“Tanzania has made significant advances in cutting maternal deaths thanks to a United Nations-sponsored program that brings public and private sectors together to resolve one of the most stubborn but preventable woes afflicting the developing world,” but more must be done to scale up efforts to save lives, leaders involved in the program said during a news conference on Tuesday at U.N. Headquarters, the U.N. News Centre reports. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Helen Agerup, head of the H&B Agerup Foundation, attended the conference, where they discussed results from the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, according to the news service (10/2).
Experts Worried Political Commitment, Health Services Delivery Still Lacking Despite Efforts To Improve Family Planning In Uganda
“Family planning advocates in Uganda have scored some major financial and policy wins this year, but experts remain concerned that inadequate political commitment and poor health services will continue to impede women’s and girls’ access to contraceptives,” IRIN reports. With one of the fastest growing populations in the world, Uganda’s “President Yoweri Museveni announced that his government would increase its annual expenditure on family planning supplies from $3.3 million to $5 million for the next five years” and he “pledged to mobilize an additional $5 million from the country’s donors,” the news service writes. In addition, the “Ministry of Health has laid out a roadmap for providing universal access to family planning, involving the integration of family planning into other health services,” the news service notes.
Integrating reproductive health and other services, such as HIV care, “makes sense, and there is emerging evidence that it can be associated with a host of benefits, such as improved uptake of services, enhanced program efficiency, and even improved health outcomes when compared to separate services,” Gavin Yamey, who leads E2Pi in the Global Health Group at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), and Craig Cohen, a professor in-residence in the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, write in the PLoS blog “Speaking of Medicine.” They describe five key themes that emerged last month at the Integration for Impact conference, co-hosted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Kenyan government, and UCSF. They write, “The emphasis was on presenting the latest research findings, exploring the policy implications of this evidence, and laying out the unanswered research questions,” and describe the five themes, including keeping human rights at the forefront and better defining and measuring integration (10/3).
“[W]omen and children everywhere deserve quality health care,” Kathy Bushkin Calvin, CEO of the United Nations Foundation, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “As many in the development community say, investing in the health of women and children isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s also the smart thing to do,” she continues, adding, “When women and children are healthy, they can learn more and earn more, which leads to more stable and productive communities.” Though the world has made “important progress on this front,” “[w]e must continually assess our progress and talk about where we need to do better, because when the international community mobilizes, we can generate meaningful change,” she says, noting “we have more work to do … in order to achieve Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, which set critical targets for reducing child and maternal mortality by 2015.”
IRIN examines unsafe abortion and access to contraceptives in Kenya, writing, “Despite the medical risks associated with unsafe abortions, many women in Kenya continue to seek these services. Experts say only a scale-up of access to, and promotion of, contraceptives among sexually active women can reduce it.” According to the news service, “[e]xperts say that for practical purposes, the government must do more to enable women and girls to prevent unwanted pregnancies.” The 2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey showed that about one-quarter of married women in Kenya “have an unmet need for family planning — they would like to space their children or stop having children but are not using any form of contraception,” IRIN notes. According to the news service, “Shahnaz Sharif, director of public health, told IRIN the government was working to increase awareness and uptake of contraceptives” (10/3).
The New York Times’ “IHT Rendezvous” blog examines factors contributing to the more than 13 million abortions that occur in China every year, the highest number of any country worldwide. Though China’s so-called “one-child policy” is a contributing factor, “with women coerced into aborting ‘out of plan’ children by the threat of heavy fines or the loss of a job — or, in some cases, physically forced to abort,” some “scholars are now pointing to a new factor — under-25 women who, if they are unmarried, do not directly fall within the remit of the family planners,” the blog writes. A recent survey by China’s Research Institute of the National Population and Family Planning Commission estimates six million abortions occur annually among this group, the blog adds. This highlights other issues, the blog notes, including young people’s increased sexual freedoms and a culture and tradition that remains reluctant to discuss sex education, leaving young women without the knowledge of how to use contraception. “Yet gradually, people are beginning to talk more openly about what had long often been discussed only in absolute privacy,” the blog writes and provides some examples (Tatlow, 10/19).
Kaiser Family Foundation Report Examines Country-Level Response To U.S. GHI's Women, Girls, & Gender Equality Principle
“A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation examines how countries are responding to and implementing the women, girls, and gender equality principle of the U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI),” an email alert from the Foundation states, noting, “This principle, one of seven core principles of the GHI, aims to sharpen the focus on women and girls across U.S. government global health efforts.” According to the alert, the report is “[b]ased on interviews conducted by the Foundation with representatives from 15 GHI country teams” and “identifies nine key themes and trends that could help inform U.S. policy discussions and the future directions of efforts related to the health of women and girls.” The alert adds, “The report builds on earlier work by the Foundation on the women, girls, and gender equality principle, including a roundtable discussion and an analysis of ‘GHI Plus’ country strategies” (10/19).
In the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) “Smart Global Health” blog, Phillip Nieburg, senior associate of the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, discusses a recent report (.pdf) he wrote, titled “Improving Maternal Mortality and Other Aspects of Women’s Health: The United States’ Global Role,” “that addresses key challenges to improving maternal mortality and women’s health worldwide and talks about what the related priorities of U.S. foreign policy should be.” He says, “Rather than continuing what appears to me as a piecemeal approach to global aspects of reproductive health, with separate programs to address, e.g., gender-based violence, women and HIV/AIDS, maternal mortality, family planning, cervical cancer, girls’ education, etc., I argue in my report that the United States should develop and implement a comprehensive global plan for women’s health that includes males as well as females, using coordinated prevention and care programming for each stage of the reproductive health life cycle” (10/25).
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.'”
“Uruguay’s Congress voted narrowly on Wednesday to legalize abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, a rare move in largely Catholic Latin America that underscores the country’s liberal leanings,” Reuters reports. “President Jose Mujica, a former leftist guerrilla fighter, has said he would sign the bill into law,” the news service notes (Castaldi, 10/17). “[T]he bill approved by Uruguay’s Senate came after a pointed debate among legislators, producing a compromise that disappointed both abortion-rights groups and opponents, who have vowed to carry out a referendum to overturn the legislation,” the New York Times writes, adding, “Legislators carefully worded the bill, describing it not as legalization of abortion but as a decriminalization measure.” The newspaper writes, “The bill effectively legalizes abortion in the first trimester, permits abortion through 14 weeks of pregnancy in cases of rape and allows later-term abortions when a woman’s health is at risk” (Romero et al., 10/17).