“Over 600 parliamentarians from more than 100 countries” met in Kampala, Uganda, this week for the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly, where participants discussed child and maternal health and nutrition, UNICEF reports in a news article. Speaking at the opening session, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said, “The damage [malnutrition] causes to a child’s development is irreversible. … I can’t think of any greater inequity than condemning children, while in the womb, to a loss of their ability, of their right, to live fully â€¦ to learn fully â€¦ and to realize their potential,” according to the article (Ponet, 4/5). “During a panel discussion on tackling malnutrition, Dr. Werner Schultink, the UNICEF Chief of Nutrition, urged legislators to be at the vanguard of the fight against malnutrition through application of their legislative power and influence,” Uganda’s The Observer notes (Kakaire, 4/4).
“The GAVI Alliance has announced that it will include human papillomavirus (HPV) and combined measles-rubella vaccines in its portfolio for the first time” to help protect women from cervical cancer and children from disability or premature death, Africa Science News reports. GAVI already supports the funding of several childhood vaccines in developing countries, including the five-in-one pentavalent vaccine, yellow fever vaccine, meningitis A vaccines, and pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines, according to the news service (Mwaura, 4/5).
Alex Thier, assistant to the administrator and director in the USAID Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, writes about the agency’s new report, titled “USAID in Afghanistan: Partnership, Progress, Perseverance,” in this IMPACTblog post. “Afghanistan’s literacy, life expectancy, infant mortality statistics, as well as access to communications, electricity, and paved roads, were dismal” in 2002, but a decade later, “Afghanistan has shown incredible gains in health care, education, and economic growth,” Thier writes. The report “outlines these impacts in a transparent and frank accounting of the roughly $12 billion in civilian assistance that USAID has implemented in Afghanistan to date,” he notes. “But these gains are fragile,” he writes, adding, “We must cement the gains from this incredible investment, and make them sustainable” (4/4).
“A multi-pronged strategy to end female genital mutilation [FGM] in Mauritania is making gradual progress, though campaigners acknowledge much remains to be done in a country where more than two-thirds of girls suffer excision,” Inter Press Service reports. “The national program, supported by several development partners, includes lobbying for the adoption of a law criminalizing excision, raising awareness of a fatwa (a religious notice) forbidding excision, and the setting up of regional offices to monitor the practice,” according to the news service.
The Jakarta Globe examines maternal mortality in Indonesia, writing, “Indonesia may be progressing slowly and steadily toward fulfilling its targets under the Millennium Development Goals, but the issue of maternal health continues to present many challenges.” According to the newspaper, “Government statistics show that the maternal mortality rate [has] declined,” but “a report last week by health officials in Bali has highlighted a worrying reversal, with the provincial maternal mortality rate increasing from 58 per 100,000 in 2010 to 84 last year.”
Inter Press Service examines efforts to end female genital mutilation (FGM) in Liberia. “[T]hrough cooperative efforts with traditional leaders, the government of Liberia is quietly moving to … bring an end to female genital cutting in Liberia,” IPS writes, adding, “International organizations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund argue that FGM is a human rights violation that denies women ‘their physical and mental integrity, their right to freedom from violence and discrimination, and in the most extreme case, their life.'” According to the news service, “FGM remains a highly sensitive issue for the government, and officials interviewed maintained that it would take years to put an end to the practice” (Lupick, 4/2).
Bloomberg News examines family planning in the Philippines, where “[o]ne in five women of reproductive age … have an unmet family planning need, the U.N. Population Fund says, leading to unintended pregnancies and population growth twice the Asian average.” The article focuses on a reproductive health bill in the country’s congress that would allow for “free or subsidized contraception, especially for the poor.” The bill “has been re-filed and blocked in each three-year congressional term since it was introduced in legislature 14 years ago amid opposition from the Catholic Church,” according to Bloomberg. However, with support from President Benigno Aquino, the bill “may be put to a vote in congress in three months,” the news service notes (Khan/Aquino, 3/27).
In this post in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, Robin Smalley, co-founder and international director of mothers2mothers, discusses how partnerships and access to a supportive network of individuals has helped mothers2mothers expand their efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV/AIDS. She notes that an invitation in 2008 to the Skoll World Forum (SWF) on social entrepreneurship, held in Oxford, provided the organization “entree to a new family, one made up of extraordinary individuals running organizations impacting issues ranging from global health to social justice to the environment.” The conference, underway this week, “is a world dedicated to possibilities, where everyone unites to brainstorm ways we can make our planet a little bit better,” she writes.
The U.S. has “been working toward integrating HIV, sexual and reproductive health, and gender-based violence services for women overseas,” and “[i]t’s time we did the same at home,” Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, writes in this Huffington Post “Impact” blog post. With the AIDS 2012 conference being held in Washington, D.C., this year, “[t]he administration has already stated it will take lessons learned from global AIDS programs to enhance our programs in the U.S.,” she continues.
According to a report (.pdf) drafted by the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Union (A.U.) Commission that reviews the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for Africa, the continent recorded a slight drop in infant, child, and maternal mortality in 2011, PANA/Afrique en ligne reports. Released at a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Thursday, the report showed that while North African nations are making good progress on maternal, infant, and child mortality indicators, countries in sub-Saharan Africa still lag behind U.N. goals for reducing mortality, the news service reports. In sub-Saharan Africa, the under-five mortality rate fell from 174 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 121 per 1,000 live births in 2009, and at least 24 nations in the region had a maternal mortality rate above 500 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008, according to PANA (3/23).