In this post on RH Reality Check, Marianne Mollmann, senior policy adviser with Amnesty International, addresses an upcoming summit in London on family planning funding, which is being co-hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.K. Department for International Development and supported by USAID and UNFPA. She says that poverty and “women’s ability to exercise her human rights, including the rights to quality health care, non-discrimination in education and health, and economic empowerment through job creation and protections for equality in the workplace,” are important drivers of maternal health and need to be addressed by governments (6/21).
“Since Myanmar gained independence from the British in 1948, it has been wracked by armed conflicts and fragile ceasefires with civilians and ethnic rebels,” and “[t]he health of Myanmar’s women has been one of the biggest casualties,” GlobalPost reports. Though recent news coverage has focused on political reform in the nation, “little attention has been paid to a more immediate need: affordable, decent health care,” the news service states. The “military junta that ruled the country for a half century spent very little on health care,” little international aid has come into the country, and “the government restricts where and how aid organizations can operate, blocking the delivery of medical services,” the news service writes, adding, “The result has been a health care system that in conflict areas, does not exist, and in large cities, is too expensive for ordinary people, according to experts inside Myanmar and on the Thai border.”
U.S. Secretary Of State Clinton Defends Women's Reproductive Rights At Conclusion Of Rio+20 Conference
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “took a stand for women’s reproductive rights during the Rio+20 United Nations conference on Friday, saying ‘women must be empowered to make decisions on whether and when to have children’ if the world is to attain agreed-upon sustainable development goals,” the Associated Press/ABC News reports. Clinton “spoke during the conference’s last day, applauding the final document’s endorsement of women’s sexual and reproductive health but making it clear that she objected to the omission of specific language on reproductive rights,” the news service writes. “‘While I am very pleased that this year’s outcome document endorses sexual and reproductive health and universal access to family planning, to reach our goals in sustainable development we also have to ensure women’s reproductive rights,’ Clinton said,” according to the AP (Barbassa, 6/22).
“Progress in ensuring that women in poor countries have access to modern methods of contraception has stalled,” according to a new report (.pdf) by the United Nations Population Fund and the Guttmacher Institute, BMJ reports. The study “found that this year 645 million women of reproductive age (15 to 49 years) are using modern methods of contraception in the developing world, 42 million more than in 2008,” but “this rise is less than half the increase of 100 million between 2003 and 2008,” the journal writes.
AllAfrica.com/Guardian examine efforts to prevent and treat cervical cancer among women in Kenya, where an estimated 3,400 women die of the disease each year and only five percent receive screening. “Kenya’s national reproductive health strategic plan has addressed cervical cancer largely through the roll-out of a low-cost screening tool known as VIA (visual inspection of the cervix using ascetic acid),” but experts agree that more widespread use of cervical cancer vaccines and public education campaigns about the disease would be more effective at preventing and catching cases earlier, the news service reports. “Once the public owns this problem and pushes for it, … then the government would be forced to implement [a vaccine] strategy in full,” Lucy Muchiri, a pathologist specializing in cervical cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital and the University of Nairobi, said, the news service notes (Njoroge, 6/12).
“Progress on maternal, newborn and child health, in the 75 highest-burden countries, most in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where more than 95 percent of all maternal and child deaths occur, has been laid out in a new 220-page report, ‘Building a Future for Women and Children,’ which is published by the Countdown to 2015 initiative,” a Countdown to 2015 press release reports. “Since 1990, annual maternal deaths have declined by almost one half and the deaths of young children have declined from 12 million to 7.6 million in 2010,” the press release states. It details a number of the key findings from the report and notes that the report’s release “coincides with a two-day [Child Survival Call to Action] forum to chart a course toward the end of preventable child deaths, taking place June 14-15 in Washington, D.C.” (6/13).
In this post in the Management Sciences for Health’s (MSH) “Global Health Impact” blog, Scott Kellerman, global technical lead for HIV/AIDS at MSH, discusses USAID’s “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday” campaign and recent attention to the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. He notes that U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe “have called for the elimination of pediatric HIV by 2015,” and writes, “We can move closer to the goal of eliminating pediatric HIV by 2015 by treating the mother, treating the baby, and continuing to treat the mother” (5/31).
The Nairobi-based African Institute for Development Policy on Tuesday presented a report called “Africa on the Move!” at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, VOA News reports, noting the report “says that in some African countries, political will, maternal and child health concerns as well as more and more funding are helping to develop effective family planning.” According to VOA, “Steve McDonald, the host of the event and Africa director at the Wilson Center, said partnerships between governments and religious organizations, which sometimes provide the bulk of health services in remote areas, are also crucial.”
The “groundbreaking” London Summit on Family Planning, scheduled for July 11, “aims to provide an additional 120 million women … lifesaving contraceptives, information, and services by 2020,” Gary Darmstadt, who heads the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. If that goal is reached, the health and economic benefits would be “staggering,” he says, laying out the five guiding principles to the world’s “collective efforts to revitalize family planning.” Those principles include improving “political commitment, funding, and collaboration”; promoting equal rights among women and girls; strengthening voluntary family planning programs under existing infrastructure; and holding stakeholders accountable, he writes, and concludes, “The time to come together is now. The global community has the chance to achieve transformational results that will save millions of lives” (6/28).
In a feature story, Al Jazeera examines Cuba’s national health care system, which “works — or is supposed to work — by emphasizing primary and preventative health care.” However, after subsidies from the former Soviet Union “ended and Cuba’s economy went into a tailspin, nothing was the same again,” according to the news agency, which notes the system experiences drug shortages, patients have long wait times, and some hospitals are dirty or malfunctioning. “In all fairness, in the past five years, the government has made great efforts to improve hospitals and health centers, but again, lack of resources is making the process painfully slow,” Al Jazeera writes, adding, “The system is free, but it is neither fast nor efficient for two important reasons. One is obviously the lack of financial resources, and the other — which is related to the first — is the ‘export’ of doctors, nurses and dentists in exchange for hard currency.” The feature concludes, “But for all its shortcomings, Cubans do have better access to health care than the majority of those living in many ‘developing nations,’ where public health is shockingly inadequate” (Newman, 6/18).