-related death rate by 26 percent since 2000, and a “new push” to fight the disease, which killed 655,000 people in 2010, would have beneficial results, according to a report set to be released by Ray Chambers, the U.N. special envoy for malaria, an Economist editorial notes. “But raising the cash will be tricky and getting the promised result harder still,” the editorial states. The African Leaders Malaria Alliance estimates that “[u]niversal deployment of good treatment, diagnostics and preventive measures, including bed nets, would — in theory — prevent 640 million malaria cases and three million deaths by 2015, the paper explains,” and notes “[t]his would cost at least $6.7 billion between 2012 and 2015,” the Economist writes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released its Global Health Strategy 2012-2015 (.pdf), which “outlines how CDC will leverage its core strengths to advance four overarching global health goals: improving the health and well-being of people around the world, improving capabilities for preparing and responding to infectious diseases and emerging health threats, building country public health capacity and maximizing organizational capacity,” according to the strategy website (7/13). “This strategy provides a clear definition of CDC’s role in global health and will enable the agency to respond effectively to the evolving environment, including through increased linkages and collaborations between CDC’s domestic and global experts,” according to an email announcement (7/13).
The Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog on Thursday published two posts addressing family planning funding. In one, Amanda Glassman, director of global health policy and a research fellow at CGD, examines “what organization will actually allocate and spend these additional resources” pledged at the recent London Summit on Family Planning. After examining alternatives, she proposes a “combination” approach that includes USAID, UNFPA, the World Bank, and other international non-governmental organizations playing roles (7/12). In another post, Glassman and Rachel Silverman, a research assistant at CGD, examine what the money will go toward. They write, “A greater supply of contraception may help, but empirical studies show that conditional cash transfers or scholarships to encourage school continuation or return may be even more effective, both at lowering fertility rates and increasing women’s empowerment” (7/12).
In this guest post on the Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs” blog, George Fistonich, a research and policy fellow at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, examines a new amfAR analysis that “outlines the potential effects of budget sequestration on global health programs, using updated figures to reflect recent and accurate estimates.” He writes, “As our analysis illustrates, cutting funding for global health programs — including those that support access to lifesaving HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria tools and programs that fund research for the next generation of global health products — would barely make a dent in reducing the U.S. federal deficit. However, cuts to global health and health research programs would have a crippling impact on people around the world” (7/12).