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Progress On Women's, Children's Health Provides Optimism For Further Success

Noting successes achieved under the Every Woman Every Child campaign and the Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in the Huffington Post’s “The Big Push” blog that leaders “have stepped up and stood strong for critical issues on the women’s and children’s health agenda to advance the health Millennium Development Goals and ensure the sustainability of results beyond 2015.” He adds, “Most of all, they have engaged in a radical paradigm shift that places the notion of global solidarity at the core of our work.” With the estimated number of children newly infected with HIV dropping and more women undergoing HIV testing and receiving antiretroviral medications, “[t]hese achievements deserve global attention,” Sidibe says.

Scaling Up Access To Maternal, Child Health Care Would Prevent Most Deaths During Pregnancy, Childbirth

“Every day, 800 women lose their lives giving birth — 287,000 each year — and the vast majority of these deaths occurs in developing countries. … These deaths are unacceptable, particularly because they are preventable,” the heads of the Health 4+ (UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, U.N. Women, the WHO, and the World Bank, known as H4+) write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. They continue, “Every woman giving birth should be able to turn to a skilled health worker, and be given the life-saving — and cost-effective — medicines so critical to her and her baby.” They note the group is meeting “[o]n 24 September — during the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly, … to advocate at the highest levels for the health of women and children globally” and “bolster joint efforts towards meeting the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly in countries that are lagging the furthest behind.”

Sudanese Refugee Camps See Improvement In Water, Food Provisions, But Concerns Remain Over Disease Threats, Overcrowding

“Aid agencies say water and food provision has improved in four camps housing more than 105,000 refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile State, but flooding, disease and an influx of additional refugees pose new threats,” IRIN reports, noting, “Sudan’s government forces and rebels have been fighting in Blue Nile State since September 2011, sending refugees south.” U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Emergency Health Coordinator Pilar Bauza “says refugees have suffered respiratory and diarrheal diseases, malaria and malnutrition from poor living conditions and nutrition,” the news service writes. “Health education campaigns, an increase in water provision from 10 to 13 liters per day, and a drop in malnutrition from 40 to 33 percent have improved the health of the refugees, but more needs to be done,” according to IRIN.

More Money, Focus Needed To Reach Maternal, Child Health MDGs

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.

Frontline Health Workers Essential For Newborn Survival

“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.”

Global AIDS Response Provides Lessons For Fighting NCDs

“If left unaddressed, [non-communicable diseases (NCDs)] will lead to more death, disability and the implosion of already overburdened health systems in developing countries at huge cost to individuals, families, businesses and society,” Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and former UNAIDS executive director, writes in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, adding, “Like AIDS, NCDs are a problem for rich and poor countries alike, but the poor suffer the most.” He continues, “The 2011 U.N. High-Level Meeting on NCDs — only the second time the U.N. had convened a major meeting on a health issue, following the U.N. AIDS Summit in June 2001 — was a landmark event in the short history of the fight against NCDs but was not a tipping point. Much more remains to be done.”

Countdown To 2015 Report Shows Slight Decline In Funding For Maternal, Child Health

“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.

U.N. Report On MDGs Shows Declining Aid; SG Ban Urges Increased Global Partnership

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday “urged a stronger global partnership to advance progress on the development targets world leaders have pledged to achieve by 2015, as a new United Nations report finds that significant gains risk slowing due to declining aid,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed on by world leaders at a U.N. summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development,'” the news service notes (9/20). According to the 2012 MDG Gap Task Force Report (.pdf), official development assistance (ODA) from the 23 primary donors in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development dropped by almost three percent (in real terms) in 2011 after reaching a peak in 2010, Agence France-Presse notes. “To reach the U.N. target of 0.7 percent of gross national income devoted to aid, the world’s richest nations should be spending more than $300 billion,” the news service writes (9/20).

Cholera Vaccine Stockpiles Could Help Save Lives In Future Outbreaks

In a post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Helen Matzger, a program officer in new vaccine delivery at the foundation, writes about outbreaks of cholera in Haiti, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and other areas, and says creating stockpiles of a recently WHO-approved cholera vaccine could help save lives in the future. “The creation of a cholera stockpile is not a panacea; … Still, the cholera vaccine works. Though many of us may never need it, millions of people living in some of the poorest regions of the world face cholera outbreaks all too often. We have a way to alter the course of an outbreak and save lives. Let’s use it,” she concludes (9/19).

Blogs Examine Progress On NCDs One Year After U.N. Summit

On the one-year anniversary of the U.N. High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), two blogs examine what has happened since. In the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Victoria Fan, a research fellow at the center, and Laura Khan of Princeton University ask, “[W]here has the attention and commitment to NCDs gone?” They say “subsequent attention and action after the NCD Summit last year has been paltry,” and they explore some reasons why this might be the case (9/19). In an interview on the Council on Foreign Relations blog, Thomas Bollyky, senior fellow for global health, economics, and development, says, “So on one hand, the U.N. NCD meeting hasn’t yet managed to follow the HIV/AIDS blueprint in producing a groundswell of popular support, new donor resources, and concrete country action. On the other hand, optimists on this issue believe the U.N. meeting elevated a long-neglected cause to the heads-of-state level and firmly established it as an ongoing concern for the U.N.” (Johnson, 9/19).